The Long Willows


Digital Score

Instrumentation: SSAATTBB, unaccompanied

Duration: 5:30

Date of Completion: April 2019

SKU: MH0022 Category:
About the work​

Commissioned by Chloe Billings in dedication to her mother, Tammy Durston.


Her fingers flew through the reeds,
Twining wefts back and forth, in and out, around and around
The long willows up to her chin.
She sat tall on the tree stump, sedge roots piled next to her
Amidst the redbud and bulrush.

I watched her from behind the redwood,
My face flush with the tree bark…

She weaves me into her basket,
Her spirit high, moving in her hands,
Her creation carrying her power
High above us.

Text by Tammy Durston.


When I first set out to write The Long Willows, I was caught in the bizarre circumstance of unwittingly setting an incomplete poem. I had been given a short text, and – after reading it and being hit with inspiration – immediately started writing. However, of the original thirty lines of text, I only had the first seven, completely unaware there was more. Just as I approached the end of the piece, my friend and I had found out that most of the actual poem was missing.

In a positive twist, the truncated poem captivated me with its simplicity. I was taken by the image of someone being in awe of someone else’s craft: an image that I found universal, yet rarely explored. In the full version of the poem, the image develops in a way that unforeseeably changes the meaning of the opening lines. In an interesting challenge, I was forced to “weave” the poetry and the music in order to retain the spirit of what I had originally envisioned. I took the poem’s beautiful final stanza, and used them to elevate the powerful message of inspiration imparted in its beginning.

The Long Willows captures a moment of wonder. The narrator spies an indigenous woman, masterfully weaving willows. Entranced by her craftsmanship, she is hypnotized by the woman’s skill, symbolically being “weaved into her basket.” The experience changes her. By merely witnessing the work of a master, she is uplifted, inspired by a power that transcends understanding.