You Are My Brother ( 2019 )
Text and music by Scott Ordway
SATB + piano / 5 minutes

You Are My Brother (2019) utilizes an original text based on the Book of Genesis to imagine a love that must (may?) have existed between Cain and Abel in the early years of their lives.

The two brothers function as archetypal siblings in western culture, and Cain as the progenitor of human conflict and violence. But each represents a second archetype as well: Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. These contrasting ways of life evoke distinct relationships to the landscape, to the family, and to society. They represent several other beautiful opposites as well: stability and movement, permanence and impermanence, plants and animals, community and solitude, security and freedom, and what the Chinese-American geographer Yi-Fu Tuan describes as “place and space.”

But the shepherd’s vocation and farmer’s converge again in that they both ultimately care for other living beings, and are in some sense rooted in love. In this way, the differences that separate the brothers—and ultimately lead to tragedy—are inseparable from the affection that binds them together. This short piece dwells on the warmth and trust that must have been present, to some degree, but are not typically conjured by the fable’s infamous crime. Our deep collective knowledge of this ultimate outcome colors how we hear the work’s jubilant outcry of love and its restful, embracing conclusion.


You Are My Brother (2019)
Text by Scott Ordway after the Book of Genesis

Abel was a keeper of sheep,
While Cain turned the ground. 

In time it came to pass that
Cain brought up the fruit
Of all the earth itself
So humbly as a gift
To save a famished God.

“You are my brother.” 

“And you are my brother.” 

“You are love.”

“And you are love.”