As We Breathe by Theresa Wong

A composer, cellist and vocalist currently living the San Francisco Bay Area, Theresa Wong has created a piece that deals with the breath, and how that ties together so many parts of 2020 including the pandemic, the wildfires and the oppression of Black citizens.


'As We Breathe' by Theresa Wong

Music by: Theresa Wong

Baritone: David Castillo

Koto: Theresa Wong

Text by: Mercedes Roffé from Floating Lanterns (2009, excerpt)

Additional Text by: Theresa Wong

Translation from Spanish by: Anna Deeny Morales


From Theresa:

As We Breathe was composed as I experienced California’s worst wildfire season to date in modern history. Struggling to feel well enough to work due to poor air quality, I decided to focus on the breath and breathing as the kernel to this song, simply as a means to cope – physically, emotionally and creatively. I quickly realized the breath was the common struggle too between victims of COVID-19 and so many African American lives lost this year and years past due to racism and police brutality. The song is an elegy dedicated to those whose lives and dreams have been cut short in this traumatic year, as well as a call to those of us still living to re-dream what might be possible for a better future. The piece is centered on A=432 Hz (rather than the more common 440 Hz or less than 442 Hz) and is written in just intonation. The harmonic and melodic structures are derived using Harry Partch’s 11-limit tonality diamond. Using alternative tuning systems is an act of opening the door to biodiversity and variety in a larger musical landscape, which has conformed for centuries in many musical genres to equal temperament. The metaphorical and literal act of ‘tuning oneself’ and ‘finding new meanings of harmony’ in our current global situation begins for me through the act of composition.



The kernel dreams it is already

a gold spike of corn

and the boy dreams he is a man

evil dreams it passes unnoticed

and goodness that it plays a hand and wins

The dew dreams it is already a deep sea

and the golden seed that it is a brooch and


The root dreams it is a branch, that a bird

makes its nest in it and the cloud that it is already rain and

seeping the fresh asperity of grass


Additional Text:

I breathe (the air)

you breathe

she breathes (the air)

he breathes

it breathes (the air)

they breathe

we breathe


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