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We Are One


We Are One (Persian text by Persian poet, Sa'di)

  We Are One
Chorus: a cappella (S.A.T.B.)
Duration: 5 minutes
Commission: Ithaca Choir
Premiere: Ithaca Choir, Lawrence Doebler, conductor; November 15, 2008
Recording: Musica Sacra, Kent Tritle, conductor, MSR Classics
Published: Presser Company, #312-41854


We Are One

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About We Are One:



In We Are One I have set the words of Persian poet Sa’di. The text of We Are One is one of the most celebrated and widely recited poems in Farsi.  It was chosen to be included in the Voyager spacecraft as the sole representation of the poet’s native Iran, and its beautiful text illustrates the bond of humanity and the importance of empathy for others.

In setting the three-part text, I have drawn from the ornamental figurations of Persian vocal music in the first part; dissonances and big leaps to heighten the agony and suffering in the second part (also the peak of the arch form in the piece); and the gradual deceleration to just a whisper for the poignant concluding part.

The text for We Are One (in Persian and English translation):

Ba-ni â-dam a-zâ-ye yek pey-ka-rand
Human beings are all members of one family.

keh dar â-fa-ri-nesh ze yek go-ha-rand
Created with one common essence and soul

Cho oz-vi be-dard â-va-rad rooz-gâr
If any of us suffers or bears pain,

de-gar ozv-hâ râ na-mâ-nad gha-râr
We all know and share the suffering together.

Tô kaz meh-na-teh di-ga-rân bi-gha-mi
To not feel sympathy for human suffering,

na-shâ-yad keh nâ-mat na-hand â-da-mi
Is to be less than human

Sa’di (c.1213–c.1291)

Translation from the original Persian by Behzad Ranjbaran and Daniel Dorff

About Sa'di:


One of the greatest and most beloved poets in Persian literature, Sa’di (c.1213–c.1291) is known for his depth of thinking, and his writings illustrating the human condition with perception and understanding, as well as humor and irony.

Born and raised in Shiraz, he sought to raise himself out of poverty by going to Baghdad to study at the famed Nezamiyeh College, renowned throughout the Islamic world for the quality of its teaching and learning. The Mongol invasion of the region caused him to lead a peripatetic life for 30 years, during which he traveled extensively in the Middle East, North Africa, India, and Central Asia, where he met a large cross-section of people of all economic and intellectual levels. His observations and experiences became a fertile source of inspiration for his writing. He was forced to work in the trenches of the Tripoli fortress after being captured by the Franks. After finally escaping, Sa’di made his way back to Shiraz in his final years, where he was welcomed as a highly respected thinker and writer, and he lived out his days in relative peace.

His most famous works are Bustan (“The Orchard”) and Gulistan (“The Rose Garden”). The Bustan is an epic in verse extolling human virtues through various stories; and the Gulistan is more of a collection of personal anecdotes and poems. Seven hundred years later, the text used in “We Are One” was chosen to be included in the Voyager spacecraft as the representation of his native Iran.





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