If You Can Read This – Unterseher

Two SATB choruses and SSAATBB septet

A view from the future– what will cultures see and understand of the warnings we leave behind to mark the places where we have stored or abandoned our most dangerous waste, materials that will be lethal for from hundreds to thousands of years? The poem is grounded in the ideas in the proposed Yucca Mountain monument project, but set at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. A setting for three groups of singers. Recording and more information and score below.

Video: Audio and poem  Audio by Matthew Curtis with animation of poem

About The Score: Upon first viewing, multiple chorus scores can be visually daunting. This score has been formatted to fit the full score onto letter size pages. If you want larger conductor scores or singer scores for the individual choruses, contact me.

order on Reg’s web site


This piece is a setting of the last poem in Kathleen Flenniken’s book “Plume,” published by the University of Washington Press. The collection centers on her experiences growing up in Richland, Washington during the height of the Cold War and later working as a civil engineer on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. This poem is based on the nuclear waste repository warning monument project, which wrestled with the question of how to mark the location of areas that will be deadly for thousands of years. What language or symbols will carry the clear message “Don’t dig here, there is hidden danger” to generations far in the future, as language and culture changes, knowledge is gained or lost, and civilizations shift? How do we tell future archeologists to keep out? The piece is set for three groups of singers. Two groups, from the sides, function as the voices of today, a kind of Greek chorus, while the group of seven in the center represent people in the future trying to understand what the symbols mean.


Here are links to information on the Yucca Mountain monument project and Jim Acord’s Hanford Monument project.

Jim Acord’s project

Article by Alan Bellows, includes some pictures of proposed monument

Article by Douglas Cruikshank

Article by Peter Waldman



[turn back]

[death] [horizon to horizon] [bedrock to sky]

[death] [river] [indecipherable]

[death] [dust] [eyes]

[father and mother] [love?] [indecipherable] [horizon to horizon]
[bedrock to sky]

[plume/cloud] [love?] [indecipherable] [death] [blooming] [generations]

[indecipherable] [embrace (reaching out?)(pushing away?)] [time passing]

[planet (or atom?)]

[traveler] [death] [turn back]

Kathleen Flenniken
from “Plume,” University of Washington Press, 2012
used by permission


This entry was posted in Advanced, Choral, Difficulty Level, SATB a capella, Secular and tagged by Reginald Unterseher. Bookmark the permalink.

About Reginald Unterseher

Reginald Unterseher is Music Director and Composer-in-Residence at Shalom United Church of Christ, Richland, Washington. His works are published by Oxford University Press, Walton Music, and through NW Choral Publishing at www.reginaldunterseher.com. He is the Washington State Music Teacher’s Association’s “Composer of the Year” for 2013. Mr. Unterseher’s compositions are regularly performed throughout the world and have been featured at ACDA and MENC conventions in the US as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He currently serves as Repertoire & Standards Chair for Men’s Choirs for the Northwest Division of the American Choral Director’s Association, and is in demand as a choral and vocal adjudicator and clinician. Mr. Untereseher is a past Artistic Director of Consort Columbia (now Mid-Columbia Mastersingers), founder and past Chorus Master of Washington East Opera, and an active member of Male Ensemble Northwest.