Apocalypse Nowish: An Octavia Butler Opera May Be Prophetic

When did you first learn about “Parable of the Sower”?

My mom and I gave each other the book for Christmas when it first came out. I bought one for myself and one for her, and she did the exact same thing. And then under our tree, she was visiting, and we had them wrapped but we could tell we had gotten each other the book. We were already big fans. It was really funny. We’re cute.

Did either of you meet Octavia Butler?

We both met her, separately. I don’t know about my mom’s adventure with her, but I met her in the early 2000s. Then later, in 2005, during her tour for her last novel, “Fledgling,” I actually got [to the book signing] before everybody else did, and just stood next to her the whole time. And I was like: “Are you here by yourself? Do you want me to stay with you?”

You and your mother had asked her if you could adapt “Parable of the Sower.” What was her response?

She said, “I know I owe you and your mother a note, but you can do anything you want with my work. Just go away, kid. Do whatever you want.”

How did you settle on this novel?

Toni Morrison invited my mother and me to teach a Princeton Atelier music course in 1997, and we had to teach with a text, so my mom chose “Parable of the Sower.” We were really just looking at the conditions in the book, and then applying different music to those conditions and teaching that to the students. But, after, we realized we could sing this book.

What was it like working with your mother?

I was really early in my career at that point, mostly singing with my band and doing solo shows, and my mom was very busy and didn’t really have time. So, it was only later that we started to have room for it. She wrote songs, I wrote songs. And we wrote songs together.

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