An exploration of modern city life in a mythical context, Polis is an opera without words, where melodic themes are the characters that play out the drama amidst dark ambient environments and pulsating rhythmic latticework. In a sense, Polis follows the concept of program music, music that represents extra-musical ideas such as a picture or a story. The voice, so evocatively provided by Mariana Bernoski (This Side of North), is not utilized as a solo vocal line as in traditional songs, but rather as an instrument, blended with other electronic and acoustic instruments to create an organic whole.
The story of Polis recounts a young woman's journey to a great city that is not from the present, past or future, but draws elements from all three. It exists in "mythical time," or a time that does not necessarily exist in our timeline here in the real world. Her visit is spurred on with the hope of finding a future and ultimately finding herself within the megalopolis. Upon entering the city at night, she is at first fearful of her new surroundings but soon the bright lights, constant bustle and magnificent grandeur seduce her and she becomes a part of the great mechanism driving the Polis. After many years, she comes to the crushing realization that instead of finding herself, she has lost her individuality within the mass of citizenry. She finally escapes the Polis and finds refuge in an old and long-abandoned lighthouse where she re-lights the flame far away from the glow of the city. Polis consists of three "acts," each beginning with an introductory piece of music called a "Quietude." The final quietude acts as an epilogue to the work.