Aaron J. Hill
of the WE ARE ALL HERE series of projects
Wednesday, March 8
Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall

Just what is music? How do we define it?

Here is some of what Merriam-Webster has to say about it:

“the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity”

A science OR an art? Hmmm. I argue that it is both, a mixture of the two, which can be highly variable.

Here is another definition:

“an agreeable sound”

That’s succinct. Isn’t that a wonderful way of putting it? A sound that is agreeable, or pleasant.

Now, ironically, there are times when it is desirable to scare or shock the audience. This is particularly useful in movies. Can Bernard Herrmann‘s score for Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho be described as agreeable? Or the twangy, villainous themes in Ennio Morricone‘s marvelous work on Once Upon a Time in the West?

What I didn’t want is for this composition about poverty and homelessness and society to be hunky-dorey nice. I wanted it to be dark and depressing. I wanted to portray life on the streets — with the rain and the wind, the dangers and the fears, the lowlifes and the junkies. Mixed in with these elements are the vulnerable, the lonely, the suicidal, the innocent.

Of course, a lot of this is politically incorrect. At times people in class at Soundbridge were visibly uncomfortable. Even I was at times. Once during conversation I broached the subject of rape, which is a reality for many homeless. Yes, even the most manly of men. I had not intended on going there. But I wanted to convey the very dangers many face.

Most of my fellow students wanted to be hopeful and optimistic. But is there hope? Should we be hopeful? Are there reasons to be hopeful? I am not convinced.

I think of the Leaves of Remembrance. Made of metal and etched with the names of those who have died while without shelter, these are installed on public sidewalks throughout the city. Sadly, most people do not even know about these tiny memorials. Most pass by without taking the time to learn why these metallic leaves are glued to the concrete.

I think of Nick, a young man who tragically became addicted to heroin. I met him while we shared the underbelly of a bridge in the University District. It was our home for a time. It was dry, unless the wind was blowing or the mist was too fine to fall vertically. I was wary of him when we first met. But slowly we got to know one another and became friends. I was concerned about his habit and, thankfully, with a little politeful prodding he promised to re-enter rehab. I hope he is on the road to recovery.

I think of the black woman who I met days ago sitting outside of an elevator to the Westlake Tunnel Station. Why doesn’t this lady have a place to stay, a place she can call home? Why does society, especially in “progressive” Seattle, ignore her plight?

For a long time I was indifferent to these issues. The problem is vast. People are joining the ranks of the homeless everyday, it seems. The situation continues to metastasize. It can be, understandably, overwhelming. How can I, who has no place to call home myself, help alleviate these problems?

There are no easy answers. Otherwise, we wouldn’t see the tents popping up everywhere and the overflowing crowds at the food banks.

The fact is that at the end of the performance this evening, like every other night, thousands of people will be outside. Whatever circumstances led them there, they are just like you and me. These are people who need help. They deserve better.

Well, what are we gonna do about it?



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