Bombs Falling/Nowhere To Go is set in Gaza – I take a neutral political position on Israel/Palastine and honour all civilian victims of war.
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On January 14/ 09 I read an article entitled The Bombs Came Today – There Is Nowhere to Go written by Jawad Harb who lives with his family in Rafah, Gaza and was there during the bombing. As any parent – any feeling person – would be, I was horrified at this harshest of realities and stunned by the powerful writing of a parent in an anguish of fear and concern over their children’s safety.
I had to react to what was happening but I was not certain how to go about it. Not wanting to let that stop me, I began to work with the vague idea of a sound collage involving my usual sounds plus some found sound effects from around the web.
Once I had a few loops and sound ideas going, it occurred to me that the actual words of Jawad Harb himself would express what I was searching for far better than I ever could. After realizing that my first choice of having Harb read them himself over the phone was not likely to happen – I tried reading and chanting the words myself. Bad idea. My voice had no place in this sound. A few days earlier, I had stumbled on a browser based news reader that actually reads HTML text aloud with a Microsoft Sam style computer voice. I thought I had my solution but the voice sounded all wrong. I surfed around the net for a while and tried several other text readers of various types until I finally pieced together a workable version using a female Asian/Indian sounding voice and managed to record it.
It’s weird but sometimes, given the power of the words as written, the computer voice actually seems to carry human feeling and on at least one occasion it sounds as if the speakers voice is breaking with emotion.
Most of the other sound effects came from The Freesound Project, except the explosions, which are actually from a recording of the bombing of Baghdad.
Although the Gaza bombings and the experience of Jawad Harb and his family are the source and catalyst for this project, I hope it can serve as a memorial to all innocent war victims anywhere, anytime and a reminder to the aggressors that the real victims of war are always, always children.
Here is the original text.
GAZA (January 13, 2009, 6:15 p.m) – The leaflets came yesterday, telling us our neighbourhood would be attacked. The whole population of the area is terrified. We have nowhere to go. My neighbour checked at the UNRWA shelter but it was full. Overflowing. There is nowhere to go. We waited to be bombed. My children have seen the dead bodies of children on television. They cry, they are crying now, they are terrified. When will this end? There was screaming. It is dark and cold but most of us are still outside. My family is outside next to the house. We are terrified to go inside.
The bombs came today. It was terrifying. We have nowhere to run. There was an air strike every five minutes. Thick black smoke 100m-150m away from us. People were scared, ran outside of their houses and gathered together in the street. 300-350 people in the street. The street was the safest place. If our house is bombed, we’ll get trapped and die like the people we saw on television.
It is quiet for 20 minutes now but we don’t know if it will start again. What if it is just a short break? We can’t take the risk. My children are shivering. It is getting so cold. Some neighbours went back inside, but they are staying on the first floor, next to the door so they can run outside. We don’t know what will come next. This is the closest it has come to our house. The neighbourhood next to ours was bombed. What do we do? We don’t know. We have nowhere to go. Nowhere to go.
Bombs Falling/Nowhere To Go became international in nature in a rapid and ineveitable way as it was being assembled and could not exist at all were it not for that fact.
The words – and to be honest, the entire emotional content – are from Gaza.
But I truly believe that same emotional content could be from anywhere.
The voice – though computer generated with an Indo/Asian accent – is meant to be anyone and indeed becomes the voice of a Universal Motherhood as well as fear, love and acceptance, anger and courage. That fear, love, acceptance, anger and courage all belong to Jawad Harb, his family and neighbours and all those who have lived and died these same ways.
The first sound – the bass drum – is the impossible violence of what can be – but will not be altered from it’s white hot, black heart of despair and anger and hatred and destruction.
The guitar is the onlooker, alternately relentless and hesitant, charging forward and pulling back, but determined, for once, to stand witness to the truth.
The child’s cry is from a train station in North America and by its very sound represents something we all know in our hearts.
The air raid sirens are from Israel and are the voices of warning coming from all those who have experienced the history of terrible violence and oppression.
There is an unknown Turkish man reading poetry way back in the mix toward the end. He represents the voices of people that no longer have names and will never be heard.
Then the awful, terrible sound of explosions – lifted from a YouTube copy of CNN’s live coverage of the bombing of Baghdad – like murderous, demonic laughter ripping darkness into your soul, stealing fire from heath and heart and blazing hatred and anger, hatred and anger, hatred and anger across the sky and the flesh and the bones of innocent children. Deafening, hideous, sickening thunder and lightning torn from humanity’s darkest recesses, dripping bloody, putrid venom and poison onto everything that means anything to anyone.
The bottom end of the piano is the rock of the earth, the heat of technology and science, mankind through our collective history, evolution and religion, and the hope and hopelessness of time moving on. The high end of the piano represents the tears of the witnesses, the sorrow, the sadness, the pain of knowing, the guilt and remorse and the anger at helplessness in the face of such an storm, such an onslaught.
And it’s when I go back and listen, when it’s late and I’m alone and my ability to resist is at it’s lowest, and the acceptance and the understanding of why the wolf must tear at the throat of the deer stares back at me from the mirror, I ask myself ”how can such things as this come to be?” And I fear that as I say those words out loud, someone else will say to me “How dare you presume to create such a thing, you who know nothing of this.”