Oct 10, 2014

But Are You Listening?

by: Ami Yares

Today we have a guest post from Ami Yares, a composer working with Mural Arts Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Composers Forum on the If You Could Hear These Walls project. Hear Yares’ finished piece performed at Josh Sarantitis and Parris Stancell’s mural Peace is a Haiku Song on October 12th along with new compositions by Andrew Bleckner, Lucas Brown, Evan Solot and Bobby Zankel. You can hear more of Ami’s peace-building projects and original music on his website RJ Rushmore

My name is Ami Yares, and I was born and raised in the Delaware Valley. My childhood revolved around trips in and out of Philadelphia, visiting my Zayde (Grandfather), helping my father at work in Center City, eating too many soft pretzels and of course, catching concerts in around the city. Philadelphia gave me lot; first and foremost – a great city, a deep sense of history, and a deluge of multi-culturalism. Those years hold a steady and warm place in my heart.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself returning to Philadelphia with new eyes. For the last 8 ½ years, I have been living in Jaffa, Israel working as a musician, singing and peace building through art. Despite the complexities of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, I saw a much different reality, inspired and nurtured by musicians dedicated to making life as beautiful as their music. (Check out Heartbeat when you get a chance!)

There is a lot that art can do to bring people together, and I find it quite fortuitous that my reentry to Philadelphia has come about through If You Could Hear These Walls.  More importantly, I feel, for the first time, that I am doing something for the city. As a part of the project, I’ve been working on a composition inspired by the mural Peace is a Haiku Song, while teaching the art of peace through song writing to aspiring students at Mighty Writers on 15th and Christian.

The composition, “But Are You Listening?” plays off the project title and ties together the diversity of the neighborhood surrounding the mural and the message of peace emblazed on the walls of 1425 Christian Street. The Mighty Writers, or should I say Mighty “Songwriters,” wrote about the concept of peace, and then we teased out the natural melody of their song, hidden in their lines of text. On one hand, it is truly beautiful to see the concept of peace expressed by these youthful forces, and on the other hand, it is their voices and actions that will be responsible for calling out against the racism, discrimination and hate that stills lurk in our society. In this way, Peace is a Haiku Song and If You Could Hear These Walls are another component of our children’s education to step up and out, letting their voices be heard and counted.

Philadelphia’s murals call out to us every day to observe, appreciate and work for a better community. Now, it is time for us, musicians, to react and sing out from our mural-inspired places.

Peace is a Haiku Song © 2012 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Philadelphia / Josh Sarantitis / Parris Stancell . Photo by Steve Weinik.

Portrait of Ami Yares courtesy ACF Philadelphia

Last updated: Mar 21, 2016

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