Hymn to the Fukushima 50 – more than just a score

April 4th 2011  || by  || 2 Comments

These days, the first thing that comes into the mind of most of us when hearing the word “hero” is the main character of some unrealistic tv-series or movie, or the over-exaggerated way the word is used for youngsters who save the family cat from the neighbor’s dog. In our time, true heroes are very scarce – the feel that surrounds the word makes it easier to associate with a fairytale, than with someone in the reality of the weekdays. I’m not talking about the heroes that the media fabricates to make a nice story sound larger to boost their audience therefore advertising rates, either. What we have been witnessing since March the 11th, 2011, is an eye-opening experience of true, real-life heroism in the word’s meaning as classic and rightful as ever.

I don’t want to repeat the story of the extraordinarily selfless men and women, who decided to give their health, and risk their lives for those in the area of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors, to protect the people of their country and beyond, working in randomly fluctuating levels of radiation, doing so voluntarily, knowing that the sacrifice might be the last one they make – although not their personal details, but their story has been well documented in the media and online.

But how do you document what it feels like to be fighting against a silent, invisible  enemy? How do you document what it feels like having to focus on an extremely important job and put your thoughts about your family in danger aside? How do you document what it feels like to be a faceless, nameless hero, yet the hope of your country?

Music can express far more than words… which is why the idea of writing a hymn to the Fukushima 50 to show my respect and admiration didn’t take much thinking – in fact, I don’t even remember making the choice. My first recollection of the process is when I was getting ready in the morning, taking a shower and constantly thinking about the TEPCO employees who stayed at the reactors, and realizing how easily and quickly I could loose the luxury of such a seemingly simple thing as the hot shower, if I was one of them. I knew that I wanted to do something more than just sending some money –  I wanted to praise the Fukushima workers for making the choice they made. I wanted everyone to pay attention to them and to ask the same question that I was asking myself: would I do it?

The various angles

Seeing the photos and news footage of the thousands of lives ruined by the tsunami made many of us feel helpless humans at the mercy of nature. We wish we could do something to help, but we can’t reverse time. What we can do, besides helping the relief efforts, is to offer support and inspiration. Inspiration via words, events, ideas, art… whatever form of communication we can reach the farthest with. Music being my life and profession, I naturally chose this most universal language to communicate my thoughts, and to support the efforts of those less fortunate to move on and rebuild.

Now three weeks into the crisis, it’s sad to think about that with all the technology we have, it’s still people who have to make huge sacrifices to turn things back to normal. People like you and me, with families; wives and husbands, sons and daughters, parents, jobs and houses, friends and future plans. Of course, it’s not the investors, owners and management who end up fixing things – it’s the employees. Things are so reversed.

It’s not a secret that my grandmother passed away shortly after Chernobyl – my family has seen the effects of radiation from way too close. She was the most loving, selfless and patient grandma you can imagine. She loved her family and her flowers and she had many plans. While writing the Fukushima 50 Hymn, my sadness was magnified by my memories of her.

In contrast with her tragedy, in a weird, almost shameless way, I have been always fascinated by nuclear reactors, particle accelerators and the like – most likely due to my curiosity about everything related to nature. While learning about the science and technology behind the machines and processes, and thinking about the mystery and danger of the yet undiscovered surprises, I often found myself in thoughts about the “big questions” [the why, when and where… the focus of my current musical direction and upcoming works]. I wanted to make radioactivity audible. Not with the sound of Geiger counters, but with musical sounds that express mystery, danger, and concentrated energy. As these elements are playing a major role in the events at the Fukushima reactors, I wanted to give a musical character to uranium, gamma radiation and the alpha particles.

The expression of sadness, the mystique & danger of nuclear energy, the recognition of heroism and the inspiration to fight and celebrate the brave – all these aspects are included in the Hymn, but I chose to focus primarily on the two most positive ones: recognition and inspiration.

Before anyone starts using the Fukushima crisis as a fuel for the nuclear energy debate worldwide, first the F50 has a battle to win. It isn’t a battle against nature; what the Fukushima 50 are cleaning up is the filth of greed and bi-product of science, the latter making the convenience of modern life, that we enjoy daily, possible for all of us. Therefore all of us should salute to those who are still fighting the battles as I’m writing this.

We should show them that we care, that we have the deepest respect and appreciation for their dedication, whatever the final outcome may be. And we must share our views with others around us, help them notice the heroes among us.

Our first steps

The Hym to the Fukushima 50 music and video has been doing quite well on YouTube. Besides receiving some media coverage, we received over 10,000 views in the first week, and now after two weeks we are getting close to 30,000. It being an original piece, as opposed to just shocking news footage or celebrity egocast, these are very respectable numbers. More importantly, we have been inspiring thoughts and donations: I’ve been getting requests after requests for the music (free with any donation to Japan through any charity organization – see the news item here). Many emails point out that it was the Hymn that inspired the viewer to donate. Based on the emails, our guesstimate puts the amount of “inspired donations” around $10,000 so far – put this in the perspective of the couple of hours it took me to compose and arrange the music, and one short night that it took us to research and produce the video. Obviously, it was more than worth it.

To those who asked why I don’t sell the music for income or donations, or direct viewers to the iTunes page of my latest album, Transitions (whose digital release date was coincidentally just a few days after I had written the F50 Hymn – I actually forgot about my album release:), I can answer simply: because you don’t sell bandages to the wounded. Besides, as a composer, I have already made popular success a memory of my past; I’m not here to sell; my mission is only to express feelings and share thoughts with original music that’s uninfluenced by trends, money or the industry.

I sincerely thank to everyone who has watched, and especially to those who spread the word about the video, commented, or donated and messaged me for the music. Let’s not stop here, let’s keep sharing the idea and keep making a difference, so that even after the media replaces the headlines with another attention-drawer, we’ll be witnessing the heroism and supporting the Fukushima 50.

I wish each and every one of them strength for now, happiness and health for the future.

2 Comments

  1. Maggie Schlabach

    I love your music and the way it helps to express how I am feeling. It is like you tapped into the grief and fear and sadness of my heart to pull out this incredible sound. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. David Klein

    Your music for the Fukushima Fifty is certainly inspirational and a fine piece of art. I respect that you didn’t re-use a preexisting work of yours (or someone elses) for the background score of the video but you took the time and effort to compose original music that lasts and says so much more. It is nice to read your notes and see what was gong on in your mind when you were composing it. Being close to some film/music industry circles, I appreciate that you set the creative mark high for yourself and put all the thought behind creating the sounds and building the music to express your emotions, and what the Japanese must have been feeling at that time. Listening to the Hymn, a lot of things come across. the piece has many layers and reveals various depths every time I listen to it. Great work!

    Reply

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