Symphony in D, the words

Words made powerful contributions to the “Symphony in D.” Notably, the fourth movement featured texts spoken by a variety of people representing Detroit including two vivid and memorable poems by Marsha Music and Tonya Matthews. For background essays and information about the world premiere performance, view the program here.

Marsha Music. Photo by Asia Rapai.
Photo by Asia Rapai.

Memories and Dreams

From the mire and murky loam,
bottom black with dusky soil
The First People walked this land
heard the river’s rush and roar
near the water Savoyard
there in battles took a stand
made the fateful crimson flow
near the strait called Le D’etroit

From Black Bottom’s swamp and fog
Green and verdant ribbons grow
lush farms risen from the bog
furs and stoves and ironworks
from the briny underground
there arose a great world noise
symphony of city sounds
sights and wonders to behold

Hear invention’s hum and clang,
foundry’s fire and factory’s bang,
listen to assembly lines,
hear production’s sturm und drang
hear the hiss of molten iron
turning into Model A’s
listen to the shouts of hires
working for five dollar days

Nations gathered in this place
varied hues and diverse face
working people prospering
but segregate the darker race
Clack and clatter of streetcars
Sounds of great Grand Central trains
Immigrants and great migrations
Streets are pack’d between shift change
Come from Europe, up from South
workers moving all about
road and streets exhaling steam!
hiss and whining of machines
autos rolling off the line
make the rhythms of the time
hark! the notes of human toiling
hear the shouts of labor’s roiling

Moneymakers pulling strings
busting blocks, dividing streets
profits made by real estate
instigating fright and hate
driven out by greed and guile
leaving city streets behind

Sounds of flight across 8 mile
did naught to stop the city’s sound
Blues and Jazz and Gospel flowed
and record shops were all around
but came the news from city hall

Black Bottom is to be destroyed
And then to make a new freeway
Hastings Street gets wrecking balled
Black Bottom gone, and Hastings dead
So many to the Westside fled
But drum rolls for equality
all went unheard, no scrutiny
and so the rage and fire burned
in ’67’s mutiny
generations now have gone
destruction changed the city’s song

But now their children do return
From exile, coming back to learn
With sounds of electronica
and Techno beats made in this town
I open arms to welcome them
The ones who really want to live
amidst we folks who never left
Reside together with respect
Some say they come to save Detroit
But I say, they come to BE saved.

— Marsha Music

Tonya Matthews. Photo by Asia Rapai.
Tonya Matthews. Photo by Asia Rapai.

The Difference Between the Boom and the Bass

You know the city dances, right
one man’s downturn
is another man’s downbeat
one man’s 8 mile
is another man’s 8th note
one man’s cacophony of catastrophe
is another man’s
symphony of the streets

The dirt is always black
the black is always in the bottom
the bottom is always about the bass
welcome to Detroit

You know the city sings
out of tune on purpose
we don’t do harmony
it’s too predictable
truth. we may put too many F’s
where A’s could be
truth. we definitely put a high rise
where that neighborhood should be
critics stay sharp
predictions of our demise fall flat
it’s all the same tune
and still, you are singing our song

The river is oh so rouge
the rouge is oh so rough
the only thing more rogue ’round here
than the river
is the people
you think you know Detroit

One hundred forty-two point nine
square miles of building block
cars assembly lines paved roads
8 hour workdays and the night shift.
your first broadcast news your first
phone number your first state fair.
jiffy mix tanks and bombers.
bulletproof vests and vernors our
ice skating rink is bigger than
rockefeller center’s

We are The Real McCoy

We don’t just make everything
we will make anything
can’t wait to surprise you
with that thing
we haven’t even thought of yet

Progress is overrated
when you’ve already decided to be

This is not new
it’s next
that ain’t old it’s foundation

If you can’t see we’re not done yet
if you don’t recognize the genius
in refusing to be generic
if you still can’t tell the difference
between the boom and the bass
you’ve never been to Detroit

But don’t worry we’ll still be here
when you decide to learn

— by Tonya Maria Matthews, president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center, A.K.A. JaHipster


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