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Breaking the Silence

WARNING: This piece contains graphic depictions of abuse that some will find disturbing.

I began work on Breaking the Silence knowing only that I wanted to write a piece about child abuse, a horrific social illness which is alarmingly pervasive in our society. Aside from writing a brief text — which is sung by the soprano, who represents a small child singing a children’s song of her own invention — I sought to have the direction and social statements of the piece guided by the interviews of survivors: the freely-spoken words and/or the writings they chose to share. These interviews compose the tape portion of the piece and tell, in words, stories more powerful than a writer could manufacture or a composer could mimic. I sought to bring their stories together, to interweave them, always seeking to have their words understood, but allowing the audience to experience, through spoken vocal polyphony, the struggle of breaking the silence, of having one’s words heard. I am aware that the piece is controversial. My only hope is that the volunteers who shared their stories will gain from being heard and that this may help others to break their silence too.

Aaron Alon will soon launch a new website specifically for this project at breakingthesilence.com.  In 2009, the piece also become part of the Break The Silence Project and was added to their collection of works on the theme of sexual abuse.


The tape part is composed of excerpts of interviews with four survivors of child abuse who volunteered to record their stories, as well as portions of the written text, as sung by soprano Angela Mortellaro. The four interviewees were Mike Migura, Michelle Fellow, “SafeAtLast,” and Anonymous. The piece is written in surround sound (quad), but is reduced to stereo for the version on this site.  The following is the sung text.

Ten, ten very pretty ladies Locked up in a tower And far out of sight Ten, ten sleeping pretty ladies Quietly are bathed In summer moon’s pale light Ten, ten lovely little ladies Safe up in the tower In the dead of night Breathe, breathe, breathing little ladies Sleeping in the tower Where they feel no fright Breathe, breathe, I’m a pretty lady Far away from here And I am sleeping tight Breathe, breathe, breathe, you pretty lady You are not yet dying; You will wake to light. Breathe, breathe; it will soon be over. Daddy cannot help Who he becomes at night. —Aaron Alon

Video Trailer

Video of the Premiere


DURATION 13 minutes

DATE 2008

PREMIERE April 14, 2008 Aaron Alon DMA Recital Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston, TX Laura Botkin (soprano)

RECORDING Studio Recording Not commercially available Laura Botkin, soprano (Angela Mortellaro, soprano on tape)

DEMONSTRATION SCORES & RECORDINGS Please contact the composer.

ORDER THE TAPE PART (QUAD or STEREO) Please contact the composer.

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