Breaking the Silence

for Soprano and Tape


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

Breaking the Silence

by Aaron Alon

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.

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.

Breaking the silence

Work Details

13 minutes

April 14, 2008
Aaron Alon DMA Recital
Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, Houston, TX
Laura Botkin, soprano
Angela Mortellaro, soprano on tape

Studio Recording
Not commercially available

For scores, audio files, and other performance materials, contact Aaron Alon.


The Text

by Aaron Alon

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 sung text shown here is by Aaron Alon.

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.