By Yvonne Hespos
|MUSIC FROM GROUND ZERO
-- Mark Dann, member of Dharma Bums, who have played for the
Dalai Lama. R: Tim Tuttle. Photo by Chris Eckert.
If the light in the darkness of 9/11 was the extraordinary ability
that revealed itself in ordinary people, Tim Tuttle is a musical
version of that. He is not a professional musician, though you would
never know it to see him onstage. But he is just a guy with a musical
vision who really wants to tell this story.
To me, as a foreigner from Germany, 9/11 was one of these far
away and long ago catastrophes. You see them on TV, you read about
them in the newspaper and it's horrible, but they are always far
away. At first everyone is talking about nothing else but it doesn't
take long until other things get more important again, except for
those who experienced it. Tim Tuttle might have felt the same way
if he wouldn't have been there and gone through it.
When I met Tuttle for the first time, fresh off the plane from
Germany, I thought he was one of these persons who are full of the
joy of life. He said hello to me in a warm and friendly manner,
as it is typical of the Americans. After a little bit of small talk
he asked whether I wanted to hear what his whole little universe
was about for the last couple of years. He stopped smiling at me
and started to talk about 9/11 as if he were under some kind of
pressure. He spoke very quickly, with expressive body language.
Even though it was a little bit difficult for me to follow him (still
acclimating myself to English), I could see how attached he was
to the topic. The people at the next table must have picked up on
what Tim was saying because suddenly they started to talk about
it as well. I realized in an instant how present 9/11 still is to
many, many people.
Though music was his first love, Tim Tuttle had gone into business
like good American sons are supposed to. He had worked in the World
Trade Center for several years prior to 9/11 and had only recently
moved to a new building across the street. His office faced the
Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 That day his world was torn apart.
He lost 35 friends and acquaintances. In the shock of that experience,
he wrote the lyrics to his first song on a ferry as he moved slowly
across the Hudson River late that in the afternoon of the attacks.
In the weeks and months following, his office continued to face
the site, and relentlessly monitored the aftermath of the disaster.
Days were broken by moments of silence as the flag-draped remains
of someone's loved ones were removed. Songs kept pouring out of
him, and a musical project unexpectedly arose, seemingly from the
ashes of Downtown Manhattan. Tim Tuttle, Jeremy Slansky, Rich Lamb,
Donna Kelly, Owen Yost, Jonathan Fritz, Mark Dann and Claudia Chopek,
a group of talented and seasoned musicians, coalesced around the
music. Their sessions morphed into an annual concert to honor friends
they had known and lost and heroes they didn't know but wished they
Thus was born Music from Ground Zero, which is performed annually
onthe anniversary of the attacks. Concerts in past years have been
held at The Knitting Factory and Tribeca Rock.
In keeping with the theme of honoring the heroes of that day,
proceeds from the concert are donated to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes
Fund (www.fallenheroesfund.org). That charity is constructing a
world-class state-of-the-art advanced training skills facility at
Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. The center will
serve military personnel who have been catastrophically disabled
in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The center will also serve
military personnel and veterans severely injured in other operations
and in the normal performance of their duties, combat and non-combat
The repertoire of "Music from Ground Zero" is a song
cycle on the verge of a rock opera, which seethes with heartfelt
emotion. As it explores the extremes of grief, bewilderment, hope
and yearning it is both totally heartbreaking and incredibly healing.
Tuttle testifies that the evening reflects him "going through
denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance," and
back to square one again. The music is "not about politics
nor about religion." As the son of a World War Two paratrooper
who is grieved by the loss of meaning of Veteran's Day and Memorial
Day, Tuttle's aim is to memorialize. He often quotes a Native American
proverb, "They are not gone who live in the hearts of those
they left behind."
The music has struck a nerve with 9/11 survivors and Tuttle has
been periodically swamped with requests for recordings of "Music
From Ground Zero." Although the lyrics are not flag-waving
or even overtly patriotic, the CDs have become a popular gift for
troops serving overseas.
Music From Ground Zero has always been a labor of love. Nine songs
from the concert and a video from last year's "Music From Ground
Zero" are available for free download at www.musicfromgroundzero.com.
The website declares, "In a world where music is money these
days the site is purely about healing. We must always remember."
Tuttle writes, "Everyone who prays for a peaceful world and
for tolerance is inextricably linked to Ground Zero. Every American
-- no, every caring person on this planet -- has a connection. I
hope this helps in some small but meaningful way. It is my small
contribution to a world filled with chaos."
I do feel linked to it now in some way and I will never forget.