“We build the wall to keep us free…”

Written by

Anais Mitchell (f. Greg Brown) – Why We Build The Wall

Writing about one great song from a brilliant concept album is much like a man saying, “I spent 2 nights with Aishwarya Rai. The conversation was marvelous.” But here goes anyway.

This scene could be set in Detroit, now. This scene could be set in 1933, anywhere. There is no weather in this scene, only poverty. Love and its attendant tragedy come later. In the ninth scene of this folk-opera, Greg Brown isn’t playing Hades, his voice is Hades. When not in sonic expression, the voice is still present: it has a smell; it has a colour. It spends much of the song asking questions of Cerberus (Anaïs Mitchell), but its lingering insistence tells you what you know already: that each answer was decided long ago, like the verdict of a particularly tuneful show trial.

This wall isn’t Pink Floyd’s Wall – so it isn’t Bob Geldof’s Wall either. This wall keeps us free from the others, free of poverty, free from the enemy. The cultural symbolism here is rich, and you shouldn’t be surprised that Ms. Mitchell is a political science graduate. Cerberus, singing for us, truly believes that the wall keeps us free. That’s what he knows, because that’s what he’s been taught – our friend and guardian is the property of an abusive master, and like all good property, doesn’t know what abuse is. Hades asks a lot of questions in this song. But Hades is no fool. He knows not to ask the one important question: “Why would the wall make us feel free?” The wall makes us free because we are afraid.

[If you enjoy Greek mythology, Depression-era imagery, and excellent folk music – or if you enjoy pretending to like these things to help you get laid – then purchase Anaïs Mitchell’s “Hadestown.“]

We asked Rob to offer us his mind. You can see why now. Follow him on Twitter or Tumblr, because it surely is worth your time.

7 Responses to ““We build the wall to keep us free…””

  1. Brent says:

    Fantastic. Song, and post. Did I help connect Robert to Tune The Proletariat? If so, you’re welcome internet.

    I’ll be sure to “buy” Hadestown. Sounds like top stuff.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brent M. Maximin, tunetheproletariat. tunetheproletariat said: Built to keep us free, says Rob, as he offers a post to tunetheproletariat. We are humbled. Please check it out… http://fb.me/tq3MnKTi […]

  3. Awesome track. Message, tune and gorgeous syrup.

  4. Joan says:

    You did, Brent. A pleasure.

  5. Rob says:

    Indeed you did, Brent. Merçi.

    Thanks for the kind words, guys.

  6. Saladin says:

    The cerberus isn’t Mitchell, it’s a group of three sisters called the Hayden triplets. Great song, though.

  7. Robert says:

    Eek. You’re right, Saladin. Sowwie.

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