A Hymn To Hope is an instrumentation set to Dream Listener : An audiobook in three movements (2007) by Montreal artist Karen Elaine Spencer
Dream Listening centres in on the lives and experience of people sleeping on the streets who attend the St James’ Drop-in Centre in Montreal. I first heard Dream Listener in 2008 and it immediately resonated with something inside. Karen’s work questions our values and investigates how we, as transient beings, occupy the world in which we live.
In the narrative Karen leads us to Dee’s story of homelessness, which is not just the absence of roof, warmth and relationships but a state of mind. It is often the very bottom of poverty, the depth of despair. People with no roof have a sense of hopelessness, resignation and powerlessness.
Poverty does not of itself ennoble and there is little romantic within it. Sometimes however it does enable you to see people anew in a strong stark light which takes away all the trappings. When everything is taken away, or more especially given up, some begin a journey which can become an Odyssey, into themselves.
Dee’s story illustrates how often the homeless have a shattered knowledge of themselves. They have been compelled, like tortoises, to carry absolutely everything important with them. They have been compelled to come to terms with fundamental and disturbing experiences which can both impoverish and uplift.
Dream Listener can be ordered here and have been used for this project with kind permission of the owner under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License