KNAU and Arizona News
9:47 am
Thu November 21, 2013

Brain Food: 'Musical' No Mas Muertes

No Mas Muertes - or No More Deaths - is an Arizona-based advocacy group that provides humanitarian relief along the U.S.-Mexico border. Since 2004, the group has offered food, water and medical attention to immigrants trying to illegally cross the border from Mexico. And now, the group has a musical component.

Glen Weyant plays percussion on the massive wall separating the U.S. and Mexico
Glen Weyant plays percussion on the massive wall separating the U.S. and Mexico
Credit Matt Nelson

That's because of the work of NAU Spanish Professor Robert Neustadt. He and his students travel to the border and see firsthand what many call a "militarized humanitarian crisis." They camp out, hike migrant trails and interview those who've been deported.

"We had read about the border, we had watched films about the border, we had studied the border from as many perspectives as possible," Neustadt says, "but when you look at it from your own eyes, it has a whole different meaning and you really understand things at a much more profound level."

Neustadt says they use the massive border wall as a musical instrument. "A guy named Glen Weyant, he's a stone sculptor, and he started playing the wall. He puts contact microphones on the wall and bows it with a cello bow". Neustadt goes on to say, "Weyant also taps on it, scrapes on it and beats on it with instruments of mass percussion. And he calls students up two by two and we have the largest performance of the world's largest musical instrument."

Border Songs album cover
Border Songs album cover
Credit Robert Neustadt

Together with other musicians, poets and songwriters, Neustadt has created a 2-album CD called, Border Songs. On it, poets like Margaret Randall, blend words with sounds of the border wall.

For every CD sold, No Mas Muertes buys 29 gallons of water to stash in the desert in places where migrant traffic is heavy. For Robert Neustadt and other supporters of humanitarian border efforts, it's a small step in bringing down the number of immigrant deaths each year.