“To have a concert outside is a community experience. A tragic event like a shooting of a person is always, in some form, a community experience. The feelings of rage, sadness, and despair can only be touched by coming into contact with them. Physically touching those emotions is impossible with the
human hand. Music becomes medicine for the mind, body, and soul.”
Founded by Dayvin Hallmon, The Black String Triage Ensemble is a group of violin, viola, cello, and upright/double bass players based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Seeking to interrogate the meaning of a “first responder,” the Ensemble arrives at the scene of acts of violence immediately after they have occurred, standing just beside the police tape amid the chaos of sirens and lights with their instruments in tow. The ensemble conducts a meditative and embodied musical experience right at the scene, shifting between negro spirituals, classical and popular music, organized around the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – with the addition of a sixth: faith.
In a city with a deeply embedded mistrust of police and a historic wave of gun violence, many people are looking for an answer or remedy to it all. Our cast of participants are attempting to do their part by using music to amplify a new type of response to gun violence. This film adds to the well-established
canon of cinema dedicated to archiving new forms of transformative community work that exists outside of the trauma we’ve been programmed to witness. But the group continuously struggles with a lack of funding. Despite musicians without adequate resources, an increase in violence, and the newness of this concept, can the ensemble transform these traumatized public spaces into a place of recovery, healing, and even hope?
In 2019, Milwaukee, Wisconsin ranked second in the U.S. for Black homicide victims. In 2020, the neighboring city of Kenosha garnered national attention after the shooting of Jacob Blake. In 2021, there were 189 killings, a 93% increase from 2019 and the most ever recorded. As of July 2022, Milwaukee
reports the fourth highest increase in homicides among major U.S. cities, with a 40% increase. There have been many dialogues about what our communities can do to prevent gun violence, but this film wants to explore beyond those actions and attempt to understand the emotional, physical root cause.