The rising and falling fortunes of Detroit have inspired a music collaboration between an American poet and an ANU composer.
Hum is a collection of five poems enfolded in music and will premiere in the former Motor City in September. The piece was created by award winning poet Jamaal May and Australian National University PhD student Andrew Harrison.
Harrison says he first met May about 10 years ago and had always wanted to work with him but hadn't found the right opportunity until he embarked on a PhD on history and music at the ANU in Canberra.
Hum includes poems from Jamaal May's 2014 book, also called Hum, which dealt with the dramatic crash of his hometown in the wake of the devastating global financial crisis.
Harrison says May's poetry is inspiring. "It's quite amazing poetry, it's really emotional and passionate and his use of language is second to none," he says.
"Jamaal's poetry addresses the big issues in what he describes as an interior way. He talks about the everyday life of people living in Detroit and also the wider American community. He's also addressing the social stuff that's happened."
Harrison has seen first hand the decline in the former American manufacturing powerhouse. He first visited in 2004 and went over again last year while he was working with May.
"Jamaal took me through his neighbourhood last year and it was very sad. [The] neighbourhood where he was raised - there are no street lights, and the houses are basically relics, there was no one living in them," he says.
"But the city's still carrying on. It's not some kind of ghost town with tumbleweed. There's a grassroots revival and it's an opportunity."
Hum was commissioned by New Music Detroit and Harrison says he tries to convey a sense of the city's struggle through the music, working with May's passionate poetry. "One of the big things in his poetry is the clash between the man made and the natural environment. He's really trying to emphasise that the city moves on, despite the man made stuff happening, the city still ticks over," he says.