(e.g. Kdadalak (For the Children of Timor), VENCEREMOS!, and Welcome to the Hotel Turismo). A radiophonic version of the "audio-visual music theatre" piece Quito - about schizophrenia and East Timor - was nominated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a 1997 Italia Prize (in the Music category) and has been released on CD by Tall Poppies Records. One of his pieces - For Marimba & Tape - is the most-performed piece of Australian so-called "serious art-music" (it exists in versions for other instruments, too, including For Clarinet & Tape), while several of his children's songs (e.g. I'm Walking in the City) have become classics on such television programs as Play School.
Wesley-Smith was born in 1945 in Adelaide (South Australia). He studied at the Universities of Adelaide and York (England) before taking up a position lecturing in composition and electronic music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In 1988 he was the Australia Council's Don Banks Fellow; in 1997 and 1998 he held an Australia Council Fellowship.
After 26 years' teaching at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and finding himself increasingly disenchanted with the direction in which it was heading, Wesley-Smith left in July 2000. He is now living in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, attempting to supplement his meagre income from composition by growing vegetables and raising ducks (both, alas, fairly futile activities, what with the predations of snails, slugs, bower birds, foxes etc and the absence of a green thumb ...)
Wesley-Smith's composition teachers included Peter Tahourdin, Peter Maxwell Davies and Sandor Veress. His DPhil supervisor was Richard Orton. Most of his choral music sets the work of his brother, Peter Wesley-Smith.
In 1976 Wesley-Smith founded the multi-media collective watt, which he directed until 1998 and with whom he has given many concerts in Australia and overseas. In 1992 he founded The Greenway Group, which specialised in performing new chamber works. In the late 70s and early 80s he was Musical Director for a now-legendary series of multi-media events produced at Wattamolla Beach in Sydney's Royal National Park, working with Gabrielle Dalton, the late Ian Fredericks, George Gittoes and others. In 1983 he presented two concerts of original works at the Festival d'Automne à Paris, including one with violinist/improvisor extraordinaire Jon Rose with whom he later released an LP record of collaborative improvisations (Fairlight CMI and violin). In 1986 Boojum! was produced at the Adelaide Festival of Arts before the Queen of England! Later that year he established, at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China's first computer music studio, and was dubbed, semi-seriously, "The Father of Chinese Computer Music" (in 2007 he was dubbed, by the Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth, "the Godfather of Australian Computer Music"). In 1988 he was the Rayson Huang Fellow at the University of Hong Kong where, in 1994 and 1995, he subsequently lectured. In 1997 he was awarded the Paul Lowin Song Cycle Composition Award for Quito, which has been performed in Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Portugal as well as in Sydney. Tall Poppies Records won the Best Recording of an Australian Composition award in the 1997 ABC-FM Recording of the Year Awards for its recording of this piece, which was nominated by the ABC for a Prix Italia and a Grawemeyer Award. In 1998 it earnt Wesley-Smith a Special Award for Music in the 1998 Michele Turner Writing Awards (awarded by ETRA (East Timor Relief Association)). In 1997 a version for six voices & tape was performed by The Song Company at "Pacific Marathon 1: Australie", a festival in Groningen, Holland, where Wesley-Smith was composer-in-residence (to listen to an audio extract from the Song Company's CD of Quito, click here). Other pieces of his performed there were For Bass Clarinet & Tape and the audio-visual pieces Beta-Globin DNA, Dodgson's Dream and Wattamolla Red.
In 1998, Martin Wesley-Smith was admitted as a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for services "to music, as a composer, scriptwriter, children's songwriter, lecturer, presenter of multi-media concerts and a member of various Australia Council boards and committees". He gave a plenary paper at THE LEWIS CARROLL PHENOMENON (an international interdisciplinary conference marking the centenary of Lewis Carroll's death) in April 1998 at the University of Wales, Cardiff. In July he gave the key-note address at the 1998 ACMA (Australian Computer Music Association) Conference at ACAT (Australian Centre for Art and Technology) in Canberra. He was awarded a 1998 Sounds Australian Award for "long-term contribution to the advancement of Australian music", and was nominated for a Human Rights Award (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) and for the inaugural Denis Freney Memorial Award, given by ETRA ("to recognize the outstanding commitment and work of an activist, anywhere in the world, working in solidarity for East Timor"). A new version of the 1984 audio-visual piece VENCEREMOS!, for computer (programmed in Director 6.0 using an LCD projector), was performed in 1998 at a concert he presented as a fringe event of the Melbourne Festival and at the last watt concert. His name is an entry in The Macquarie Dictionary, third edition, Macquarie University, NSW 2109 Australia, 1997.
In November 2000, Wesley-Smith produced a concert in the Sydney Town Hall for the visiting East Timorese choir Anin Murak. In 2002 he was nominated, by the Music Council of Australia, for the International Music Council/UNESCO International Music Prize. In March and July 2002 he went to East Timor, presenting concerts there. In Jan and Feb 2003 he presented concerts, with clarinettist Ros Dunlop and others, in Manchester, Kent, Reading, Liverpool, Glasgow, Oxford, Kingston, York, London and Hong Kong. The tour ended with a guest lecturer stint at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. In September and October 2003 he presented concerts, again with Ros Dunlop, in the USA, featuring the premiere of his 2003 multimedia work Weapons of Mass Distortion. In October 2005 he joined Ros Dunlop in Europe for concerts in Newcastle (UK), Glasgow, Vilnius (Lithuania), London, Sandwich (Kent), Cork and Rotterdam, again lecturing at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts on his way home. In 2007 they toured New Zealand.
Works produced in the past few years include The Knight's Gambit (from Boojum!) for five singers & orchestra (2001), Black Ribbon, for singers, choir & orchestra (2001), Merry-Go-Round, for clarinet, cello & computer (2002), Tekee Tokee Tomak, for clarinet & computer (2003), Weapons of Mass Distortion, for clarinet & computer (2003), Kolele Mai, for classical guitar (2003), Songs and Marches, for classical guitar quartet (2004), A Luta Continua, for baritone, girls choir & orchestra (2004-5), doublethink, music theatre for six singers (2004-5), Papua Merdeka, for bass clarinet & computer (2005), Baghdad Baby Boy, for soprano, piano & cello (2007), Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo, for seven female singing harpists & choir (2008), Eyeless in Gaza, for soprano, piano & cello (2009), and Morning Star, for cello & piano (2009).