Martin Wesley-Smith's



in 1956 or so


in 1988 
or so


old pic


mw-s new pic


an incomplete and opinionated ramble through miscellaneous events, performances etc of 2007

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* Thursday December 13 2007:

Having arranged, a few months back, Gabriella's Song, from the wonderful Swedish film As It Is In Heaven, for a cappella choir, I've now finished an arrangement for choir and piano. And I'm currently putting together a choir to sing it at a fundraising concert in Kangaroo Valley that I'm organising for Sunday January 27. By then the piano part will have morphed into a part for seven harps, for the main performers at the concert will be SHE (Seven Harp Ensemble, formerly the Kioloa Harp Ensemble). This charming group, led by Alice Giles, gave us a delightful concert two years ago, and we've been eager to have them back ever since. I'm also composing a piece for SHE based on Japanese war crimes trials after WWII - hardly a fun topic, I admit, but I'm hoping that the piece will be very beautiful even though sad. More on this later. In the meantime, tickets can be purchased for the concert via mail order by downloading, filling out and returning the concert booking form.

* The new leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party (now the Opposition) is the appalling Brendan Nelson, the man who as Minister for Education in the most recent Howard Government insisted that before getting their annual funding schools must erect a flag pole in the school grounds and fly the Australian flag ...

* Last Tuesday night I attended a meeting of local subscribers to GetUp to help formulate suggestions as to the main areas of concern that we want the new Rudd Labor Government to address. The number one priority of our group was - of course - climate change. As GetUp recently pointed out, the caution that Prime Minister Rudd has displayed so far on short-term emissions targets reveals the grass-roots activism that's going to be needed to make sure that his government is more effective on this issue than Howard's was ...

* I've just heard of the death, on August 26, of journalist, linguist, and lecturer in art history Vesselina Ossikovska-Burchett. Born in 1919, she married Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett, the man who first revealed to the world the horror of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.

I pay tribute here to the work of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who also died recently. When I was first getting into contemporary music, back in the 60s, it was Stocky's music to which I returned over and over again for inspiration. I vividly remember hearing his Kontakte for the first time and being amazed at the imagination and the virtuosic audacity of that piece. I subsequently met the man several times, and although I didn't warm to him personally I remained a great fan of his music, especially of the earlier masterpieces. His electronic music helped inspire me to explore that medium way back in the early days of the Moog synthesizer.

In the 70s I wrote a song, Cosmic Superman, that sent Stocky up, although in a fairly gentle way. I don't remember all of it, and seem to have lost the sheet music. There you go ...

* Sunday December 2 2007:

I returned yesterday from a week in Canberra, working at the National Film and Sound Archive "acquisitioning", annotating etc my old audio-visual materials. In days of yore my audio-visual pieces used slide projectors, a technology that one rarely sees these days except when Uncle Barney shows the slides he took of his 1983 trip to Hawaii. I used to use two control systems: either an Electrosonic ES69 unit that controlled two projectors (e.g. my pieces Kdadalak (For the Children of Timor) and Dodgson's Dream), or an Apple ][e-based Clear Light Superstar that controlled nine projectors on one screen (e.g. Wattamolla Red, Snark-Hunting 2 etc). As time went on it became harder and harder to keep these systems - especially the Apple ][e - going, so after a presentation at the University of Melbourne, at a fringe event of the 1998 Melbourne Festival, I retired them, moving instead to using Macromedia Director on a Macintosh computer and projecting images with an LCD projector. This is the system I still use for pieces such as Weapons of Mass Distortion and Welcome to the Hotel Turismo. But I believe that at least some of the early pieces are worthy of preservation. Hence I'm hoping to reconstruct at the NFSA a nine-projector system so that at least some of the pieces can be shown again in their original form, video versions can be made, and they can be reconstructed as computer pieces ....

* More rain: while I was away over nine inches fell on Kangaroo Valley in one night! People were stranded behind fast-flowing rivers, our dirt road was partly washed away, people's houses were flooded ....

* I must say that it has been delicious to watch the recriminations fly as John Howard's Coalition falls apart post-election. In most cases, Coalition members remained mute as Howard, Ruddock et al pushed through ever-more-egregious legislation. When Howard finally went too far, buoyed by sychophantic support and insulated from criticism by supine media, there was a bloodbath as the Australian public finally decided that enough was enough. If the Liberal Party had shown that at least some parliamentary members still had a moral compass, and that genuine debate within - and without - the party was still possible, then perhaps they would not now be having difficulty picking themselves up from the floor ...

As barrister and human rights campaigner Julian Burnside, QC, wrote in 2002: "Mr Howard and Mr Ruddock deserve our contempt." See p68 of his new book Watching brief: reflections on human rights, law, and justice, published recently by Scribe.

* Sunday November 25 2007:

YES! A brilliant result last night! The polls suggested a late surge towards Howard and the Coalition, which was worrying, but when I went to bed the result was as good as one dared hope, especially if Howard ends up losing his seat ...

What an ignominious end to eleven and a half years in the top job: his party, and his coalition partner, severely wounded, possibly mortally; not a single Liberal government at state or federal level anywhere in the country; a divided country where selfishness, meanness of spirit, hypocrisy, lying etc have become commonplace; a boring country, where a white picket fence mentality has devalued creativity, education for its own sake, disinterested research ...; a frightened country, one that kowtows to the USA, one where people no longer stand up for what's right if it means disagreeing with those in authority; a country that invaded, illegally, on the basis of lies, another country, contributing to over one million deaths, yet apparently has no qualms about that (Iraq received hardly a mention during the election campaign); a country that will possibly never recover from the environmental damage caused by Howard's refusal to take climate change seriously; a country whose democracy has been severely restricted, with sedition and other repressive and anti-democratic laws in place ("But we'll never use them", said Ruddock); an insecure country, constantly worried about terrorist attack that is only a threat because of its eager support of American militarism; and so on ....

* I'm off in the morning to spend a few days working at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra ...

* Friday November 23 2007:

The phone and modem lines here have been out for several days, making life extremely difficult .... More rain! So far, the last couple of days have brought several inches, with every drop gratefully received ... Have recently arranged a couple of spirituals for the choir I sing in: I Want to be Ready and Meet Me in the Middle of the Air. We'll sing some songs at the Morgans' election party tomorrow night, including my Little Johnny Longnose ("Liar, liar, your pants are on fire ...").

* Tomorrow's the big day, with the polls pointing towards a Labor victory but plenty of uncertainty as to whether the polls can be trusted. Meanwhile, I've just read, in on-line journal New Matilda, an excellent article on one aspect of the Howard government's tenure in office. Called Conservative Correctness, it's by Mark Davis. An excerpt:

Over 11 years in office, the Howard Government has worked assiduously behind the scenes to stamp out criticism, silence voices of dissent, and muzzle and neuter organisations and institutions that show the slightest tendency to depart from its preferred line or to inform the public about many of its activities - all this as part of what can only be understood as a concerted attempt to remake the culture in its image.

Along the way, NGOs have been defunded, journalists nobbled, whistleblowers prosecuted, boards stacked, courts compromised, and organisations that protect due democratic process wound down or disbanded.


This appalling behaviour is the very antithesis of the democracy Australian troops are dying for, supposedly, in Afghanistan. Yet at Howard's appearance the other day at the Canberra Press Club - one of our main Bastions of Democracy - there was not a single question about this, or Iraq, or the Free Trade Agreement with the USA, or any other area where Howard's legacy will have a devastating effect on future generations. There was one question - a soft one - about climate change, but Howard was able to turn it to his electoral advantage (he talked about his new grandson, thus appearing to be a doting, devoted family man) - and the Press let him get away with it, showing how effectively dissent in this country has been silenced.

* Sunday November 18 2007:

I've just received an invitation to a party next Saturday night:

If you are one of the leftie latte-sipping, chardonnay-swigging, chattering classes, perhaps you would like to join us on Saturday the 24th from 7pm, yes Election Day 07, to farewell Johnny Howard on his journey to oblivion. (We) are hosting a very respectful and quiet do with utter confidence that a new Government will sweep Howard to the exit door stage 'right'.

BYO as we couldn't possibly supply the amount of Beveridge you will feel like consuming if we win and of course more if we ... (having just read Alan Ramsay's SMH article I feel so confident now I wont even say the word!)

There will be entertainment of course, apart from the Television and Maxine's smiling face. Various seditious songs will no doubt erupt from the 'so happy I could sing' chardonnay-swiggers, perhaps some silly rhymes from the latte-sippers, and some rousing anthems from our many talented local idols. Libby and her friend have promised some tabletop dancing if ... when ... Maxine is victorious ... sure to be the highlight of the mainly sedate evening.

Party clothes are acceptable unless you would like to wear a little rodent outfit as a sign of respect for J & J Howard. We hope you can come and share a quiet evening in front of the box with us on Election night.

I would hate to be accused of being a "Howard-hater", which is the standard insult from the Right towards anyone who dares to take a different point of view from J. Howard and his hench(wo)men. But I have to admit that by now I've probably slipped into that category. While I might hate, or at least disagree with, many of his policies, that's not necessarily a reason to hate the man himself. It's the lies, the hypocrisy, the lack of any perceivable moral compass, the ruthlessness with which he has pursued political aggrandizement, his criminal refusal to address global warming concerns, and so on, that make it very difficult to exercise Christian charity towards him.

What if the Lying Rodent (as one of his own Ministers has described him) defies the opinion polls and leads his coalition to yet another victory? Gee ...

* I went to Sydney last Friday to listen to New South Wales Coroner Dorelle Pinch deliver the eagerly-awaited report of her INQUEST INTO THE DEATH OF BRIAN RAYMOND PETERS. Mr Peters was one of five journalists (the others being Gary Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie, Greg Shackleton and Tony Stewart) - the so-called Balibo Five - who were working for Australian news organisations when they were killed in East Timor on October 16 1975. Ms Pinch's finding:

Brian Raymond Peters, in the company of fellow journalists Gary James Cunningham, Malcolm Harvie Rennie, Gregory John Shackleton and Anthony John Stewart, collectively known as "the Balibo Five", died at Balibo in Timor-Leste on 16 October 1975 from wounds sustained when he was shot and/or stabbed deliberately, and not in the heat of battle, by members of the Indonesian Special Forces, including Christoforus da Silva and Captain Yunus Yosfiah on the orders of Captain Yosfiah, to prevent him from revealing that Indonesian Special Forces had participated in the attack on Balibo. There is strong circumstantial evidence that those orders emanated from the Head of the Indonesian Special Forces, Major-General Benny Murdani, to Colonel Dading Kalbuadi, Special Forces Group Commander in Timor, and then to Captain Yosfiah.

There you go: after at least four official enquiries, 32 years of obfuscation and lies by successive Australian federal governments, and millions of dollars of tax-payers' money spent, we now know officially what activists have known since the news of the deaths leaked out. Of course, no Australian official will suffer any sanction for the abject appeasement of Indonesia that allowed the cover-up of this deplorable crime, and no Indonesian official will be charged despite Ms Pinch's intention to refer the matter to the Commonwealth Attorney General for consideration of potential breaches of Division 268 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code. Despite this, Maureen Tolfree (the late Mr Peters' sister) and other family members of the five journalists were relieved that the truth had finally come out. To reiterate: the men were not killed in crossfire in the heat of battle, as Indonesia has maintained all along, but were murdered as they did their duty as journalists trying to discover the truth.

On Friday night I attended - along with seventy or so other long-time supporters of the East Timorese people in their struggle for self-determination - a celebratory dinner hosted by Shirley Shackleton (Greg's widow). This was not yet the end of a very long road, but it was a significant step towards justice for the victims' families. Of course, no-one expects the perpetrators of the crime to be charged, so justice will ultimately be denied just as it has been to the families of the 200,000 or so Timorese who died during the Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor, 1975-1999.

Clinton Fernandes writes in an article titled Lesson still waiting to be learnt (The Canberra Times, Saturday November 17 2007):

War crimes can be prosecuted wherever they occur and regardless of the nationality of the victims or perpetrators. There is no statute of limitations. The Attorney-General can make an extradition request under the 1995 extradition treaty with Indonesia. Indonesia may refuse to extradite, but must then submit the case to its prosecutors. Australian law also provides the right to prosecute crimes privately even if the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to not prosecute the matter. This private prosecution may, however, be taken over by the DPP, who can then discontinue it if he deems it contrary to the public interest.

But upholding international law can hardly be against the public interest or Indonesia's democratic transition, despite the Indonesian military's opposition. The case has important lessons for the future. It shows how policymakers think they can dismiss public opinion but are later defeated by it.

More than a year before Indonesia's invasion, a senior official warned that it would not be possible to conceal Indonesian brutalities from the Australian public, nor to conduct a good working relationship with Indonesia in the face of sustained public condemnation. He argued Australia should support self-determination for East Timor despite Indonesia's objections. This might have given then-president Suharto firmer grounds for resisting his military's desire to invade East Timor. Instead, policymakers chose a supposedly pragmatic, hard-headed realism, and, according to a key Indonesian general, ''helped Indonesia crystallise its own thinking'' ...

* Sunday November 11 2007:

Went today - Remembrance Day, and the anniversary of the 1975 sacking of the Whitlam government - to the Pereira/Sitsky concert in Kangaroo Valley Hall. It was lovely to hear David Pereira playing, after his recent illness, at close to his beautiful best, accompanied superbly by the amazing composer/pianist/writer/musicologist etc Larry Sitsky. My problem was the music, which in my opinion should have been allowed to die with Anton Rubinstein in 1894. No, I don't mean that: the music - quite interesting from several points of view, competently written, and pleasant enough - is part of the rich tapestry of Mankind's Creative Achievements and deserves to live. It's just that there is so much music to listen to, and so few concerts in Kangaroo Valley, that if I'm gonna part with $40 to listen to live music in a stiflingly hot hall on a sunny Sunday afternoon then I want something more stimulating, less dull, in shorter chunks, with fewer repeats, more relevant, than these forgettable pieces from the 19th century.

* Earlier in the day I was interviewed by author and academic Clinton Fernandes for a book he's writing about political activism, especially that focussed on the invasion and occupation of East Timor by the Indonesian army between 1975 and 1999. He is the author of the excellent book Reluctant Saviour: Australia, Indonesia and the independence of East Timor (Scribe, 2004). From a review by Damian Grenfell of RMIT University: "The evidence assembled by Fernandes paints a sorrowful picture of successive Australian governments who were unable to let go of bad policy even as it collapsed around them." [more].

* Saturday November 10 2007:

Drought? What drought? During the past week Kangaroo Valley has received more than eight inches of rain. Beautiful!

* Yesterday, brother Rob Wesley-Smith, long-time activist on East Timor and other issues, gave a talk at a memorial service in Canberra for Ken Fry, Federal Member for Fraser from 1974 to 1984 and a great supporter of the people of East Timor. Ken died of cancer on October 10.

* At last some real culture in Kangaroo Valley! Tonight Arts in the Valley (The Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival) is presenting a concert by the Sydney Piano Trio (Susan Blake, cello, Ron Thomas, violin, and Gerard Willems, piano, all ex-colleagues of mine at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music). They will play Beethoven's Piano Trio No.1 in Eb and Shostakovich's Piano Trio No.2 in E minor, Op 67. Gerard Willems will play Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.17 in D minor ("Tempest"). Tomorrow afternoon, cellist David Pereira and pianist (and composer) Larry Sitsky will play the complete cello works of Anton Grigorýevich Rubinstein [1829-1894]: Cello Sonata No.1 in D, Op 18, Cello Sonata No 2 in G, Op 37, and Three Pieces, Op 11/2. This is a step up from Buster Keaton movies with live piano accompaniment, sopranos who sing songs by Eric Bogle, and seven-harp ensembles. No lollipops here. No mere entertainment. No pandering to the incessant demands of Australian composers to have their voice heard. This is where it's at!

* Sunday November 4 2007:

On Thursday I went to Smiths Hill High School in Wollongong to do a Musica Viva-in-Schools Australian Music Day with six-member vocal ensemble The Song Company. What I had to show and say, and what Song Co sang, generally seemed to go down well with the secondary school students from several schools who were there, although there was a complaint (unjustified, of course) from one of the teachers about perceived political bias in my audio-visual piece Weapons of Mass Distortion (I had presented that piece in a version for piano - played by Roland Peelman - and computer). At one stage we all sang a four-part round called Little Johnny Long-Nose, which, so I assured the audience, almost certainly had little if not nothing to do with John Howard and his invention of the concept of core and non-core promises (i.e. lies). And if that's not an absolute fact, then at least it's a non-core fact.

Seeing Howard on television this morning accusing Peter Garrett of lying was one of the more blatant examples I've seen of the H-word (that's "Hypocrisy", synonymous with "Howard").

My thanks to Musica Viva's Carol Coomber, Mark Lawrenson and Claire Nesbitt-Hawes - and to the members of The Song Company, who were, as usual, in excellent voice. They showed me their program booklet for 2008, which gives details of two touring programs that include stuff of mine: Waltzing Matilda in July and Singing in Tongues in September-October. The first includes excerpts from Boojum! (The Hunting of the Snark, We Must Be Off, Jubjubby etc) and several songs, including Black Ribbon, Tommy Tanna and Lines by a Lovelorn Cowhand. The second will include a new version of doublethink, about propaganda etc (commissioned by Song Co in 2006). For details, and to book, call [02] 8272 9500 or visit

* More comments from people who attended the Fifth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival last weekend:

As I have known for a while now, you really are an imaginative and talented bunch at Kangaroo Valley. What a fantastic idea for a fundraiser. This was the first of your film festivals I have been to and was probably the first time I had ever seen a silent movie, let alone one made in Australia. Congratulations on Dirty Dan - there were some very funny antics going on there.

I am now a big Buster Keaton fan and a Robert Constable fan as well. Please tell the latter what an amazing job he did. I loved the music - so light and lively, it fitted with the movies perfectly and it was good to hear a few familiar tunes woven in, including your Caterpillar. It's amazing to think he can play non-stop like that for over an hour!

also (excerpts):

"Wasn't that the most fabulous on Saturday night? We had such fun!"
"I had trouble seeing the screen properly, but the music was so good it didn't really matter."
"What a great night that was! The pianist was so good and so funny - I don't know how he does it, playing at that level for so long ..."
"You've done it again, East Timor people. I don't know how you manage to persuade that marvellous pianist to come each year - he's so clever being able to do that, without one mistake."
"The atmosphere was fantastic, and really makes you appreciate living in Kangaroo Valley. I heard several visitors comment on how friendly everyone was. There was a real buzz about the place."
"In a world of films filled with noise and destructive, violent images, how refreshing and delightful it was to watch a master of silence and gentleness be embellished by a master of musical interpretation."

* Monday Oct 29 2007:

Yesterday I woke into a post-FAKVBKSMF world (FAKVBKSMF: the Fifth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, which along with the new Dirty Dan movie (see below) has been occupying my life in recent weeks). The show went beautifully, with nimble-fingered pianist Robert Constable accompanying all the films with his usual flair and aplomb. Upper River Hall was packed by a generous-hearted audience, enabling us to raise nearly $3000 for scholarships in East Timor. As someone wrote: "The house was bursting with laughter and happiness" ...

When this tradition started, back in 2003, Robert Constable lived in Newcastle, New South Wales. He now lives in Auckland, New Zealand (where he's Head of the School of Music at the University of Auckland). He came here for this unique event at his own expense (air fares, car hire etc) - a magnificent contribution to the cause! Our gratitude to him is immense.

At some point we'll be selling DVDs of the entire Dirty Dan saga. Watch this space!

* Wednesday Oct 24 2007:

Have finished shooting and editing the final episode of the silent movie Dirty Dan - The Trilogy, which will be premiered on Saturday night (7.30pm, Upper River Hall; tickets - $20, $15 (concession) - from the supermarket). A rare example of a four-part trilogy, it stars, as usual, Helen George and Paul Turnock, and will be accompanied live by pianist Robert Constable. Some of it is very funny! For more information, go to the official Fifth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival website here.

Here's what Dirty Dan - The Trilogy is all about:

Dirty Dan absconds with Kangaroo Valley's last-remaining virgin, Fluff. Pursued by angry townsfolk, the lovers escape by leaping from Hampden Bridge into the icy torrent of the mighty Kangaroo River! Later, Dan saves the Valley from flood, thus earning the love of the local inhabitants who elect him Mayor. But his corrupt ways see him pursued again. He gives up being Mayor and has, with Fluff, a baby boy - Sod - instead. Fifi, a waitress, has a baby girl called Puff, who looks like Fluff, and Sod'n'Puff grow up as friends. They both become accomplished actors, starring in many local productions, including innovative outdoor versions of Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet, and a movie - It Takes Three - in which Sod plays Paul Turnock and Puff plays Helen George. Puff dramatically re-interprets the Marilyn Monroe role in The Seven Year Itch. At the end it appears - or does it? - that this movie-within-the-movie is in fact a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie being watched (created?) by the aptly-named Froth, who's Fluff's dad, and Fifi, raising troubling questions to do with regression, retrograde inversion, and the inter-relationship of art, love and life.

The two official patrons of the Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival both claimed, in their speeches opening the Festival earlier this year, that Culture had at last arrived in Kangaroo Valley. I'm confident that with the new Dirty Dan, with its deep intellectual underpinnings and art-house complexity, I too can now become an official member of the Kangaroo Valley Culture Club!

* Also on this coming Saturday night, classical guitarist Tim Kain will play, at 8pm, my solo guitar piece Kolele Mai at the Independent Theatre in Sydney. Tim wrote to say that he's recently played it in Perth, Gosford and Melbourne.

* A few weeks ago, some hoon hit and killed a female wombat on a dirt road near here. We discovered, later, that it had a baby, about a foot long, that appeared to be doing OK browsing on grass but which was almost certainly - according to the afore-mentioned Helen George, who's an expert in such things - gradually going downhill through not getting the right nutrients it would've been getting from its mother's milk. So local bloke Norm and I caught it (actually, he caught it while I held the bag open) and took it to Helen, who gave it a bottle, whereupon it went to sleep. It appears that we've saved its life! In a few weeks, when she (for it turned out to be a she) is able to survive by herself, we will put her in a wombat enclosure we're gonna build here so that she has somewhere to sleep while looking for a permanent home in the bush (the burrow in which she was born will by now have been taken over by another wombat who won't take kindly to competition).

* Saturday Oct 13 2007:

Went last night to Kangaroo Valley Hall to see a special screening of Hard Rain, a documentary by David Bradbury about the perils of pursuing nuclear energy. The show was organised by Chris Nobel for the Shoalhaven Greens. I can't imagine how anyone who sees Hard Rain can seriously consider nuclear energy as a viable future option ... I was delighted that our local Liberal Party Member of the House of Representatives in Federal Parliament, Joanna Gash, turned up.

* Two events coming up:

[1] At 7.30pm next Saturday (October 20), SHE (the group formerly known as the Kioloa Harp Ensemble) is giving a concert in the Southern Highlands town of Bundanoon. Seven women playing seven harps! Their program will include my piece Alice in the Garden of Live Flowers.

[2] At 7.30pm the following Saturday (October 27), Kangaroo Valley's Upper River Hall will witness the FIFTH ANNUAL KANGAROO VALLEY BUSTER KEATON SILENT MOVIE FESTIVAL, with pianist Robert Constable accompanying not only Keaton's The Goat [1921] and Steamboat Bill Jnr [1928] but Kangaroo Valley's complete Dirty Dan Trilogy [2007] as well! Tickets ($20/$15 (concession)) are available from the Kangaroo Valley Supermarket, with all proceeds going to the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, which raises money for projects in East Timor. For more information, click here.

* Friday Oct 12 2007:

Came across an article called The History Warrior by Phillip Knightley in The Bulletin, Monday May 14 2007, about British military historian Antony Beevor:

Since he is going to Australia and is used to controversy, I raise John Howard (and) the history wars ... What is a historian's duty? I put to him Howard's view that history should be an objective record of achievement, a chance for readers to learn about their country's heritage and "enrich it with their loyalty and patriotism".

He is dismissive. "That's not history, that's propaganda. History should not set out to be a celebration. It's got to be about examining the facts and the consequences and debating them ..."

Howard would cut funding to any school that did not teach his compulsory history course in years 9 and 10, just as he does now if a school does not erect a flag pole and fly the Australian flag.

Roll on the next Australian federal elections ...

* Wednesday Oct 10 2007:

Got back on Monday from a successful tour of New Zealand with clarinettist Ros Dunlop. Landing in Christchurch, we hired a car and drove - through stunning scenes of snow-capped mountains, wild rivers etc - to Takaka (at the top of the South Island) to do a concert of audio-visual pieces of mine in the Village Theatre there. Next day we performed at the Riverside Community Culture Centre, near Nelson. There followed a composers' workshop and concert at the University of Canterbury, then a lecture and concert at Victoria University in Wellington. A lecture and some workshops at the University of Auckland, and a concert in the crypt of St Benedicts (a Catholic church there), concluded what was a most enjoyable tour in a most beautiful and hospitable country.

* Monday Sept 24 2007:

from yesterday's SCOOP Independent News, New Zealand:

Tekee Tokee Tomak Concert

Press Release, Indonesia Human Rights Committee

Announcing a Multimedia Concert at The Crypt, St Benedicts Church, 1 St Benedicts St Newton (Auckland) on Saturday 6 October at 7-30 pm. The concert features stunningly powerful multimedia works about East Timor, West Papua and Iraq.

The presenters are two well known Australian contemporary musicians, clarinettist Ros Dunlop and composer Martin Wesley-Smith. Entry is by koha and all funds raised will go to support the advocacy work of the Indonesia Human Rights Committee.

In February 2007, Martin and Ros attended the Asia Pacific Festival in Wellington, where an advertised performance of Martin's piece Papua Merdeka was dropped from the program after pressure had been applied by the Indonesian Embassy.

They have now put together a tour that will allow New Zealanders to see and hear what has previously been denied to them .... [more]

For further information: Maire Leadbeater: 09-815-9000 or 0274-436-957 (NZ)

Maire Leadbeater is the author of Negligent Neighbour: New Zealand's Complicity in the Invasion and Occupation of Timor-Leste (Craig Potton Publishing).

* Paul Cleary in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

All the weaker, thanks to a greedy grab for oil

In March 2002, two months before East Timor became independent, the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer ... announced "changes to the terms upon which Australia accepts international dispute resolution mechanisms" for maritime disputes, including boundaries. What seemed a dull statement had profound implications for Australia's conduct in the disputed Timor Sea and elsewhere ... [more]

The article concludes: "The lesson for Australia is that greedy short-term opportunism is not in anyone's interest, least of all for a wealthy Western country which should be a model of democratic values, the rule of law and a committed partnership with its impoverished neighbours."

What is clear from this article, and from Paul Cleary's recent book Shakedown (Allen and Unwin), is that greedy short-term opportunism is a hallmark of the Howard government. Andrew Charlton's book Ozonomics (Random House) explodes the myth of Howard's and Costello's economic superiority over previous Labor governments in Australia. National Insecurity - The Howard Government's Betrayal of Australia (Allen and Unwin), by Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon and John Mathews, picks a number of areas, including rural industries, culture and defence, and shows how Howard has acted against the interests of all Australians (their previous book was How to Kill a Country: Australia's Devastating Trade Deal with the United States). Liberal Party member Guy Pearse has written High & Dry, subtitled John Howard, climate change and the selling of Australia's future, a book that is as devastating an attack on the irresponsibility - and short-term political opportunism - of the Howard government as can be imagined. Alan Parkinson's book Maralinga (ABC Books) reveals how cost-cutting resulted in an inadequate clean-up of plutonium and other harmful products of the 1956-57 detonations of atomic bombs by the British at Maralinga in South Australia. As far as I'm aware, none of the claims made in these books has been satisfactorily rebutted by Howard or his cronies. He simply shrugs and changes the subject. It amazes me that the Labor Party's lead in the pre-election polls isn't larger than it already is.

* Am busy getting ready for a concert tour of New Zealand starting later this week. And working on a new movie, Son of Dirty Dan, to be premiered in Kangaroo Valley on October 27 (see here). And since I last blogged, Peter and I have been installing our mother, the saintly Sheila Wesley-Smith, in the house here in Kangaroo Valley. Mum, who's 91, recently had a few health problems in Adelaide. But she's now doing really well, and enjoying herself in this beautiful environment amongst her many friends here. In our view she is still the The Spirit of South Australia (the role she played in a production in Adelaide in 1936 to mark the centenary of the establishment of South Australia as a whitefella entity).

* Peter and I recently wrote a song - Glorious Defeat - for the forthcoming Festival of Sedition at Huskisson on the New South Wales south coast. But unfortunately it can't, for various reasons, be performed on that occasion ... watch this space!

* Tuesday Sept 11 2007:

Iain MacWhirter in today's edition of UK newspaper The Herald:

... our enemies' enemies are our friends ... except that we are responsible for creating the enemy force that we are calling on our former enemies to fight. For the supreme irony of the Iraq war is that al Qaeda was a marginal presence in Iraq - all western intelligence agencies accept this - until we invaded the place in 2003 and turned it into a Mecca for Osama Bin Laden's rootless terrorists.

What an achievement. Has there ever been a war that has been so completely misconceived? That has been so witlessly counterproductive? That has consumed so many thousands of lives only to strengthen the elements most opposed to western values?

To which one adds "Has there ever been a war that was so completely unjustified?" And then: "Those who lied about the reasons for this war, and then went ahead with it, must be brought to justice! Let's start with Blair, Bush & Howard then spread the net from there."

Gary Hart, in J'Accuse (The Huffington Post, Sept 10 2007): "(The Bush) administration stands indicted for incompetence and mendacity. That it still commands the loyalty of even a quarter of our fellow citizens is testament to the persistence of willful ignorance. Against all the facts assembled in this indictment, that the administration's operatives can still make claims on strength, security, and determination is chutzpah on stilts. That the media still treat these operatives and spokespersons, and indeed the president himself, seriously is witness to their desire for 'access' and 'sources' rather than their commitment to the truth."


"We reaffirm our commitment to continue making progress in the advancement of the human rights of the world's indigenous peoples at the local, national, regional and international levels, including through consultation and collaboration with them, and to present for adoption a final draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples as soon as possible."
-- 2005 World Summit Outcome, adopted by the UN General Assembly, 24 October 2005

In every region of the world, the survival or well-being of Indigenous peoples is threatened by grave and persistent violations of their fundamental human rights.

A strong and uplifting United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is urgently needed to establish minimum international standards to inspire and urge states and others to respect and uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples without discrimination.

We call upon all states to support as a priority the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its adoption by the General Assembly.

To sign this petition, click here

* Sunday Sept 9 2007:

Today is Day 3 - the final day - of the second Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival. I'm looking forward to more superb performances from the likes of Kate Fagan, Enda Kenny, Lee Kingston (not on today but did an excellent set yesterday), Chloe & Jason Roweth and The Wheeze and Suck Band. Also on the bill: choirs Ecopella, Madrigala and the one I used to sing with but left a couple of months ago, The Courthouse Choir, which is run by the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music, conducted by Carlos Alvarado, and which rehearses in the old court house in Berry (half an hour's drive from Kangaroo Valley). I'm looking forward to hearing them from out front.

* Saturday Sept 8 2007:

River, the eloquent and persuasive Iraqi blogger whose blog Baghdad Burning is a moving account of life in Baghdad beyond the Green Zone, has escaped Iraq and is now living in Jordan. She describes her family's flight here (, Thurs Sept 6 07). An extract:

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness ... How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and ... peace, safety? It's difficult to believe - even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can't hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don't rattle as the planes pass overhead. I'm trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I'm trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest ...

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?


Today, as accused war criminals Bush and Howard stand triumphantly together at OPEC in Sydney, I mean APEC, I recall River's post of February 20 last:

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It's worse. It's over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq's first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.

For how long can Bush and Howard remain in their own little Green Zone, protected from - indeed, profiting from - the reality produced by their lies? Will the Australian people finally open their eyes to Howard's crimes and propaganda and throw him and his cronies out? The very thought is intoxicating! So far the polls are encouraging ...

* Brilliant violinist, musical improviser, one-time musical collaborator etc Jon Rose has an interesting take on the notorious Sydney fence, built especially for OPEC, I mean APEC, that snakes around the city:

Not since 1788 has such a dangerous bunch of Homo sapiens been sent to Sydney. In fact, the 21 hardened criminals presently locked up behind a 2.8-meter high, five-kilometer long fence clearly have much worse records than any of the small time, half-starved, pickpockets in the first fleet.

Amongst this new lot of undesirables are killers responsible for body counts rising into hundreds of thousands; others steal from the poor and powerless on a global scale; others sadly just seem to suffer from lack of equipment - commonly known as the small member syndrome; and worst of all, some are communists! Sentenced to hard labour, eventually they will all be sent to Western Australia to dig big holes in the ground, but before that happens, they must be restrained in a holding pen.


Jon, often joined by fellow violinist Hollis Taylor, has bowed fences from the Australian outback to Israel. The APEC fence provided the perfect opportunity to make music and, at the same time, make a political statement, one taken advantage of by Jon, Sam Dobson and Dale Gorfinkel.

For more about the remarkable Ms Taylor, and to order any of her books and CDs, visit her website here.

* Wednesday Sept 5 2007:

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports:

The Prime Minister (Mr Howard) likened the finely balanced economy to a cricketer who had just reached a double century: "The gap between bat and pads is now wider and his cover drives are just as immaculate."

Rash pre-election spending promises (core or non-core?) are likely to be the flipper that zips through the gap ... I've recently read a book that explodes the myth of John Howard's superior economic management: Ozonomics by Andrew Charlton (Random House Australia). Joseph E. Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001, writes: "Charlton makes an extremely convincing case that Australia's remarkable performance is not because of the Howard Government - indeed, it may be despite it."

A cousin of mine is a citrus grower on the River Murray in South Australia. He claims that Howard's much-lauded Free Trade Agreement between Australia and 'Murrica immediately removed tariffs from citrus imports from the USA into Australia but removes tariffs in the opposite direction over an eighteen-year period. This has devastated the local citrus industry. Well done, John!

The Free Trade Agreement was signed in 2004 "much to the intense dismay of (the Australian government's) own negotiators who advised the government to walk away from the deal, and much to the disquiet of expert advisors - just about every non-aligned expert in the land willing to use their wits and speak freely." (Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon and John Mathews: National Insecurity: the Howard Government's betrayal of Australia, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, Sydney; 2007).

* Hamish McDonald in yesterday's SMH:

A wealthy businessman will spend nearly $500,000 trying to get Asia-Pacific leaders to focus on human rights abuses this week.

In a series of advertisements starting in newspapers and on television and radio in Sydney and Canberra tomorrow - the morning the US President, George Bush, wakes up in Sydney - Ian Melrose will highlight Indonesian military abuses in East Timor and Papua ... [more]

Go Ian! His outdoor advertising was stymied by billboard company APN Outdoor's refusal "to carry political content". And Channel Seven refused to take the television ads. It's OK, apparently, to advertise products made from illegal imports of rainforest timber clear-felled by the Indonesian army in West Papua, but not to protest about the inhabitants of those forests being arbitrarily shot.

* Tuesday Sept 4 2007:

It was confirmed today that a concert of some of my audio-visual pieces about East Timor and West Papua at the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra on September 21 has been postponed till February 22 2008.

Am working on two fund-raising concerts coming up for the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership: the Fifth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival on October 27 and SHE (formerly known as The Kioloa Harp Ensemble) on January 27 next year. Click here for details and bookings. And I'm writing a song - Glorious Defeat - for mezzo soprano Karen Cummings to sing at the 2008 Festival of Sedition at Huskisson, New South Wales, on September 29 (unfortunately I won't be there to hear it as I'll be on a New Zealand tour at that time).

* Monday Sept 3 2007:

I received this heart-warming email today from the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir:

On August 18th & 19th SGLC participated in a truly moving experience. The choir was the main entertainment for the Common Dreams Conference, a conference for progressive religious groups. Retired Episcopalian Bishop (and staunch gay and lesbian rights campaigner) John Shelby Spong was the keynote speaker.

For two months SGLC members worked on repertoire designed to reflect the challenges and triumphs of Bishop Spong's life in readiness for our Saturday night performance at his keynote address. Some choir members wrestled with their hostile feelings towards religious establishments, while others shared their experiences and their Spong libraries. All choir members engaged in the debate about what we were hoping to achieve and how important it was for us to engage with our supporters, no matter how foreign to us their beliefs might be.

When the event finally rolled around, the choir sang its heart out. Audience members both wept over us and welcomed us, telling us how brave we were to take a step towards institutions that had rejected many of us in the past. Bishop Spong hugged as many of us as he could get his hands on, and his lovely wife Christine listened to our stories with respect.

Conference attendees came from all over Australia and New Zealand, with a number of gay ministers, or ministers from inclusive churches, inviting us to sing for them in their home states ... We cannot recommend enough building bridges like those we built last weekend. Regardless of our personal beliefs, we found a warm welcome and staunch supporters in the conference attendees. SGLC would also like to thank the conference organising committee, who were so keen to include us. We felt we made a little piece of history on the weekend; we hope other G&L choirs will get the chance to continue the dialogue.

Aaaaaaah, the power of music ...

In 2002 librettist Peter Wesley-Smith and I wrote a piece called True, for soprano, choir, flute & piano. Commissioned by the Canberra Gay & Lesbian Qwire, it deals with gay and lesbian issues. Read the libretto here. To find out more about it, or to order the CD, email the Qwire, or leave a message on their voicemail (+61 (0)2 9294 4234), or write to them at PO Box 3095 Canberra City ACT 2601 Australia. To enquire about the music, email me.

An excerpt (from the song Feeling the Spirit [lyric (c) 2002 Peter Wesley-Smith]):

soprano It is my firmly-held belief
That God made me exactly as I am, in every way
You might question her quality control procedures
But if God had intended me to be unhappy she would never have made me so gay
choir Hallelujah! God loves us all!
soprano Do you think I don't have feelings, yes I have feelings

Feeling the spirit, deep in the heart
Praising the Saviour, playing our part
One voice, one chorus, all in accord
Kneeling in prayerfulness, loving the lord

We have feelings

Feeling the spirit, deep in the soul
Making us wholesome, making us whole
God loves all creatures, she gives us the call
Straights, gays and lesbians, God loves us all

choir God loves us all, God loves us all

* Friday Aug 31 2007:

from Activism, New Music and a Strong Stomach to Deal With It by Danielle Carey, August 17 2007 (in the Australian Music Centre's resonate eNews, September 2007):

... how are Australian composers and sound artists engaging with the current political and social climate? Is there a strong activist voice in our new music community?

While the term activism may conjure up stereotypical images of tofu eating, dumpster diving hippies fighting against consumerism and global warming, or guerrilla terrorists at war with capitalism, it is actually a diverse concept, and over the course of history, art-based music practice has been a powerful medium for artists to speak out against political and social issues.

So who is getting political in Australian new music at present?

Earlier this year Martin Wesley-Smith's politically driven Papua Merdeka was dropped from the Asia Pacific Festival program after pressure from the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington. It seems a pity. What better place to perform a work speaking out against the suffering of West Papuan people than at a festival devoted to Asia Pacific Cultures? In the end - against the desires of the conveners - Wesley-Smith presented the work in a paper he gave at the Festival. Ironically, the work probably received more media attention in the end anyway!

A month later the work was performed at the 2007 Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth in a concert specifically devoted to this politically active composer. The program also included a performance of his music documentary Quito performed by The Song Company, while clarinetist Ros Dunlop performed Wesley-Smith's Weapons of Mass Distortion, which explores the propaganda and deceit that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Colin Bright is another composer in our community actively driven by socio-political issues. Many of his works - using sampled voices (politicians, writers etc.) integrated with sounds - comment on the psychological state of our society. The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior is probably his best-known work and provides commentary on the bombing of the Greenpeace Vessel (the Rainbow Warrior) in 1985. An opera in 6 (scenes), it incorporates direct quotations from political speeches, activist rhetoric, and law transcriptions and testimonies with mythical and poetical elements.

Political activism wasn't an initial consideration when Jon Rose first began his Fence Project, which, over the last 20 years, has explored the sonic possibilities of fences all over the world. It started out as an experimental project with purely musical motivations, but eventually Rose came to see the fence as the 'ultimate statement of alienation: them and us'. His recent trip to Israel - where he played a total of eight fences - saw Rose attempt to play the separation fence to support the plight of Palestinians on whose land it is built. [more]

See for discussion of this article. Michael Sollis, for example, writes (August 23):

... composition can be a tool by some to provide aid in many forms: public-exposure of an issue; directly raising (funds) for a certain cause; representing a particular perspective and so forth.

I think there is an importance as to how 'authentic' the composer is perceived to be in relation to these issues. No-one would doubt the importance of, say, Martin Wesley-Smith and David Bridie's artistic work in raising awareness of political issues in West Papua as both men are perceived to be authentically involved in such political campaigns. Both have had long-term involvement in such issues, and have done direct work to support communities affected. This credibility from their involvement hence justifies in the public their political art. Hence the distinction between an aid worker and a composer can at times be broken down.

It is in similar circumstances that Daniel Barenboim's political message which accompanies him where ever he goes (whether intentionally or not) is generally accepted. I think there needs to be a distinction drawn between political artists who have some degree of 'authenticity', and artists who are merely getting on their soapbox (although one can lead to the other). Obviously, such authenticity is a subjective judgement, but nonetheless is an important (criterion) in how an overtly political work is perceived as justifiably political. [more]

I, of course, do not ultimately care if a work "is perceived as justifiably political" or not. When, in fact, is a work unjustifiably political?

Danielle Cary asks if the ability to speak out against the atrocities of governments, social ideologies and cultural biases is an opportunity or a responsibility. "Should creative artists be taking advantage of their public voice and offer a fresh perspective to the issues surrounding us? Or will their works speak for themselves as a natural reflection on the political/social climate in which they were constructed?". I like Benjamin Millar's response. He writes that responsibility "should be seen ... at minimum an intellectual honesty and reflective awareness by composers/artists of their own political standing and world view." Those, in my view, are the most important - perhaps the only - responsibilities that a composer should assume.

* Thursday Aug 30 2007:

Here we go again:

George Bush yesterday ramped up the war of words between the US and Iran, accusing Tehran of threatening to place the Middle East under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust and revealing that he had authorised US military commanders in Iraq to "confront Tehran's murderous activities."

In a speech designed to shore up US public opinion behind his unpopular strategy in Iraq, the president reserved his strongest words for the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which he accused of openly supporting violent forces within Iraq. Iran, he said, was responsible for training extremist Shia factions in Iraq, supplying them with weapons, including sophisticated roadside bombs ...

"Iran has long been a source of trouble in the region," he said. "Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust."


Nothing could be clearer: George W Bush, the world's most dangerous man, who is supported by our own John W Howard, intends attacking Iran using, if necessary, nuclear weapons ...

* Wednesday Aug 29 2007:

I'm now back in Kangaroo Valley after ten or so days in Adelaide (brother Peter is now doing Sheila Watch duties). The news from down there is terrific: our Mum Sheila (see next entry) had an angiogram yesterday during which two stents were inserted to widen the artery where a previous angiogram had revealed a blockage. Her faulty heart valve would have been replaced had by-pass surgery gone ahead. But it has not presented any symptoms (e.g. breathlessness), and the chances are that it won't, so it might not prove to be a problem. Other weak spots in the arteries are not seen by Royal Adelaide Hospital cardiologists as serious enough to require attention. So: Mum's home, she's cheerful, her chances of living several more good, pain-free years are excellent, and she'll most likely move to Kangaroo Valley to live with us in a couple of weeks' time. Needless to say, we're thrilled!

* Wednesday Aug 22 2007:

Am in Adelaide, South Australia, seeing my old Mum, Sheila Wesley-Smith, who's in hospital suffering from angina. A cardiac angiogram has revealed problems that might require a by-pass operation and a valve replacement, a big ask for tiny 91-year-old Mum. But she's tough, and she's brave, so if she chooses to have the op, she'll have a good chance of enjoying another few years of quality life. Watch this space! [Later (Friday 24): the cardio-thoracic surgeons have opted to try, instead, inserting a stent that will widen one of the main arteries where there's an 80% blockage. This procedure, which should do the trick, is scheduled for next Tuesday.]

Amongst Sheila's many achievements is a stint writing scripts for and presenting the ABC's radio program Kindergarten of the Air in the 1960s. She was enormously popular back then, receiving fan mail from countries as diverse as Burma and India (the program went out on Radio Australia). She's still enormously popular, with many friends and admirers.

The photo at left was taken last year. The one at right, of Sheila with me (left) and twin brother Peter, was taken in 1946 or so; the one at far right - of the same characters - was taken by Tony Howard at Peter's 60th birthday celebration in Kangaroo Valley in 2005.

* Wednesday Aug 15 2007:

From where I sit typing this, I can see, through a large window, and through swirling morning mist, a bird feeder in the garden. Competing for a place at the table are several white-headed pigeons, a couple of crimson rosellas, a male and three female blue satin bower birds, five wood ducks, two male and one female king parrots (the most spectacular of all), and a lyre bird - the first time I've seen a lyre bird come so close to the house. Yesterday I watched Helen George bottle-feed a baby red-necked wallaby. On Monday morning my house guests were excited to see a large diamond python slither through the garden. I've recently seen several echidnas. I still revel, every day, in the beauty of this extraordinary place ...

* Monday Aug 13 2007:

Some emailed comments by satisfied audience members after yesterday's performance, by Simone Young and Alexander Soddy, in Tony Strachan's house in Bellawongarah, NSW, of Engelbert Humperdinck's version (twelve short movements for piano, four hands) of Wagner's Parsifal:

Thanks to all for a rare and inspirational experience

Thank (Martin), thank Tony Strachan, thank Greg Condon, thank Alexander Soddy and especially thank Maestra Young for an unforgettable experience - to sit close to a musician of this calibre playing stirring music in a casual setting - someone's side verandah on a Sunday afternoon. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, it is unlikely to happen again. This shall remain one of those vivid miniatures that make up memory.

It was a stirring presentation in an unusual but effective performance space, you are all to be congratulated.

great success with the concert, even I enjoyed it more than I expected to. One woman after concert said she couldn't eat anything because she was "so blissed out, we just experienced something extraordinary here today"....and she was patting her heart as she said it.

The concert, which was brilliant from every point of view, raised over A$6000 for the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership. Alex's and Simone's musicianship was matched by their generosity in donating their services to this worthy and urgent cause, squeezing in this Parsifal between two Sydney Symphony Orchestra Turangalilas (Saturday matinee and Monday evening). For more information, click here.

* Saturday Aug 11 2007:

I went yesterday to the Kangaroo Valley Public School to hear an SATB a cappella quartet from The Song Company do a Musica Viva-sponsored performance for the kids there. The group's well-constructed and imaginative program, superbly presented, was charming and funny, and the kids loved it. Two songs of mine were included: I'm a Caterpillar of Society and The Garbage Men (and Women).

* I'd sold all tickets for tomorrow's recital by Simone Young and Alexander Soddy until a 15-seat block booking cancelled. As a result there are about ten tickets left (get in quick!). It's a fundraiser for the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, which initiates projects in East Timor. For information, bookings etc, click here.

* Sunday Aug 5 2007:

Came across this in an article about Armenia, its capital Yerevan, and Mount Ararat:

Back in the Stalinist 1930s, Aleksander Tamanian built an almost fascistic triumphal arch at one side of Republic Square through which the heights of Ararat, bathed in eternal snow, would for ever be framed to remind Armenians of their mountain of tears. But the individualism of the descendants of Tigran the Great, whose empire stretched from the Caspian to Beirut, resisted even Stalin's oppression. Yeghishe Charents, one of the nation's favourite poets - a famous philanderer who apparently sought the Kremlin's favours - produced a now famous poem called The Message. Its praise of Uncle Joe might grind the average set of teeth down to the gum; it included the following: "A new light shone on the world./Who brought this sun?/... It is only this sunlight/Which for centuries will stay alive." And more of the same._

Undiscovered by the Kremlin's censors for many months, however, Charents had used the first letter of each line to frame a quite different "message", which read: "O Armenian people, your only salvation is in the power of your unity." Whoops! Like the distant Mount Ararat, it was a brave, hopeless symbol, as doomed as it was impressive. Charents was "disappeared" by the NKVD in 1937 after being denounced by the architect Tamanian - now hard at work building Yerevan's new Stalinist opera house - the moment Charents' schoolboy prank was spotted. Then Tamanian fell from the roof of his still unfinished opera house, and even today Armenians - with their Arab-like desire to believe in "the plot" - ask the obvious questions. Did the architect throw himself to his death in remorse? Or was he pushed?

That's from Bravery, Tears And Broken Dreams, by Robert Fisk, in yesterday's The Independent. There have been other, similar uses of the acrostic (a composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words). Australian poet Gwen Harwood, for example, was involved, in the early 1960s, with Vincent Buckley in the Abelard and Eloisa acrostic sonnets with their uncomplimentary message to the editors of the Bulletin. My librettist Peter Wesley-Smith wrote one for the opening of our piece Boojum! (sub-titled "Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll"). In fact it's an "acoustic acrostic", or acroustic, for it doesn't always depend on actual letters but sometimes on their sound:

B ehold the Bellman's tragic tale
O de to mankind's Holy Grail
O pen your hearts, your minds set free
J aded though your spirits be
U (Eu)logise with us the Baker
M (Em)barking on his Agony

The libretto can be read here (Act One) and here (Act Two).

* Saturday Aug 4 2007:

Lovely weather here in Paradise - I mean, Kangaroo Valley - at the moment: cold nights and beautiful Spring-like days. New-born lambs are gambolling happily, and a couple of Short-beaked Echidnas (Tachyglossus aculeatus) I've seen recently clearly think, as they root around looking for ants, termites, worms etc, that Spring has already arrived. Organisation is proceeding for Simone Young's Bellawongarah Parsifal next weekend (sold out!) - and I've just missed a broadcast of a program called A Musical Tais - Recovering Music in East Timor on the ABC's Radio National:

Since 2002 Ros Dunlop, an Australian clarinettist and music educator, has travelled to East Timor seeking out and recording traditional music -- music under threat of extinction because of invasion, occupation, and the discontinuity with the past.

The Timorese are a highly musical people with a diversity of musical expression around the tiny and now fledgling nation. The program weaves musical threads from the past to the present day, with voice and instruments ranging from leaf and ankle bells to guitar and violin.

TABproducer: Robyn Ravlich
TABsound engineer: Stephen Tilley
TABfield recordings by Ros Dunlop and Robyn Ravlich

recorded music includes excerpts from X (1999) by Martin Wesley-Smith from Ros Dunlop's CD X (Great White Noise GWN 004)

Click here for more information and to stream the program to your computer (I'm listening to it as I type this). It will be broadcast again at 3pm next Friday 9 August.

Later: great program! Congratulations to all involved!

* Friday Aug 3 2007:

Six tickets left for a concert featuring Simone Young in Bellawongarah (near Kangaroo Valley) on Sunday August 12. For details, click here.

* I've joined a small local singing group formed not in order to perform publicly but to sing, for fun, through a wide range of material. Last night we had a look at Billiards, from Peter's and my Several Australian Conservation Songs. It's available here, for free, as a pdf (a cappella, six parts, one page, 48Kb) and, here, as a MIDI file. Other songs we've been singing include an arrangement I did of the pop classic Mad World; a superb jazz arrangement of When I Fall in Love; the Manhattan Transfer version of Java Jive; a song I first heard as a kid growing up sung by Paul Robeson, Ma Curly-Headed Baby; and some Stephen Foster songs, including Old Black Joe (there are some serious questions of political correctness involved in some of these songs which we will be discussing over the next few weeks). Most of the others in the group also sing in The Courthouse Choir, which I left a few weeks ago and whose repertoire includes Columbian songs (its conductor, Carlos Alvarado, is Columbian), folk songs (e.g. Wild Mountain Time), Orlando Lassus (e.g. Matona, Mia Cara), Australian songs (e.g. Island Songs by Stephen Leek) and Bruckner (Christus Factus Est). Quite an eclectic mix.


The elderly elephant, in bewildering pain,
looks around him, then suddenly he falls.
The poachers all laugh as he struggles in vain.
They shot him for billiard balls.

(c) 1990 Peter Wesley-Smith

I've recently arranged Circle of Life (lyric: Tim Rice, music: Elton John) from The Lion King for a choir from Kangaroo Valley Primary School. This was at their request (I'm not greatly enamoured of that song, I must say, far preferring some of the music in that show by Hans Zimmer and others). * The August edition of the Kangaroo Valley Voice (circulation 850) has come out with a front cover giving a list, in large print, of "the RTA signposts to immortal infamy, Kangaroo Valley July 2007" (see my blog entry here). The signposts are:


resulting in

Deliberate Destruction
Despicable Desolation

Excerpts from Carl Leddy's editorial:

Naturally enough, this issue ... is dominated by the case of outright vandalism, perpetrated by a government instrumentality, in the destruction of part of the valley's natural and National Trust recognised heritage.
The tactics of deceit and disinformation by the RTA, which enabled jackbooted storm troopers, only this time wearing bright yellow vests, (isn't yellow the colour of cowardice?). to destroy in a matter of days what had taken nature generations to create, was an assault of appalling arrogance ...
The people of this valley will not forget in a hurry ... Australia is supposed to be a democracy where citizens have a right to question and be informed, not treated like unintelligent troublemakers worthy only of contempt.
The RTA moguls are supposed to be public servants.
What a joke!
From the beginning of the so-called "community consultation process" it was clear to many that the RTA's interpretation of that high-sounding phrase was to tell the populace something of what was going to happen, throw in some "secret report findings" as justification and then carry out their plan according to the pre-determined schedule ...
Many of those who attended the public meeting ... saw the smirks and exchanges between RTA representatives, listened to the time-wasting litany of high-sounding but meaningless technical jargon in deceptive answers to honest questions ...
There was no meaningful dialogue between the government minions and the populace.
They treated us in a patronising manner, told at least one outright lie and evaded questions they did not like ...

Go Carl! This editorial captures the attitudes of many local residents - people from far and wide, in fact - superbly.

* Thursday Aug 2 2007:

Maire Leadbeater, of New Zealand's Indonesia Human Rights Committee,

has sent Prime Minister Helen Clark an urgent fax calling on her to take action on the serious intimidation and violence directed at Church leaders in West Papua. Reverend Socratez Sofyan Yoman was threatened with a gun after the Sunday service (29 July, 2007) at the Baptist Church in Jayapura ... Rev Yoman, who is the President of the Communion of Baptist Churches, Jayapura, West Papua, is an outspoken advocate for human rights, and a critic of the actions of the security services and the policies of the Indonesian Government in West Papua. He is warning that military backed civilian militia groups pose a new danger to West Papuan people. The Kingmi Church appears to have roused ire because it wants to have a Synod which is locally based and independent of Jakarta churches. [more]

My audio-visual piece Papua Merdeka is about this and other such situations. It was effectively banned from performance in New Zealand in February by local sensitivity to the Indonesian embassy, whose job, of course, is partly to provide cover for the illegal activities of the Indonesian military - the TNI - in West Papua and elsewhere (see here, then read up the page).

Rev Yoman is a friend of my aunt, Sheila Draper, who used to be a Baptist missionary in West Papua and Papua New Guinea. She has just published a fascinating account of the years 1955-1961, when she and husband Norm were in Tiom and other places in West Papua (then Netherlands Nieuw Guinea). Called Contact!, it has been published by Global Interaction, 597 Burwood Rd Hawthorn VIC 3122 Australia.

* It has been interesting following the story of how a Sydney production of Stephen Sondheim's musical comedy Company suffered unauthorised cuts, raising Sondheim's ire:

There's a jaw-dropping story in today's Sydney Morning Herald concerning a Sydney production of Stephen Sondheim's Company. The musical, directed by Gale Edwards, is produced by Kookaburra - according to its website, "Australia's First and Only National Musical Theatre Company". It seems that Sondheim threatened to withdraw the rights to the show after an executive decision to cut Company by 20 minutes. According to the SMH:

Legendary composer and producer Stephen Sondheim ... threatened to pull the plug on the Sydney show after key songs, scenes and dialogue were removed in a last-minute hatchet job to his script in Wednesday night's performance of Company at the Theatre Royal ... The man who sparked the initial controversy, Kookaburra's founder and chief executive, Peter Cousens, reversed an earlier denial and admitted he ordered the cuts to the Wednesday night performance after the cast member Christie Whelan, who plays the role of April, called in sick. "I was trying to put a very positive spin on the fact that all was well [and] that nothing had gone on at the theatre that was a problem for the public to be made aware of," Cousens said yesterday. "This is always my attitude as audiences are not interested in problems."

Quite apart from the fact that it's, er, dodgy to violate an artist's moral rights, Cousens obviously forgot that audiences are interested in the actual show. It seems the SMH heard about it from disgruntled Sondheim fans upset by the disembowelled version. And that the cast and director weren't happy, either. Bizarre.

(from Alison Croggon: Sondheim Not Happy, Sat July 21 2007)

Way back in 1986, Gale Edwards directed, and Peter Cousens starred in, a production of Peter's and my music theatre piece Boojum!. There was no concern from anyone back then as Edwards ripped into our piece, tossing out scenes, putting in new ones she'd concocted herself, adding songs written by cast-members, putting material from Act 2 into Act 1, removing audio-visual sequences fundamental to the show's conception, and so on, none of it with reference to or permission from the show's authors. When I complained about it I was savaged by Edwards, and by Cousens and the rest of the cast, then sent to Coventry. The Australian theatre world closed ranks and made it virtually impossible for me to work within its hallowed halls ever again.

Seems it ain't so easy to bully the big guys ...

* Friday July 27 2007:

Indonesia Watch 1: re East Timor

The following statement was issued on July 26 by a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

On several occasions, the Commission of Truth and Friendship (CTF) has invited to testify at its proceedings former staff members of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET), including the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ian Martin.

The terms of reference of the CTF envisage the possibility that that body may recommend amnesty, and do not preclude it from making such a recommendation in respect of acts that constitute a crime against humanity, a gross violation of human rights or a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The United Nations' policy, however, is that the Organization cannot endorse or condone amnesties for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights, nor should it do anything that might foster them. It is the firm intention of the Secretary-General to uphold this position of principle.

Unless the terms of reference are revised to comply with international standards, officials of the United Nations will, therefore, not testify at its proceedings or take any other steps that would support the work of the CTF and thereby further the possible grant of amnesties in respect of such acts. The position of the United Nations with regard to the CTF has been clearly outlined in the report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on Justice and Reconciliation for Timor-Leste (S/2006/580). Though it will not take part in the process, the United Nations is informed about the ongoing proceedings of the CTF and wishes, therefore, to also take this opportunity to say that it stands unequivocally by the exemplary work of UNAMET during the popular consultation in 1999 and throughout the course of its mandate.

For daily emails about the situation in East Timor, join the East-Timor-Studies list (warning: you will receive twenty or more emails per day, many of them in either Bahasa Indonesia, Tetun or Portuguese). For an index of papers, theses etc about East Timor, click here.

John MacDougall, who is the moderator of this list, wrote in response to the statement above:

In light of the sensationalist, ill-advised warning by the UN Secretary-General about UN personnel not testifying before this Commission (already put into practice), and the similar bias of activist groups like ETAN in welcoming this development, I can only call attention to the relevant provision in the actual terms of reference of the CTF, namely, that it may "recommend amnesty for those involved in human rights violations who cooperate fully in revealing the truth." I ask you, looking at the bizarre testimony of known gross abusers of human rights before the CTF, how likely is it that any of them would meet the criterion of "cooperat(ing) fully in revealing the truth?" Answer: none would. Consequently, another of many missteps by the UN (especially "New York") and dogmatic NGOs with unchangeable policy agendas based on dead ideologies from the past. When will be an end to these poisonous red herrings?

This is one of many interesting debates about how East Timor should move forward. I agree here that amnesty should not be given to anyone guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or gross violations of human rights. But [a] not allowing officials of the United Nations to testify makes it much harder to establish the truth; and [b] while I believe that not delivering justice to those who have suffered terrible crimes is a crime in itself, it's up to the people of East Timor to decide for themselves how to deal with the problems of the past. BUT: allowing Indonesian army personnel to avoid penalty allows them to act with impunity in West Papua and other places. The spectacle of East Timor co-operating with its recent oppressor by not standing up for West Papua seriously tests an activist's resolve ...

Indonesia Watch 2: re West Papua

According to the Cenderawasih Post, 26 July 2007, serious health problems threaten pregnant mothers and children in West Papua:

1. Death rate of mothers in childbirth has risen again

Merauke: The number of women dying in childbirth has risen in the past two years ... An official of the Merauke health service said the reason for the increase was that many health workers who work in the villages have been transferred to other districts ... Another reason was that many health workers had abandoned their posts ... He said that there had been many attempts to recruit nurses and midwives but there was little interest to work in these places. 'They dont want to work in remote areas, they only want to work in towns,' he said. 'When we invite people to work in the towns, hundreds come forward,' he said.

2. Anaemia is a big problem among pregnant mothers in Biak

Biak: There is a high incidence (between 60 and 70 per cent) of anaemia among pregnant women in Biak, according to the head of the local health service ... pregnant women not eating enough nutritious food ... danger to the unborn child as well as to the child-bearing woman ... lack of funds to keep local health centres operating ... lack of nutritious food ...

As TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign, points out, these problems are a scandal in a province that is home to a company which is the highest taxpayer to Jakarta.

a tale about politics, influence, money and murder

* Tuesday July 24 2007:

It happened yesterday morning: after a spirited protest by local residents against the State government and its Roads and Traffic Authority, local contractors moved in to remove nearly 100 roadside trees from a short stretch of the main road - a designated "tourist road" - through Kangaroo Valley. This was a contemptible act of environmental vandalism. The avenue of trees was beautiful. It was home to the endangered powerful owl and gang gang cockatoo as well as numerous ring-tailed possums, sugar gliders and other native animals. Apart from one bend, that part of the road is straight. In five years there has been one fatal accident: a young driver lost control of his car and hit a tree. The RTA's response: instead of imposing a lower speed limit - e.g. 60 km per hour, which would add 45 seconds to the journey from one side of the Valley to the other - it will widen the road, install wire rope barriers, and remove all trees within four meters of the present road. We're constantly told that speed kills. But the RTA, no doubt at the behest of the trucking lobby, is encouraging people to drive faster, which will lead to more accidents.

There are many reasons why I joined the vast majority of local residents opposed to this wanton destruction. One of the main ones is that as the Great Australian Ugliness spreads across the landscape, it is essential, for many reasons, to preserve whatever natural beauty we have left ... I was appalled by the barefaced lies told by the government and the RTA, and by their clear refusal, once the decision had been made (months ago), even to consider any of the objections of the protestors. Of all the people working in the bureaucracies involved, not one (as far as we know) stood up to object. Employees can't, of course, without their career path immediately coming to an abrupt end. This is how it is in the modern Australian democracy. The employees of A&D Tree Services Pty Ltd, which seems to be the main contractor involved, had to make the hard choice - Hobson's choice - between doing the work or losing their jobs. But there might be less work for them in future, for enraged locals are organising a boycott of the company. If you wish to let A&D know your views on the matter, here are its contact details: postal address: 1 Central Ave Nowra South NSW 2541; tel: [02] 4423 6555, 4424 5951, 0418 428 824; fax: 4422 7676.

A friend wrote:

I heard the trees fall and I'm certain you will be in shock and anger about it all. I send love and sympathy for the people of the valley who have had to witness and deal with unthinking impossible big brother mentality. Treat people as intelligent and they will do the right thing - the roads can be driven on slowly and safely. Trees dont need to be destroyed.

While local Federal Liberal MP Joanna Gash and I have clashed several times over different issues, I take my hat off to her for her passionate support of the trees and of those who campaigned to save them. Surely local State Labor MP Matt Brown, who recently became the Minister for Tourism, will never again dare to show his head in Kangaroo Valley. A local campaigner, who knows him, wrote to him this beautifully succinct email: "I can't begin to imagine what you could possibly do to regain the goodwill of this community."

to Kangaroo Valley Voice editorial, August 3 2007

* Saturday July 21 2007:

I spent most of last Wednesday and Thursday editing a three-minute video - about the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority's plan to remove an avenue of 97 trees from the main road through Kangaroo Valley - that was shown on Stateline on ABC-TV last night. It was a community project to which several local people contributed, including Michael Moore, Ken Novich, Chris Warren and Belinda Webster, with superb meals, coffee etc supplied by Diana Jaffray . Big demo planned for Monday morning, when the chain saws and cranes move in - WATCH THIS SPACE!

Emailed comments from fellow Kangaroo Valley residents appalled at the RTA's plan included:

I viewed the Stateline segment on the Moss Vale Rd tree removal issue tonight and wish to congratulate ... everyone involved in its production. By far the most professional DIY segment I have seen on that program! Let's hope it has some impact.
Wonderful video on Stateline! Congratulations.
The article on ABC tonight was very professional for a 'home movie" - congratulations!
Terrific film! Thank you so much. I taped it and watched it twice it was so good!!!!
It was fantastic reporting and filming. Congratulations to Ken, Belinda, Martin, Chris, Diana and Michael - well done!

* Tuesday July 17 2007:

I spent yesterday making rehearsal CDs for the choir I sing in (The Courthouse Choir, conducted by Carlos Alvarado and run in Berry by the Wollongong Conservatorium). The process involves putting songs into Finale (notation/sequencing software) and from there making MIDI files, which choir-members can listen to on the choir's website, and audio files, which I put onto a rehearsal CD. There are usually five files for each song: a version of the whole song, then a version for each part where that part is emphasized. Here, for example, are the MIDI files for the Orlando di Lasso "villanella" Matona, mia cara: SATB, S, A, T & B. The sheet music, too (six pages, 60KB). While doing it I gradually realised that while I've enjoyed singing in the choir I no longer have the time to devote to it. Nor do I still have the dedication required. I need to direct whatever energy I can muster towards other projects, including helping to sort out things for my 91-year-old Mum, Sheila Wesley-Smith, who is soon gonna leave the old family home in Adelaide, which we will sell, and come to live with Peter and me here in Kangaroo Valley. There are other reasons, too, including not wishing to sing most of the repertoire that Carlos chooses for us (e.g. while I'm a fan, generally, of Lassus, his Matona, mia cara has to be one of his least satisfying pieces; this term the choir is also concentrating on Christus Factus Est, by Anton Bruckner, which is a hard sing for a bunch of inexperienced amateurs; and while we've been doing some excellent songs by Australian composer Stephen Leek, which is good, generally the repertoire is not what I want to be spending a lot of time on at this stage of my life (went there, did that, years ago)). Carlos is a lovely man and an excellent musician, but he and I have - of course - different musical priorities. Last night the choir and I parted company. I wish all members, including Carlos, my best wishes for future success.

* Monday July 16 2007:

Yesterday I had a visit from, and lunch with, the Australian composer and old friend Vincent Plush and his guests William Duckworth and Nora Farrell - composer and media artist, respectively - who are in Australia to work on iOrpheus, their public opera based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. iOrpheus is an international art project which is expected to draw thousands of participants and online visitors from around the world when it is unveiled in Brisbane on 31st August 2007. At 7.30pm this coming Friday 19 July, in the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) Theater, Acton, ACT, the NFSA will host an evening during which the artists will outline the project - "a two-year unfurling of podcasts, live stage performances and public art, performed on iPods, mobile phones, laptops and instruments, conventional and bizarre".

The affable and charming Bill and Nora, who are based in New York, have been building networked creative communities since 1997 when they launched their Cathedral Project, an on-going interactive work of music and art designed specifically for the Web. This comprises three components: the Website, which features a variety of interactive musical, artistic and text-based experiences; the PitchWeb, which is one of the virtual instruments designed for the site to allow listeners to play together online; and the Cathedral Band, a group of improvising musicians who give periodic live performances from venues around the world, during which global PitchWeb players frequently sit in.

For more information, click here.

* I received an interesting email the other day:

When I was a wee lad in the 'sixties, my parents bought an LP which I think was self titled "The Wesley Three". I played it so much I nearly wore it out. At some stage during the 'seventies I (illegally!!!) copied it to cassette tape in order to "preserve it"! Just as well, because my ever benevolent parents gave the LP away to the church Fete without consulting me!!!!

Over the years I've remembered all lyrics to Little Tommy and The Owl & the Pussycat, and in recent years have sung them to my two kids almost daily.
I found the old tape the other day, sadly it's in poor condition. Nevertheless, I walked away heartily singing Flash Jack and Hot Asphalt.

So, the reason for this e mail is to ask you if you know of any way to purchase a copy (LP or CD) of that album. It brought me years of enjoyment and indeed helped start my significant (eclectic) appreciation of music.

There you go. Nice to know that something one has done has had a positive effect on someone else!

If anyone has a copy of that LP and is willing to part with it, please let me know.

* Wednesday July 11 2007:

Sarah Baxter writes in The Sunday Times, 8 July 2007:

Powell tried to talk Bush out of war

THE former American secretary of state Colin Powell has revealed that he spent 2 1/2 hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq and believes today's conflict cannot be resolved by US forces.

Tom Feeley, who reproduced this article in his marvellous Information Clearing House (see here), suggests a more appropriate headline:

War Criminal Washes Blood From Hands

The current dissembling by Prime Minister John Howard - our very own war criminal - over the reasons for Australia's participation in the invasion of Iraq invites the same description.

The article contains a link to an article by Maureen Dowd called Powell Without Picasso, published in The New York Times on February 5 2003:

When Colin Powell goes to the United Nations today to make his case for war with Saddam, the U.N. plans to throw a blue cover over Picasso's antiwar masterpiece, Guernica.

Too much of a mixed message, diplomats say. As final preparations for the secretary's presentation were being made last night, a U.N. spokesman explained, "Tomorrow it will be covered and we will put the Security Council flags in front of it."

Mr. Powell can't very well seduce the world into bombing Iraq surrounded on camera by shrieking and mutilated women, men, children, bulls and horses ...


Life imitates art ...

* Tuesday July 10 2007:

Clarinettist Ros Dunlop has just returned from Canada, where she premiered my new audio-visual tribute to American clarinettist Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr. She wrote:

The piece went FANTASTICALLY WELL!!!! Everyone loved it, some people cried, everyone wants a copy, there is a local Michigan event for Elsa in November so they are going to get someone to play it again at that! A quarter of the people at the festival were Elsa's former students, it was an Elsa festival really ... Lots of people had some good laughs ...

Am currently arranging a song - Gabriella's Song - from the wonderful Swedish film As It Is In Heaven for local soloist and choir (see/hear the song in a clip from the film on YouTube here). Am making rehearsal CDs for The Courthouse Choir (the choir in Berry in which I sing). And I'm about to do a publicity blitz for the next East Timor fund-raising concert I'm putting on: ex-Opera Australia Artistic Director Simone Young and her young assistant at Hamburg Opera Alexander Soddy playing an Engelbert Humperdinck arrangement of Richard Wagner's Parsifal for piano (four hands) on August 12 (for details, and to book, click here).

* Wednesday July 4 2007:

Today I finished an audio-visual tribute to American clarinettist Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr (still touring, in her 70s, with The Verdehr Trio), which Ros Dunlop will play at a forthcoming special concert in Canada in Elsa's honour.

* Monday July 2 2007:

Like many others I was appalled to read the other day that Tony Blair is to become a "peace envoy" to the Middle East. According to Gilad Atzmon, this is

... the man who started an illegal war in Iraq, a man who, according to the Geneva Conventions, is to be held personally responsible for more than 700,000 dead in Iraq, for failing to 'protect civilian populations against certain consequences of war' ... who is supposed to be charged for genocide at The Hague. That's right, a man who should end his life behind bars is now becoming a peace envoy ... The democratically elected Hamas, the party who was voted by the Palestinian people, isn't really happy with the new envoy. If I could have a word with him, I would say:

You see Mr Blair, as things stand it is actually Hamas you have to talk to. And what about the Lebanese, did you think about them Mr Blair? Will they welcome to their country the man who just less than a year ago enthusiastically approved the total destruction of their country's infrastructure, capital and southern regions?

Thus, I have a little suggestion for you, Mr. Blair. Just before you become a dove, just on your way to your first peace mission, pop over to The Hague for a few days, put yourself on trial. Prove to us and our brothers in the region that you are indeed a man of harmony and peace. You shouldn't be too worried, you always believed in what you were doing. You always claimed to believe that liberating the Iraqi people was the right thing to do. You believed as well that destroying Lebanon's infrastructure would bring stability to the region. You believed that dismissing the democratically elected Palestinian Government was an act of humanism ... [more]

Take your mates Howard and Bush with you, Mr Blair. Let the rule of law, which you all so eagerly promote, prevail. The bench won't let you lie, but that won't be a problem given your claim that you have never lied in your life. Silence the doubters once and for all!

* Sunday June 24 2007:

I've been writing program notes for various songs for performances coming up. In writing about Hold Hard, Ned, I was reminded of the following excerpt from Ye Wearie Wayfarer, by Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon (1833-70):

Question not, but live and labour
spaTill yon goal be won,
Helping every feeble neighbour,
spaSeeking help from none;
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
spaTwo things stand like stone:
KINDNESS in another's trouble,
spaCOURAGE in your own.

I'm one of a generation of Australian schoolchildren that grew up loving those lines, which are on Gordon's gravestone in Brighton General Cemetery, Melbourne.

I had cousins who lived on a farm in the south east of South Australia. Staying with them one school holidays, we visited a cottage - "Dingley Dell", near Port MacDonnell - that had once been Gordon's home. After that I read as much of his work as I could, becoming a great fan of poems such as From the Wreck, How We Beat the Favourite, The Sick Stockrider and The Swimmer. Years later I revisited Gordon's work, and wondered quite what I had seen in it. But I still love The Sick Stockrider, which is, deservedly, his best-known poem. In 2002 I started playing around with it musically, eventually choosing just a few four-line stanzas, combining them with a minor key version of the Australian folk song The Dying Stockman. This stanza is another favourite:

Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave,
spaWith never stone or rail to fence my bed;
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave,
spaI may chance to hear them romping overhead.

* Thursday June 21 2007:

ABC-FM will be broadcasting, at 3.40pm or so on Sat 14 July, the solo songs that members of The Song Company recorded in the ABC studios eighteen months or so ago. We will hear Nicole Thomson sing my setting of Henry Lawson's poem Our Andy's Gone with Cattle, composed when I was 21 or so and innocent. She also does Tommy Tanna, a setting of a poem by a white woman about her "Kanaka swain" and published in "The Bulletin" in 1896. This was composed when I was about 25 and only slightly less innocent. Nicole's Mabo comes from Peter's and my 2001 piece Black Ribbon, for soloists, choir and orchestra, as does The Don, which is a tribute to Don Bradman sung by tenor Richard Black, and She Wore a Black Ribbon, sung by baritone Mark Donnelly. Mark also sings Sticky Wicket, which is about the Chinese commies taking back Hong Kong in 1997, and is joined by Nicole for Hold Hard, Ned, my setting of three verses of Adam Lindsay Gordon's classic poem The Sick Stockrider. Bass Clive Birch - now, after last Saturday's And the Band Played "Waltzing Matilda", one of my favourite singers - sings the short song for kids Piggies and the Cowardesque The Duchess, Lord Jim and Me. And Mark, Nicole and Richard join Clive for an arrangement, with chamber organ, of After the Storm (from Peter's and my choral piece Thank Evans, about the storm that was East Timor in 1999). Roland Peelman plays piano throughout.

* Wednesday June 20 2007:

Songs of Oz, the concert last Saturday night by The Song Company in Kangaroo Valley Hall, was a triumph in every respect except that its audience, on a cold, wet, windy night, was tiny. Very appreciative, but. We heard a varied program of Australian songs - solos and ensemble pieces, both a cappella and with piano - that was funny, sad, moving, nostalgic, always interesting, with thrilling harmonies and great ensemble singing. Peter's and my song Kevin O'Malley from Kangaroo Valley hit the spot. Also on the program were three songs from Boojum!, our full-length piece about the life, work and ideas of Lewis Carroll: The Hunt!, Jubjubby and We Must Be Off. Other songs of mine included She Wore a Black Ribbon, Tommy Tanna and Lines by a Lovelorn Cowhand. There were three spectacular versions of Waltzing Matilda and bass Clive Birch's beautiful and immensely moving performance of Roland Peelman's arrangement of And the Band Played "Waltzing Matilda" (I'm sure that once the song's writer Eric Bogle hears this, it will go to the very top of his Matilda roll of honour).

At short notice the group agreed to chant a topical verse that Peter put together that morning:

A Kangaroo Valley Prayer

Dear Lord, in thy wisdom and goodness thou giveth
And Lord, thou hath taken away
Thou gaveth us this bloody rain -
Now taketh the RTA!

(We'd just had a week of welcome wet weather - welcome even though it reduced our audience size. The "RTA"? The State Government's Roads and Traffic Authority, which is planning, despite huge opposition from local residents, to remove 97 mature gum trees along a beautiful stretch of Moss Vale Rd ... more about this later ...)

Here's an emailed response to the concert from an audience member:

I LOVED the concert on Saturday night; it was a great medley of all those old Australian songs in the second half and I loved hearing your pieces - forgot to mention how much I liked the Tommy Tanna song. And poor old Kevin O'Malley, that was so funny. Of course it wouldn't have worked nearly as well if the singers didn't have such a keen sense of comedy; it was as much theatre as a musical performance a lot of the time. They were very entertaining and sounded fantastic! Thanks so much for bringing them to KV.

And another:

Thoroughly enjoyed the whole performance from start to finish. Their obvious professionalism, enthusiasm for their work and great repertoire was infectious - consequently we sang all the way home !!

We had not been to a Song Company concert before and therefore did not know what to expect but without doubt we will be going again and recommending upcoming concerts to our friends. The audience may not have been as large as hoped (mainly because of the weather I am sure) but what they lacked in size they made up for in acclamation - that acclamation was richly deserved. Bravo !!!!

PS: Roll on next KV concert - the refreshments at interval were delicious - and I'm not only talking about the gluwein ...

The refreshments at interval continued the theme with a classic Oz supper of ANZAC biscuits, pikelets, lamingtons etc, made and served under the direction of Rosemary Stanton.

Another emailed response from a member of the audience:

great concert, enjoyed it very much, more lively than usual and a bit different, so they certainly keep up the interest. And they make your songs sound wonderful don't they? I did notice and speak to a few people who had not seen TSC before and they just loved them so will surely come back and bring a few friends. I think the weather could have kept a few people away ... the hall looked good and the stage area looked good too ... the Gluwiene and supper were very tasteful. All up, I thought it was a very successful event.

The Song Company performed Songs of Oz at Pearl Beach on Wed 10 June, at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith on Sun 17 June, and are doing it today at Scotch College in Melbourne. It's a great program which so far has been, and will surely continue to be, hugely successful with audiences.

* Friday June 15 2007:

Have been too busy to blog of late ... various things, with some culminating in a concert - Songs of Oz - tomorrow night by The Song Company in Kangaroo Valley Hall, which I have organised. See here for details. The program will include the first performance of Peter's and my song Kevin O'Malley from Kangaroo Valley (an adaption of Kevin O'Rourke from Mudgee, a previous song as yet unperformed (possibly because its subject matter - Kevin's self-inflicted accidental castration as he tries to knacker a bull - is particularly painful ...)).

* A while back I sent singer/songwriter Eric Bogle a CD of Annalisa Kerrigan and the The Courthouse Choir singing my arrangement of his song And the Band Played 'Waltzing Matilda' (Kangaroo Valley Hall, Jan 26 2007 - see here). He has just now replied, saying that he counts it as one of his valued possessions and has added it to his Matilda roll of honour.

* Not so long ago one would say, when it had been raining a lot, "It's been raining a lot". These days one says, apparently, "We've had a significant rain event". The significant rain event that started last weekend, resulting in major floods and damage in the Hunter Valley area, continues to dump huge amounts of rain on what was only recently drought-strickened land. Thanks, Hughie.

* Saturday June 2 2007:

Today I was the guest composer at The Illawarra Grammar School's TIGS Annual Composition Day at its campus in Wollongong. Organised by the school's Director of Studies Warwick Adams and its Composer-in-Residence Warren Burt, the day's activities included a talk by Warren on The HSC Syllabus and Contemporary Music Composition, one by me on various composition tools that I've found useful, a panel discussion called The Composer in the World, and a session looking at student compositions (impressive!).

* Thursday May 31 2007:

Have just heard that celebrated New Zealand composer David Farquhar, a committed advocate of New Zealand music, has died, aged 79, after a long illness. My condolences to his family and friends.

* Wednesday May 30 2007:

Have just received a review in The West Australian (Wed 2 May 2007) by Rosalind Appleby of performances of my audio-visual pieces Papua Merdeka and Weapons of Mass Distortion at the Sixth Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth:

Political message in tale of West Papuans

Martin Wesley-Smith calls Papua Merdeka a "humanist" rather than a political work but that didn't stop it being censored from a New Zealand festival after intervention from the Indonesian Embassy.

The controversial piece had its Australian premiere as part of the Totally Huge New Music Festival at the weekend in a concert dedicated to the works of Wesley-Smith.

Written for bass clarinet - performed by Ros Dunlop - and computer, the piece opens with pre-recorded gamelan-style percussion while pictures of West Papuans and their country flick over a big screen behind the stage. Clips from media reports tell the story of the handover of West Papua to Indonesia and the resulting genocide.

I am torn between admiration for Wesley-Smith the man and frustration at the unsubtle, heavy-handed style of his compositions.

The over-obvious narrative of his documentary style leaves little room for the audience to choose their interpretation of the piece. And his multimedia juxtaposition can be brutal, as in Weapons of Mass Distortion where cheesy nursery-rhyme music was performed on clarinet while graphic images of wounded children filled the screen.

His deconstruction of political double-speak in the same piece was enlightening and the cross-referencing of quotes from Alice in Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty and Ronald Reagan was clever.

It seems to me that if Papua Merdeka is, in effect, a documentary, or it has documentary aspects to it, then it can hardly be criticised for not allowing "the audience to choose their interpretation of the piece". A documentary usually presents, as clearly as possible, a particular slant on an issue, leaving no doubt in its audience's mind as to what is meant. If it didn't it would be accused of being unclear or confused.

I also think that expressing frustration at the "unsubtle, heavy-handed style of (my) compositions" is unfair: I've written a lot of music, and created a lot of audio-visual works, all of which are different, mostly radically, from each other - they simply cannot all be tarred with the same brush.

One thing that Ms Appleby's comments bring up is the question of the basis on which one criticises a work. If a work claims itself to be polemical audio-visual art, say, then criticising it for being "unsubtle" and "heavy-handed" doesn't make much sense. You might as well criticise rock music for the heavy-handed drums which are part of what rock music is. But I've resisted giving a name to the genre of these audio-visual pieces, for I don't want them locked up inside a box with predetermined boundaries. I want them to be what they want to be: at times abstract, beautiful, with no obvious political or other extra-musical message, perhaps, at other times brutally heavy-handed, if necessary, leaving no doubt as to what my position is. I think that Ms Appleby - in common with many others - defines for herself what the piece is then criticises it because it fails to meet her criteria. A more valuable approach would be to criticise it on its own terms.

I deplore any attempt to say that art should be this or that and not something else.

I've had a similar problem with my piece Boojum!, which is a sort of full-length "choral nonsense theatre" piece about the life, work and ideas of Lewis Carroll. It's not a musical comedy, although some have claimed it to be then criticised it for not being like other musical comedies, and it's not an opera, although some have said it is then criticised it for not being very operatic. Putting things in boxes can be useful in general discussion, but the danger is that this can straitjacket the creative process and stop new genres from evolving.

As it happens I'm currently arranging several songs from Boojum! for The Song Company. The piece was recorded - brilliantly - by the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir. The double CD, on the Vox Australis label (VAST 010-2), was released by the Australian Music Centre. It can be ordered on-line here.

* Monday May 28 2007: Have written an article for the local Village Voice:

Kulcha in Kangaroo Valley

The claim, by some, that the Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival filled a cultural void is difficult to understand, for there have been many concerts and events here during the past few years. The Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, for example, has been putting on fund-raising concerts and film nights since the visit of the wonderful Anin Murak Choir from East Timor in 2000. In 2002, clarinettist Ros Dunlop and cellist Julia Ryder, with local guitarist Danny Ross, presented a concert of audio-visual and other works. Cellist David Pereira, with guitarists Rupert Boyd and Jacob Cordover, played an afternoon concert in November 2004. Jim Dorrington, in his review for the Voice, wrote:

"Chamber music in Kangaroo Valley - music amongst friends in a spirit of friendliness. It doesn't get any better than this."

August 2003 saw the First Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, with pianist Robert Constable making musical magic to accompany not only early Keaton "silents" but also the home-grown movie Dirty Dan the Pump-Out Man, considered by some (well, by Paul Turnock, anyway, who was in it) as the greatest event in the Valley's cultural history, before or since. After the Fourth AKVBKSMF, in October last year, a satisfied patron wrote:

"Every so often I realised I was listening to a live pianist ... the wow factor seeped through my body and made me feel so lucky to be exposed to this level of talent and generosity."

The Song Company, one of the world's leading classical vocal ensembles, gave concerts here in 2005 and 2006. And there's a third one, featuring the brand-new song Kevin O'Malley from Kangaroo Valley, on the sixteenth of this month (get your tickets at the supermarket).

In January last year we were visited by Alice Giles and her Kioloa Harp Ensemble. People are still talking about that - and about the concert that soprano Annalisa Kerrigan, harpist Genevieve Lang and violinist Jennifer Ho gave us in January of this year.

Who can forget the debut of the Green Valley Road Cello Quartet ("the only three-member cello quartet playing in the Shoalhaven this evening") at the Environment Group's Pheasant Pluckers performance in 2001? Everyone? Well, how about the dramatic artistry on display in 2004's Bigger But Better Bagatelle, then? No-one could forget that, surely?

Yarrawa Estate has so far held two superb concerts - the second one in February this year - featuring Cambiati, a quartet of fine young musicians that includes cellist Rachel Scott. Other people have put on concerts, too. And last year we had the inaugural Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival.

Cultural void, you say? Here?? C'mon!!

There's more, too - see upcoming concerts.

* Saturday May 26 2007: Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rachel Carson, whose book The Silent Spring made a big impression on me as a teenager. It was the inspiration for my choral conservation piece Who Killed Cock Robin?.

"Forty-three years after her death, (Rachel) Carson is still cited as an inspiration across the environmental spectrum, by endangered-species advocates and anti-pesticide groups and researchers concerned about hormone-mimicking pollutants", writes David A. Fahrenthold in The Washington Post, Friday 18 May 2007 (An Environmental Icon's Unseen Fortitude).

* See this:


US-Australia Military exercises
March 20 this year marks the fourth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq under the code name Operation Iraqi Freedom. And in June you will see Australia host the largest military exercises we've ever held in peacetime history. Under the code name Talisman Sabre 07, the biennial military exercises of the combined US and Australian Defence Departments will be conducted simultaneously at the idyllic Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton in Queensland and bombing ranges on Delamare and Bradshaw in the Northern Territory. Son of Star Wars has arrived in Australia.

Environmental terrorism
The joint force of 12-thousand Australian soldiers and nearly 14-thousand US troops and sailors will take part in bombarding our shores and ancient fragile landscape testing their latest laser guided missiles and 'smart' bombs polluting our most pristine areas. Shoalwater Bay (more than 600,000 hectares) will be host to live aerial bombing, ship to shore naval firings, nuclear submarines using high-level sonar frequency. The Great Barrier Reef Marine National Park will be used for nuclear aircraft carriers and land-based artillery firings that will affect the most amazing biodiversity in Australia - without even an environmental impact study. The combined military exercises are arguably a practise exercise for the Bush administration's fifth pre-emptive strike (probably Iran) that are endorsed by the Australian government. And while Australia becomes a military outpost of the US their military exercises are tantamount to environmental terrorism in the name of the so-called War on Terror.

These live munitions actions will run concurrently with B2 bombers and US bombing runs by Stealth B1 from Guam to drop their live arsenal on the Delamare bombing range near Katherine. Live fire exercises involve Abram tanks across the landscape at Bradshaw tank range surrounded by Bradshaw National Park south of Darwin, while target practising in the region disregards the wishes of Aboriginal elders who are custodians of that part of the country.

Generals call the shots
In Australia army commanders to the generals will beam these military exercises in both States live via satellite from tiny cameras on the tanks, bombers and landing craft. This is warfare in remote control. And while US and Australian generals call the shots from their 'war room' in Newcastle, tax-paying peace-builders have mobilised a mass call for action and an equal opportunity to facilitate a nonviolent and environmentally friendly protest against this military madness.

Peace convergence
In a climate where conflict, violence and warfare are the media's currency, the advocacy of organised peace and environmental groups goes largely under-reported by the media. If we are to contribute towards creating the non-violent peace cultures and sustainability for future generations, the time is now to mobilize the voice of the Australian people to oppose this environmentally damaging and health threatening blatant militarism on our shores.

Organisers today said they plan to converge on Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton, Queensland, to link up with activist residents in the region to confront the US military and its Australian military compliance in their planned war games. The peace convergence will take place from 18 to 24 June in the Shoalwater region including community events in Rockhampton and Yeppoon. A major event preceding the peace convergence will be a concert to be held in Brisbane on 16 June bringing together a broad line up of high profile actors and leading musicians on a 'peace train' originating in Melbourne. On arrival in Brisbane, the group will descend on Parliament House to deliver a declaration from the activists to Premier Peter Beattie requesting that he declare Queensland a 'State of Peace' and off limits to all future military exercises. This will include a beachfront concert at Yeppoon on 23 June to further raise awareness of just what the Australian Government has signed up for with this secret agreement with Washington back in July 2004.

In this election year while climate change is a major election issue and future energy resources make headline news, our government obsequiously complies with the wanton misuse of resources that further add to the huge level of CO2 put into the atmosphere by these military exercises. We cannot leave our survival decisions solely in the hands of governments. It is crucial to our common survival that our political leaders, State and federal, listen to the informed and concerned voices of the people and that the media make 'peace' the story for a change.

Kaye Murray PhD
Journalist & Media Consultant


See also Talisman Sabre and Australia's Guam Connection by Zohl dé Ishtar, Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Queensland

* Monday May 21 2007: Musician David Bridie, founder of Australian groups Not Drowning Waving and My Friend the Chocolate Cake:

"I knew some musicians (in West Papua) so that was my 'in' and with the musical community in the capital, but it was very different (from PNG) - you didn't walk around the street as freely and there was stuff you avoided. There was this presence of the military everywhere... All those West Papuan songs have a sense of longing for country and for freedom, which they thought they were going to get in the 60s at the end of the Dutch occupation." [more]

* Sunday May 20 2007: Tomorrow night the choir with which I regularly warble in Berry is gonna start learning my song I'm a Caterpillar of Society (Not a Social Butterfly), which appears in my choral conservation piece Who Killed Cock Robin? and in Boojum! (about the life, work and ideas of Lewis Carroll).

* Today is the fifth anniversary of East Timor's independence.

* Friday May 18 2007: Janet Fife-Yeomans, writing in Wednesday's The Daily Telegraph:

Balibo justice delayed, no longer denied

It would be unthinkable that a group of young Australians could be killed in cold blood by the military of another country and the Federal Government do nothing about it - wouldn't it?
Just how gutless Canberra was when five journalists were shot dead in the East Timor border town of Balibo on October 16, 1975, has become all too apparent at the inquest into their deaths over the past few weeks.
Thirty years of claims that the men died in crossfire have been shown to be nothing more than cowardly lies by a succession of governments afraid to upset Indonesia.
Gordon Jockel, then head of the country's peak spy body, the Joint Intelligence Organisation, assumed from the moment he heard of their deaths that the men were deliberately killed by Indonesian forces to cover up the fact the Indonesians were staging incursions into East Timor.
The newsmen were looking for evidence Indonesia was conducting clandestine raids against Fretilin. East Timor wasn't "officially" invaded until two months later.
Less than six hours after the killings, Jockel was telling the defence minister at the time, Bill Morrison. But instead of informing the families of the men or picking up the phone to demand an explanation from President Soeharto, our wise government put the lid on the news. That day's reports of intelligence "highlights" - sent to those in the know - were destroyed.
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam made an unprecedented appearance in the witness box at Glebe Coroners Court and said he wasn't told for five days because he was in Sydney and there was no "secure" line from Canberra to Kirribilli House.
Shamefully, the families of Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Brian Peters, and Malcolm Rennie are still waiting for an apology from Canberra, never mind from Indonesia.
Indonesia continues to thumb its nose at Australian justice. When NSW Deputy Coroner Dorelle Pinch issued an arrest warrant for former Indonesian minister Mohammed Yunus Yosfiah to give evidence, Yosfiah just laughed.
He was the commander who led the Balibo attack. Former members of local militias have told the inquest it was Yosfiah - now an MP - who ordered the newsmen killed.
With the Australian Government turning a blind eye it has been left to journalists to investigate the deaths of their comrades. Finally, the evidence backing their claims of a massacre, a cover-up and indeed a stuff-up, is being heard.

my comments:
1. Despite the above, there is still a lot of information about this sorry affair that remains covered up.
2. At the very least, former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and current Foreign Minister Lord Downer ought to be called to account for spending millions of dollars of taxpayers' funds on sham enquiries that covered up - as they were designed to do - the truth.
3. How on earth did the Australian Government function in 1975 if the Prime Minister could not be contacted when he was not in Canberra???
4. By putting the "lid on the news", thus capitulating to Soeharto and his generals, the Australian government effectively gave the OK to all the crimes against humanity that occurred in East Timor between 1975 and 1999. Well done, Whitlam, Morrison, Woolcott et al.
5. If in fact "it has been left to journalists to investigate the deaths of their comrades", it took them 32 years to do it. I believe, on the contrary, that it was the lack of investigation by journalists, and of pressure from newspapers, televison etc, that allowed successive Australian governments to continue to appease the Indonesian army - as the current one still does, with predictable results (in, for example, West Papua). The present enquiry resulted from pressure applied over many years by solicitor Rodney Lewis, a courageous fighter for truth.

Information about a Tall Poppies CD - Spinning (TP069) - that contains my 1992 piece for flute & CD called Balibo is available here.

* Sunday May 13 2007: During the past four years or so I've enjoyed reading an occasional blog by Riverbend, a young Iraqi woman in Baghdad. Actually, "enjoyed" is hardly the word, more "compelled by", often "horrified by". In a recent post, called Goodbye, Baghdad, she has announced that she and her family are going to try to leave Iraq for a new life somewhere else. An extract:

There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends. And to what?

I remember Baghdad before the war - one could live anywhere. We didn't know what our neighbours were - we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it, depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

It's difficult to decide which is more frightening: car bombs and militias or having to leave everything you know and love, to go to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain ...


Riverbend's posts have always been sombre, intelligent, and rational. She is clearly well-educated and well-off, and she shows great concern for her country as a whole and for everyone in it. If she is able to leave Iraq, her posts from Baghdad, gut-wrenchingly sad as they often are, will be greatly missed by many people world-wide.

The imbecile who "got it into his head to invade" Iraq, and the imbeciles who supported him, including the evil liar who runs this country, would no doubt fail to understand why she would want to leave a country that has been liberated from dictatorship, a country that now enjoys freedom and democracy brought to it courtesy of the Red, White and Blue ... (ever noticed that these are the colours of the three most belligerent members of the Coalition of the Willing?)

* It's Mothers' Day here, and I've just spoken to my dear old Mum, Sheila Wesley-Smith, who's 91 and still going strong. We're planning to move her, later this year, from Adelaide to Kangaroo Valley, where she will live with Peter and me. Years ago she was the scriptwriter and presenter of ABC Radio's Kindergarten of the Air.

* Congratulations (belatedly - I've been away) to the organisers of the inaugural Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival, which over a weekend in April presented, flawlessly, fourteen concerts plus several other events. Particular praise is due to artistic director Belinda Webster, chief honcho of the KV Arts Fest C'tee Elizabeth George, and events manager extraordinaire Liz Aitken. Together they have brought, so the Patrons of the Festival told us, light into the Kangaroo Valley darkness, filling what was previously a cultural void.

Actually, I think what was meant there was that while there have been plenty of events of a cultural nature (concerts, silent movie festivals, the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, and so on), there has been a dearth of high culture. You know, fine i.e. classical music. I'm afraid that only one of the fund-raising events I have coming up qualifies as high culture - an Engelbert Humperdinck arrangement of Richard Wagner's Parsifal for piano (four hands), to be played on August 16 by ex-OA Artistic Director Simone Young and her young assistant at Hamburg Opera Alexander Soddy (for details, click here). The next concert (June 16) is a program of Australian songs by The Song Company. This, by definition, cannot possibly be fine music. I mean, the songs were written by Australians. It goes without saying that the Fifth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival (October 27) doesn't qualify. Nor does a concert next January 27 by the Kioloa Harp Ensemble: no classical composer ever wrote for seven harps, and arrangements, unless made by either the composer himself or a protégé, are automatically ruled out. I will try harder in future ...

Actor and theatre director John Bell wrote (excerpt):

The organisation was impeccable, the calibre of performances outstanding and the sense of community very palpable. The Festival reached a moving and triumphant finale in Andrew Ford's celebration of the Robertson Cemetery. To commission new works and define one's own society are the marks of a great Festival.

* The lack of fine music at the 8th Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth didn't seem to worry the organisers. They like new music, from ruined piano music by Ross Bolleter to a set by Japanese cult favourite sludge/doom rock trio Boris and one by American band Sunn O))), who "with their magma flows of raging caveman obliteration, strip away the pulse and the melody so that the gale of doom can rage through you unabated". I was in Perth for ten days or so, taking in a concert by Sydney percussionist Claire Edwardes; a program of pieces by, and pieces written in tribute to, John Cage, including a beautiful new vocal piece by Stephen Adams (A Short Service) and a typically gutsy and interesting one by Colin Bright (The Last Whale); a film program at Luna Cinemas that included Passage by Dutch composer Michel van der Aa, my Tekee Tokee Tomak, about independent East Timor, and Philippe Garrel's 1968 silent film Au Révélateur, with live score by Philip Brophy played by live by him on keyboards and Dave Brown on guitars; a concert by the WASO New Music Ensemble, with soprano Merlyn Quaife, conducted by Brett Dean, the program consisting of Dean's own Wolf-Lieder, Michel van der Aa's Here (in circles) and Here (to be found), and Andrew Ford's Scenes from Bruegel; the West Australian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Scottish composer James MacMillan playing MacMillan's own own The Confession of Isobel Gowdie and Roger Smalley's Concerto No.2 for Piano and Orchestra; and lots more (I'm getting tired of typing all this), including The Song Company doing my big audio-visual piece Quito, about schizophrenia and East Timor, plus a bracket of my songs, and clarinettist Ros Dunlop playing my A-V pieces Weapons of Mass Distortion (about propaganda, doublespeak, lies etc, especially those that led to the invasion of Iraq) and Papua Merdeka (about the plight of the indigenous people of West Papua suffering under the boot of the Indonesian military). And a fascinating installation, called Metadance in Resonant Light, by Jonathan Mustard and Chrissie Parrott. And a new group called Windstrokes, consisting of didg-player William Barton (featured on tomorrow night's Australian Story on ABC-TV), percussionist Claire Edwardes and cellists Iain Grandage and Melanie Robinson. And a WAAPA percussion ensemble called Defying Gravity (amazing: thirty or so young percussionists playing with great verve and skill ...). And a tour of Ross Bolleter's Ruined Piano Sanctuary at Wambyn Olive Farm in York, an hour and a half or so away from Perth. And yet more! The raging caveman obliteration didn't do me in but the get-togethers after the concerts nearly did ....

* Have just come across a web-site, by Ian Macdonald, devoted to the work of the late Stan Ostoja-Kotkowski, a visionary artist whose productions of "sound and image" at early Adelaide Festivals inspired my interest in the medium. Check it out here.

* Friday May 11 2007: am back home from Perth after spending some time in Adelaide and Sydney on the way ...

excerpts from an email from a satisfied audience member after my Retrospective concert at the 8th Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth:

I was really impressed by what we saw and heard. Papua Merdeka was very emotional ... That genre of music/electronics/performance/ideas is very powerful ... a thoroughly inspiring, musically witty, entertaining and challenging evening. All the artists were top-level, and it was a fine introduction to the Song Company ... Ros Dunlop was so impressive, both in her playing and her social/performing cv - a true top-level community artist - what a star ...

* from a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald by Sister Susan Connelly, May 9 2007:

Gough Whitlam's "dog-ate-my-homework" performance at the Balibo Five inquest is cut from the same cloth as his 1982 portrayal to a Senate Standing Committee of an East Timor with no signs of "a security problem, famine or epidemic" (Senate Hansard, May 14 1982). He saw nothing untoward on his three-day visit that year. Reports of starvation had been exaggerated in a "crusade against Indonesia." However, the recent report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste shows evidence of 183,000 deaths from 1974 onwards, mainly by politically-induced starvation.

Sadly, the blinkers remain. Mr Whitlam was told nothing/could not recall anything about the journalists' deaths, despite the news being taken to the Prime Minister's office immediately upon the interception of the cables (Balibo deaths deliberate, SMH, May 9 2007). But he didn't know, and it was the journalists' fault anyway (I warned newsmen, SMH, May 8 2007).

The present Government is throwing a few billion dollars into education, specifically mentioning the teaching of history. When the Australia/Timor relationship eventually finds a place in the curriculum, whose version will count as fact, politicians' or journalists'?

* from

They even took out our personal pictures from frames to tear them in pieces. So it was an act of revenge that made them shit everywhere on the floor. It shows that war and destruction of a country does not distinguish between what is valuable or not ... The loss of this violin to me was a great blow that I will not be able to compensate for. It is worth many thousands of US dollars, and I don't even know if I will be able to get a violin of similar performance. This violin was built in 1901 by Josef Chermak, from the famous violin-making family, in Kutna Hora in the Czech Republic ... [more]

* Friday May 4 2007: "Former (Australian) prime minister Gough Whitlam will be quizzed by an inquest into whether his government covered-up the deaths of five Australian-based journalists in East Timor. Mr Whitlam, 90, has agreed to make his historic appearance in the witness box at the inquest into the death of cameraman Brian Peters, one of five journalists killed in the town of Balibo 32 years ago ..."

read more here

* Wednesday May 2 2007: Am in Perth for the 8th Totally Huge New Music Festival - brilliant! I gave a paper (on sound, image and politics) at the associated conference, and have had several performances of pieces of mine. Last week, percussionist Claire Edwards played my old piece For Marimba & Tape, which sounds good 25 years on despite being made with 8-bit sampling technology (a Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument), and clarinettist Ros Dunlop played Tekee Tokee Tomak (about post-1999 East Timor). A concert last Sunday night saw and heard The Song Company doing my big audio-visual piece Quito, about schizophrenia and East Timor, plus a bracket of my songs. And Ros played Weapons of Mass Distortion (about propaganda, doublespeak, lies etc, especially those that led to the invasion of Iraq) and Papua Merdeka (about the plight of the indigenous people of West Papua suffering under the boot of the Indonesian military). Yesterday, she and I did four sessions with boys at Hale School, playing the pieces mentioned above and discussing the issues. Today I lecture to students at WAAPA (West Australian Academy for the Performing Arts). Last night The Song Company sang Freddie the Fish (from Who Killed Cock Robin?). More concerts with stuff of mine coming up ...

The songs The Song Company sang on the Quito program included the conservation piece Nobody Cares Anymore; Tommy Tanna (about the love of a white woman for her black "kanaka swain" at the end of the 19th century in Queensland); my setting of the East Timorese folk-song Kolele Mai, called The Fighters Who Fell; two songs from Black Ribbon (2001): Mabo and She Wore a Black Ribbon; and We Thought We'd Lost You, Johnny (about parents discovering their son is gay), from True, for soprano, flute, choir & piano (2002). The presentation of Quito was superb, with excellent sound and vision provided by Guy Smith and his team.

I will write a full report on the festival and conference as soon as I can after getting back home. In the meantime, I pay tribute to Tura New Music and its Artistic Director Tos Mahoney, its Manager Kate Parker, its Communications person Angela Flood, and all the volunteers and helpers - especially Stuart Reid - who have made the festival and conference run so smoothly. Check out Stuart's blog here.

* A sad note: after I left home our young kelpy, Fifi, failed to survive a tick attack. She was a delightful little dog who will be greatly missed.

* Sunday April 22 2007: Yesterday's Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival saw performances of not one, not two, but three pieces of mine - count 'em: Uluru Song, played (and sung) by cellist Rachel Scott; Songs & Marches (Guitar Trek); and Baghdad Baby Boy, sung by Yvonne Kenny accompanied by Andrea Katz. Needless to say, [a] all performances were excellent, and [b] I'm somewhat worse for wear after a lot of work and physical activity as an official Festival Volunteer and the excesses and depradation of post-concert parties etc. Today is the last day, with a morning concert (music played by The Four Basses), for which I'm the official Venue Coordinator, and an afternoon concert that will include the first performance of Andrew Ford's Elegy in a Country Graveyard (for which I'm singing in the choir). More on all this later ... [later: actually, it might be considerably later as I'm about to go to Perth for the Totally Huge New Music Festival, where I'm giving a paper at a conference and attending performances of several works of mine, including Quito (by The Song Company), For Marimba & Tape (Claire Edwards), Weapons of Mass Distortion, Tekee Tokee Tomak and Papua Merdeka (clarinettist Ros Dunlop), and various songs ... will blog when I can ...]

Meanwhile, here is the lyric, by Peter Wesley-Smith, of the new song, Baghdad Baby Boy, which is a gentle lullaby accompanied by a pretty piano part:

Baghdad baby in your bed
dream no dreams, dread no dread
scream no screams, our hearts are free
Saddam now will leave you be
Baghdad baby boy

Baghdad baby on the breast
safe and sound, ever blessed
look around, you'll always be
proud of your democracy
guns abound, that's as before
teething troubles, nothing more
Baghdad baby boy
Baghdad baby, lie quite still
napalm burns, missiles kill
baby yearns for calm and peace
huge explosions never cease
more invaders at the door
more crusaders, civil war
out of mind, out of sight
they won't find you, you're alright
Baghdad baby boy
Baghdad baby, hold your breath
bombs can maim, bombs bring death
presidents claim the rule of law
then they blame eternal war
devastation fouls the air
radiation everywhere
air crews haul uranium
blow us all to kingdom come
don't be scared of anarchy
they've declared it liberty
Baghdad baby boy
Baghdad baby in your bed
dream your dreams, dread your dread
scream your screams 'til judgement day
shrapnel blew your world away
Baghdad baby boy

(c) 2007 Peter Wesley-Smith

I can assure you that there is nothing offensive or seditious about the music (for soprano & piano), which will shortly be available on request.

* Saturday April 21 2007: Thursday night's performance at The Tea Club Café in Nowra went well. Last night the inaugural Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival hit the ground running with a sell-out concert by guitarist Slava Grigoryan and an almost-sold-out-concert by pianists Ian Munro and Geoffrey Tozer. More concerts today and tomorrow.

* Friday April 13 2007: Am putting on a performance next Thursday evening in The Tea Club Café in Nowra (Berry St, opposite the Roxy cinema), a repeat of the Braidwood show (see below) with Harry Laing and Ros Dunlop. The Café opens at 6.30pm, with live music (Hamish of BROTHER) till 8pm. Then Weapons, Ship of Fools and Papua Merdeka. From 9 till 10pm, the avant-garde band Kamakura (theremin, bass and drums). Good wholesome food will be available at very reasonable prices. The performance will be outside, in the garden, so bring a cushion and something warm to wear. If it's raining the show will be cancelled (if you're not sure, call the café on 4422 0900 before you leave home). The show is being organised as a fundraiser for the Shoalhaven Greens by Chris Nobel.

for more information, click here

* This weekend a trio consisting of soprano Jane Sheldon, harpist Genevieve Lang and soprano saxophonist Christina Leonard is performing my Afghan Lullaby at a concert in Sydney. Next weekend soprano Yvonne Kenny will premiere my Iraqi lullaby Baghdad Baby Boy (lyric by brother Peter) at the inaugural Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival. Also being performed there: Songs and Marches, for guitar quartet (Guitar Trek), and Uluru Song, for singing cellist (Rachel Scott).

* check out John Pilger's latest article Iran May Be The Greatest Crisis Of Modern Times, which looks at the horrific consequences of a Bush/Blair attack on Iran.

* Sunday April 01 2007: Just returned from Braidwood after putting on two pieces - Weapons of Mass Distortion and Papua Merdeka - at the Two Fires Festival "of Arts and Activism" (named after a poem by local poet and activist the late Judith Wright). Charming town, excellent festival, fellow participants alert but not alarmed, delightful autumnal weather, wonderful hospitality, the ASIO presence subtle and non-threatening ...

Harry Laing's expertly performed epic poem The Ship of Fools was bitingly satirical, savagely funny, beautifully put together, and, surely, seriously seditious (in describing a ship being sailed by members of the current Cabinet as a "ship of fools", he was clearly "urging disaffection against" the Government (the quote is from the Anti-Terrorist Bill (No.2) 2005)). Could be seven years in the slammer for this bold Braidwood bard.

* Friday March 30 2007: re David Hicks:

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

So wrote, on November 21, 1943, Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Prime Minister of England (quoted in today's email from Information Clearing House). Enough said.

Later: No it's not. There can never be enough said in condemnation of people who would deny a fellow citizen habeus corpus - the right to confront, in a court of law, those who would deprive a person of her/his liberty. I used to think there were a few good people in Australia's Liberal Party, but their silence over five long years as Howard, Ruddock et al put the boot into David Hicks condemns them utterly. The latest outrage: the clause in the plea deal that denies Hicks the right to talk about his treatment until a date that just happens to be after Australia's next federal election. Whatever can be the justification, in a democracy, for denying someone the right to speak on any subject they wish? How dare Howard and his cronies deny us access to information, particularly in an election year!

* Monday March 26 2007: Went yesterday to a recital by The Song Company - part of Tony Strachan's Villa Music series at his house not far from here. Even with a changing line-up (soprano Jane Sheldon in for Nicole Thomson, and high tenor Dan Walker taking the alto part), they're still a great group. Yesterday's repertoire consisted entirely of 16th/17th century music (Gesualdo, Lasso, Palestrina etc) apart from a typically excellent 2006 piece - Wild Flower - by Australian composer Andrew Schultz. In contrast, their concert in Kangaroo Valley on Saturday June 16 next will consist entirely of Australian music, including traditional songs (e.g. Botany Bay, Bound for South Australia, The Lime Juice Tub), old popular songs (e.g. I've Got a Possie in Dear Old Aussie, We're Going Back Again to Yarrawonga, both from 1919) and more recent popular songs (e.g. Love Is In the Air, True Blue). There's even talk of them including a bracket of songs from Peter's and my Boojum!. Bookings will be open, and tickets available, shortly. Watch this space!

* This coming weekend: the Two Fires Festival ("Arts and Activism") in Braidwood, New South Wales, where my audio-visual pieces Weapons of Mass Distortion and Papua Merdeka will be played by clarinettist Ros Dunlop at 5pm on Saturday March 31 2007 in St. Bede's School Hall. The program, which we are sharing with local writer and performer Harry Laing, is called Turning Up the Heat, "an energetic and inventive mix of film, music, words and laughs". For tickets to the Festival (lots of interesting things on), click here.

* Tom Engelhardt's latest article on, a project of the Nation Institute, has him "wondering whether some Bush-era version of the old Roman formula had indeed been working. Had bread and circuses become croissants and iPods, or Bud and American Idol, or Sony PlayStation 3 and 24? (He) couldn't help puzzling over the gap between public opinion on the President's war and public action, or between the conclusions opinion polls tell us so many Americans have reached and those generally reached in Washington as well as in the mainstream media ..." (more). As the blurb says, " is researched, written and edited ... for anyone in despair over post-September 11th US mainstream media coverage of our world and ourselves. The service is intended to introduce you to voices from elsewhere (even when the elsewhere is (America)) who might offer a clearer sense of how this imperial globe of ours actually works." Great stuff. To subscribe (it's free), click here.

* Thursday March 15 2007: For information about the New South Wales Coroner's enquiry into the death, on October 16 1975, of cameraman Brian Peters - one of the Balibo Five - see East Timor: The Blood of Balibo by Bernadette Connole, New Matilda, Wednesday March 14 2007. See, also, this entry in Wikipedia.

* On a lighter note, last Monday we acquired a new member of the Road Ends family:

Introducing Janet, a male alpaca! Yes, yes, I know, that's not a boy's name, but it's the name he came with, OK?

Funnily enough, I once (1995) wrote a piece called Janet. Written for a trio led by flautist Beth Hwang (now flauting in Ohio), it was for flute, percussion (mainly marimba) and piano. If anyone's interested, email me and I'll put up pdfs of score and parts for download. [later: OK, someone is interested. I've made a pdf of the score, which can be downloaded, for free, here (461KB). Contact me if you intend to perform it and hence need the parts ...]

* Friday March 9 2007: Saw a review by Joan Bray in the March edition of The Kangaroo Valley Voice of the Cambiati concert on February 10. Extracts:

... talented group Cambiati ... again delighted with their performance of song and music ... The composure, professionalism and talent of these four young virtuosos made the next two hours an evening to recall with pleasure and delight ... The program opened with vocal numbers from Anna Sandstrom, whose young career has been rewarding and impressive ... (her) rendition of She Wore a Black Ribbon was a reminder that 'our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought' ... Rachel Scott's affinity with her instrument, the cello, became increasingly admired as the programme unfolded ... Trumpeter Matthew Manchester was not to be outdone in the vocal department. His surprisingly resonant voice ... had the audience in the palm of his hand ... the sensitivity of Peter Ellis at the organ ... remarkable musician, whose artistry with this instrument quietly held the presentation of the varied items on the programme together ... Afghan Lullaby, with words and music from the talented and much admired Martin Wesley-Smith, who, with his twin brother Peter, contributes enormously to the artistic life of the Valley. The finale was spell binding, a triumph for the group, as it was the first time it has been played in public. Composed and written by Peter's and Martin's eldest brother, Jerry ... The haunting, yet hopeful piece, a tribute to this outstanding jazz musician, was Special Days ...

Rachel will be performing at the inaugural Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival at 2.30pm on Saturday April 21 in the Anglican Church Hall, replacing David Pereira, who is indisposed. She and I are discussing a commission for a chamber piece for a concert series, of which she is Artistic Director, at St James Church in Sydney.

The choir in which I warble is participating in a Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival concert at 2.30pm on Sunday April 22. The first half will consist of Match Percussion Duo (Daryl Pratt and Alison Eddington) playing "works written by Pratt about Bundanon (Arthur Boyd's estate on the Shoalhaven River) and about the local water bodies, Jervis Bay and Seven Mile Beach." The second half "will feature the world premiere of Andrew Ford's Elegy in a Country Graveyard which takes the Robertson cemetery as its focal point. The cemetery is as old as Robertson itself, and Ford's Elegy evokes its past and present through the memories of local people. Their voices, together with environmental sounds, are woven into a rich tapestry of sound with local choirs and the Southern Highlands Concert Band ... a musical work unique to the area." See here.

In addition, guitar quartet Guitar Trek will be playing my Songs and Marches, and soprano Yvonne Kenny will premiere my Baghdad Baby Boy (lyric by brother Peter).

* I have recently been re-reading 1984 by George Orwell, which is just as fascinating, and horrifying, as it was when I first read it (at school). I came across this passage in Chapter V:

In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.

As Orwell's fictional Emmanuel Goldstein put it in his The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism:


* Wednesday March 7 2007: Have just read an article by British engineer Nathan Allonby in Information Clearing House, Tuesday March 06 2007, about the delights of Denmark. An extract:

Two weeks ago, my wife went to Copenhagen to play at a folk music festival. While she was there, she saw a demonstration outside the Danish parliament, protesting about the presence of Danish troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (Denmark has subsequently decided to pull out of Iraq and may well withdraw from Afghanistan also). The parliament building was completely open, with no police visible at all. I will repeat that - not a single policeman. The protestors could approach and speak to the MPs as they entered and left the building. They are safe without elaborate security.

Contrast this with Britain, where Parliament is surrounded by concrete anti-vehicle barriers three rows deep, police with machine guns, X-ray scanners and security devices. Ministers are whisked away from the public in armour-plated cars. Demonstrations within a mile of Parliament have been banned under the Serious and Organised Crime Act.

Denmark is not scared of terrorism. It is at peace with its own people. It has a cohesive society. The Health service is excellent and free. Education is free, and a highly educated population contributes to success in high-tech industries. Poverty is at very low levels. Crime is super-low. There is no fear. In a society where there is so little poverty, excessive wealth is unnecessary and considered vulgar and socially corrosive. People are judged more by their personal qualities than their financial wealth. The social ideal is to be "lukkelig and hyggelig" - literally, "happy and cosy" - cohesive, not dog-eat-dog. It would be impossible to imagine a self-serving, ignorant, oil millionaire, lacking empathy or compassion, being elected in Denmark.

Denmark is ready for a fuel shortage - it has developed new energy technology and is exporting it to the rest of the world. Denmark picked up the new energy technologies that USA dropped. Denmark has the world's two largest manufacturers of wind turbines and the largest manufacturer of building insulation - Rockwool. Isn't it funny how a small nation can have more vision than the world's most powerful nation. Perhaps that is because they have less investment in maintaining the status quo.

Britain is becoming the opposite of Denmark in every respect, The British government worships wealth. Britain has become a tax haven for the rich of every nation - because foreigners don't pay tax in Britain. But Britain has 5 times more child poverty than Denmark. Following in tow is gun crime and a record prison population. The British universities have recently changed from being free to being fee-paying and the free National Health System is under stress and is gradually being privatised.

Britain has just announced a new energy policy, of more nuclear power - by incredible coincidence at the same time as also announcing an intention to renew its nuclear weapons system ... [more]

Contrast this Denmark with Australia, where Howard's politics of fear, and his enthusiastic support of Bush and Blair's war-mongering, has us following down the Britain/USA path. He too is pushing for nuclear power, using global warming - a fact that he denied until he could see that it was going to become an election issue - as an excuse. His current savage attack on opposition leader Kevin Rudd could be (wishful thinking here) the last rantings of a desperate man as he slides down the plug'ole ...

BUT ... later today I read this:

I was awoken before dawn last Thursday by the ringing of my cell phone. On the line was a friend from Copenhagen: "I'm sorry to call so early. It's happened." Having very recently spent a lot of time in Denmark, I knew right away what this meant. Denmark's flagship anarchist squat, one of Europe's oldest squatted social centers, had been attacked by the police. "They landed helicopters on the roof," my friend informed me ... [more]

It's from The Battle for Ungdomshuset by singer-songwriter David Rovics. From this article it seems that Denmark is not at peace with its own people, that there's something rotten in the state of Denmark after all ...

* A recent WWOOFer, Alexandra Höhr, from Germany, has put photos she took while staying here on the web. See here. To go to our WWOOF ("Willing Workers On Organic Farms") and HelpX page, click here.

* Sunday March 4 2007: Am negotiating to put on a performance in Kangaroo Valley of an arrangement by Engelbert Humperdinck [1854-1921] for piano (four hands) of Richard Wagner's Parsifal. The date: Sunday August 12 2007. The main performer: Simone Young (Artistic Director, Hamburg Opera; ex-Artistic Director, Opera Australia), who has generously offered the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership this performance as a fundraiser for projects in East Timor. WATCH THIS SPACE!

Humperdinck, best known for his opera Hansel and Gretel, studied in Cologne and Munich. In 1879 a Mendelssohn scholarship enabled him to go to Italy, where he met Wagner, who invited him to assist in the production of Parsifal at Bayreuth ... (to learn more, click here)

* Friday February 23 2007: Jefferson Lee in Sydney reports on Day 11 of the New South Wales Coroner's Inquest into the death at Balibo, East Timor, of cameraman Brian Peters in 1975 (excerpts):

For his 1975-77 Royal Commission into Australian intelligence services, Justice Hope employed George Brownbill and Ian Cunliffe as his principle secretary and legal advisor/document drafter respectively ... On an inspection tour in March 1977 of the top secret Shoal Bay Defence Signals Division (DSD) base near Darwin ... Brownbill and Cunliffe were both shown a "raw intelligence" radio signals intercept transcript by an unidentified employee. It was from part of DSD's top secret regular monitoring of Indonesian military radio at the time of the Balibo attack in 1975.

Under separate cross-examination, both witnesses identified the document as authentic. It was a direct transcript of a radio message sent by an Indonesian officer from Balibo to a superior officer higher up the military command inside Indonesia. It stated that the "instructions" to "locate and shoot" the five journalists had been completed "as requested" and the army officer was now awaiting further instructions on how to dispose of the bodies and personal effects ...

Clearly the Federal Government has calculated there will be minimum fall-out for the current regime as blame for the cover up over Balibo is shifted to previous administrations. However the increasing level of reports of human rights violations in neighboring West Papua must be putting strain on the proposed Security Treaty with Indonesia and the recently concluded arrangements for joint training with Kopassus, who played a leading role in Balibo and the full scale East Timor invasion that followed.

Successive Australian governments, from Whitlam's to Howard's, have done everything possible to protect the Indonesian military from the outrage of the Australian public. The soon-to-be-ratified Agreement between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on the Framework for Security Cooperation will extend this protection well into the future. Today I made a submission to the Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties concerning this Agreement. To read it, click here. Read all the other submissions here.

* Thursday February 22 2007:

Van Phuoc Nguyen

Sad news: I've just heard that an ex-student of mine, Van Phuoc Nguyen, has died. He had a heart attack in early January. Heart surgery followed, then, last Sunday, a stroke. A funeral service will be held at 10am on Saturday 24th February at Heritage Funeral, 143 Wellington Street, Sefton, Sydney 2162 (near Sefton Station). My deepest condolences to Van's wife Hong and their sons Kim (22) and Chau (17).

later (Sun Feb 25): At the service my ex-colleague Greg Schiemer gave one of several eulogies, concluding with the following:

It was a privilege to have known Van. He was a composer and multi-instrumentalist driven by his longing for a new musical future for other Vietnamese musicians. I will always remember him for his immense generosity ... For me, Van was the quintessential political refugee who in life lost so much yet whose humanity has been such a gift and an inspiration to us all.

Van's body was cremated at Sydney's Rookwood Cemetery.

* Tuesday February 20 2007: Came across this web-site advertising the Two Fires Festival in Braidwood, New South Wales, March 30-April 1 2007. Clarinettist Ros Dunlop and I will be presenting Weapons of Mass Distortion and Papua Merdeka at a concert with brilliant local writer and performer Harry Laing ("Harry Laing's Ship Of Fools - A Broadside is a narrative poem in ballad form. A wickedly funny attack on the people in power, it will resonate with all those who feel they've been on the wrong boat (HMAS Australia) the last ten years and sailing backwards"). See here.

* I was in New Zealand a couple of weekends ago, so I wasn't able to attend the open-air recital - Special Days - by the group Cambiati (Pete Ellis, organ, Matthew Manchester, trumpets, Anna Sandstrom, soprano, and Rachel Scott, cello) at Yarrawa Estate Winery, Kangaroo Valley, on Saturday February 10. All reports, however, indicate that it was a great night. After the guests had had dinner, and had just settled down for the concert to begin, there was - suddenly, and simultaneously - good news and bad news: it rained! Good in that Kangaroo Valley, like most other parts of New South Wales, has been in drought; bad in that guests and musicians suddenly had to scramble for cover. But the hosts, Mark & Sue Foster, had booked Upper River Hall, just in case, so the concert was able to go ahead. The musicians performed my Afghan Lullaby and She Wore a Black Ribbon as well as the first public performance, as far as we know, of late brother Jerry's Special Days.

Over a couple of days, nearly ten inches of rain fell on our part of Kangaroo Valley, filling tanks and dams - glorious!

* The Australian government's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties is looking at the so-called Lombok Treaty - the Agreement between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on the Framework for Security Cooperation - with a view to ratification. Article 2, Principles, says:

"In their relations with one another, the Parties shall be guided by the following fundamental principles, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations ... 3. The Parties, consistent with their respective domestic laws and international obligations, shall not in any manner support or participate in activities by any person or entity which constitutes a threat to the stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of the other Party, including by those who seek to use its territory for encouraging or committing such activities, including separatism, in the territory of the other Party"

Almost every performance in Australia of a piece of new music has been assisted in some way, if only marginally, by the Australian government. For example: the piece could have been commissioned and/or the concert presented with financial assistance from the Australia Council; or the composer or performer could be in receipt of a grant; or the venue could be a concert hall or lecture theatre in a university dependent on government funds. Once this Agreement has been ratified, the mere possibility of a cut in funding by this vengeful government will be enough to deter universities, performers, concert halls etc from including in their programs works such as my Papua Merdeka (already dropped from a festival in New Zealand after pressure from the Indonesian Embassy there - see below). Yet these and other works of mine are designed to stimulate discussion of issues relating to the Indonesian colonisation of West Papua, East Timor etc. If they put a point of view which sympathises with the plight of the victims of human rights abuse by the Indonesian army, the piece could easily be claimed to constitute a threat to the stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Indonesia. Our democracy, becoming increasingly fragile in recent times, will suffer still further ...

* Monday February 19 2007: Yesterday I finished a song - Baghdad Baby Boy - for soprano Yvonne Kenny to sing at the Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival on April 21 this year ("Hear Australia's favourite soprano in recital. For this wonderful event we have commissioned our renowned local composers, Martin Wesley-Smith and Andrew Ford, to each compose a song for Ms Kenny. The program will also include works by Schubert and Liszt."). A lullaby, it sets a superb lyric by brother Peter.

If this one gets banned (see, below, about my piece Papua Merdeka's fate at the recent Asia Pacific Festival), then don't blame me: I just wrote the music.

Also at 7.30pm on April 21 in Kangaroo Valley: Guitar Trek will play my Songs and Marches [2004]. "One of Australia's most popular guitar quartets, Guitar Trek is unique because it uses all the instruments in the guitar family (from bass to soprano) and performs an unusual repertoire, much written especially for this ensemble. Led by one of Australia's most respected guitarists, Timothy Kain, this group has been wowing audiences with its virtuosity." See here.

Program note for Songs and Marches:

An old Andalusian ud melody - incorporated into Arab music in the 12th century - is attacked by snippets of the national anthems of the "Coalition of the Willing". A merry-go-round theme is heard ("here we go again, 'round and 'round ..."), then, later, a couple of Hitler Youth songs and marches. These sound surprisingly good - but then they wouldn't work as propaganda if they didn't! As Noel Coward said, "Aaaah, the potency of cheap music!" At the end, the ud melody returns, sadly beautiful, licking its wounds.

Some may care to see a political theme in this piece; others may simply enjoy the rollicking tunes and the superb artistry of Guitar Trek, who commissioned the piece with financial assistance from the Music Board of the Australia Council, the Federal Government's arts funding and advisory body.

* Talking of things political, as one does, and about official lies, as my audio-visual piece Weapons of Mass Distortion does, there was another good article by Frank Rich in yesterday's New York Times. An excerpt:

Oh What a Malleable War

Oh what a malleable war Iraq has been. First it was waged to vanquish Saddam's (nonexistent) nuclear arsenal and his (nonexistent) collaboration with Al Qaeda. Then it was going to spread (nonexistent) democracy throughout the Middle East. Now it is being rebranded as a fight against Tehran. Mr. Bush keeps saying that his saber rattling about Iran is not "a pretext for war." Maybe so, but at the very least it's a pretext for prolonging the disastrous war we already have ... Even if the White House still had its touch for spinning fiction, it's hard to imagine how it could create new lies brilliant enough to top the sorry truth. When you have a president making a big show of berating Iran while simultaneously empowering it, you've got another remake of "The Manchurian Candidate", this time played for keeps.

Read the whole article here.

* Friday February 16 2007: More media attention to the scandal of my piece Papua Merdeka being dropped from the Asia Pacific Festival in Wellington, New Zealand (see below):

Radio New Zealand International
The Voice of New Zealand, Broadcasting to the Pacific
Te Reo Irirangi O Aotearoa, O Te Moana-Nui-A-Kiwa

Composer unhappy over Indonesian interference in Wellington concert
Posted at 07:21 on 14 February, 2007 UTC

An Australian composer says the rights of New Zealanders have been infringed by the Indonesian embassy forcing him to withdraw a piece of music from Wellington's Asia Pacific festival.

At a concert, Dr Martin Wesley Smith was to present an audiovisual composition called Papua Merdeka which focussed on the plight of the indigenous people of the Indonesian province.

But he was forced to present it at a closed session after the Indonesian embassy raised its concerns with the organisers.

Dr Wesley Smith says it is an issue of free speech.

"That New Zealanders are denied the right to hear and see what they would like to, perhaps, by pressure from a foreign embassy, which I wouldn't be happy about if I was a New Zealander."

Tri Purnajaya from the Indonesian embassy in Wellington says they didn't pressure the organisers to withdraw the piece but were concerned that it would upset visitors.

"It might hurt the people from Indonesia who are here also - their feelings - to talk about Indonesia in a different way will somehow, I think, cause them to feel upset."

How nice it must be to have a kindly embassy protecting one from feeling upset!


Indonesian embassy in Wellington asked to drop opposition to a musical item called Papua Merdeka

The New Zealand Indonesia human rights committee has condemned what it calls the deplorable censorship that led to an Australian composer, Dr Martin Wesley Smith, being stopped from playing a piece called Papua Merdeka at a festival in Wellington at the weekend.

Posted at 07:28 on 13 February, 2007 UTC


Composer unhappy over Indonesian interference in Wellington concert

At a concert, Dr Martin Wesley-Smith was to present an audiovisual composition called Papua Merdeka which focussed on the plight of the indigenous people of the Indonesian province.

RNZI/ Pacnews
Thu, 15 Feb 2007


See, also, here ("We were disheartened to hear that Australian composer Martin Wesley-Smith's composition Papua Merdeka was dropped from the programme at the Asia Pacfic Festival in Wellington, after pressure from the Indonesian Embassy ..."); here (Suckery: "At the Asia Pacfic Festival in Wellington, Australian composer Martin Wesley-Smith's piece Papua Merdeka was dropped from the program after pressure from the Indonesian Embassy. Instead Martin's composition Weapons of Mass Distortion was played."); New Zealand: Composer unhappy over Indonesian interference in Wellington concert (Asia Observer; news source: Islands Business, Friday February 16 2007)

* Wednesday February 14 2007: Have just returned from Wellington, New Zealand, where I attended the Asia Pacific Festival and its associated Conference. All conferences should be so charming, well-organised, and stimulating! It was a delight to mix with academics, performers and other composers from the Asia Pacific region, including old friends I hadn't seen for years (Ramon Santos, for example, whom I met at the new music course at Darmstadt in 1974 and once visited in the Philippines) and new friends with whom I hope to stay in touch.

The Festival computer music concert called WIRED! was to have included my piece Papua Merdeka, but was controversially dropped from the program (see here). Instead, clarinettist Ros Dunlop played my Weapons of Mass Distortion, which received one of its best audience responses ever. Next day, in my paper on Music and Politics, I presented a version of the offending Papua Merdeka, which also went down very well. As news leaked out about the Indonesian Embassy's successful attempt to ban the piece, it generated more and more interest. Of course! And it attracted media attention, prompting the following letter from Maire Leadbeater of the Indonesia Human Rights Committee (NZ) in Auckland to "His Excellency Amris Hassan, Ambassador for Indonesia", and Associate Professor Jack Body, Artistic Director of the Asia Pacific Festival:

12 February 2007

Dear Sirs,

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee has been shocked to learn that composer Martin Wesley-Smith was pressured not to play his piece "Papua Merdeka" at the Asia Pacific Festival "Wired" last weekend.

We understand that Embassy representatives advised the organisers of their opposition to the item being included in the concert and that the organisers chose to seek the withdrawal of the item.

We believe this kind of artistic and political censorship is deplorable in a festival designed to celebrate the diversity of the peoples and the music of our region.

We doubt that either of you would deny that there has been a long-standing conflict in West Papua which has resulted in the loss tens of thousands of lives. At this time there are many well-documented reports that there is a humanitarian crisis in the Puncak Jaya region where thousands of people have fled from military conflict only to face new dangers from lack of food, shelter and medicine.

West Papuan community and religious representatives have been promoting a united call for a peaceful dialogue as a way to work towards a resolution of the conflict and the many health and environmental problems faced by the people. But if this dialogue is to take place it must be held in an atmosphere where fundamental human rights and freedoms are upheld including freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and freedom of association.

So it is especially disturbing to us that a music composition has been banned because the work 'freedom' or 'merdeka' is included in its title. 'Freedom' or 'merdeka' can be understood in many ways but at the core is surely a universal human aspiration to be in control of one's own destiny. This is therefore a most fitting theme for cultural expression in music.

We sincerely hope that the reaction to this unwarranted ban has caused the festival organisers and the Embassy to rethink their decisions with respect to Martin Wesley-Smith's composition.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater

(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee (NZ))

see here

From SCOOP Independent News: "A new book by Maire Leadbeater on New Zealand and East Timor shows that officials and the then Labour prime minister, Bill Rowling, did not want to rock the boat over (Greg) Cunningham (a member of the Balibo Five)."

from the Aotearoa Independent Media Centre:

'Papua Merdeka' (Free Papua) dropped from Asia Pacific Festival

12 Feb 2007

At the Asia Pacfic Festival in Wellington, Australian composer Martin Wesley-Smith's piece Papua Merdeka was dropped from the program after pressure from the Indonesian Embassy. Instead Martin's composition Weapons of Mass Distortion was played.

"The Asia Pacific Festival is supposedly devoted to the study of the music of Asia Pacific cultures - yet it kowtows to a situation where an Asia Pacific culture is being destroyed. What's more, apparently an official in a foreign embassy can dictate what New Zealanders are allowed to look at and listen to. To an outsider, it seems that New Zealand democracy ain't worth very much ..." says Martin.

West Papua has been occupied by the Indonesian Military since 1962. Since 1962 human rights groups estimate that the Indonesian Military has killed 100,000 West Papuans. Papuans enjoy few civil rights. Currently there are two men in prison for 15 and 10 years for simply flying the West Papuan flag at a peaceful protest. Villages have been bombed and napalmed by the Indonesian military, and West Papua's vast natural resources, such as copper, gold and natural gas, have been sold off to multinational corporations from the US, Britain and Australia, which have raped Papua's environment and destroyed its communities.

links: Massive Indonesian Military build up in Punjak Jaya, West Papua, fear for civilians | Background: The West Papuan Tragedy

from Radio New Zealand International:

The Voice of New Zealand, Broadcasting to the Pacific
Te Reo Irirangi O Aotearoa, O Te Moana-Nui-A-Kiwa

Indonesian embassy in Wellington asked to drop opposition to a musical item called Papua Merdeka

Posted at 07:28 on 13 February, 2007 UTC

The New Zealand Indonesia human rights committee has condemned what it calls the deplorable censorship that led to an Australian composer, Dr Martin Wesley Smith, being stopped from playing a piece called Papua Merdeka at a festival in Wellington at the weekend.

The committee says embassy officials advised the organisers of their opposition to the item and it was then withdrawn.

Dr Wesley Smith, who includes a strong political theme in much of his music, had written the piece in support of the self determination movement in the Indonesian province.

The human rights committee says it is especially disturbing that a composition has been banned because the word 'freedom' or 'merdeka'is part of its title.

The committee says it hopes the embassy and the festival organisers will reconsider the ban.

* Wednesday February 7 2007: As mentioned below (in the entry for Wednesday January 31), I am about to go to Wellington, New Zealand, to participate in the Asia Pacific Festival. After pressure from the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington, the Festival decided that my piece Papua Merdeka, scheduled for performance at the WIRED! computer music concert, would be dropped from the program. Red rag to a bull! The Festival wrote to the embassy:

Thank you for your message.

The composer is well-known as a political activist through his music, and is widely respected both for his beliefs and his musical skills.

However we realise that the title 'Papua Merdeka' is very provocative for your Embassy and for the Indonesian Government. As so, for this festival concert, at our request, the composer is willing to substitute another of his works, a piece in which Indonesia receives no mention at all.

Thank you for drawing the problem to our attention, and we hope the resolution is satisfactory.

Best wishes ...

I did not agree to substitute another work. In an effort to help the Festival out of a hole it had dug for itself, I offered to think about a possible solution in which clarinettist Ros Dunlop played my piece Weapons of Mass Distortion in the concert and I talked about and presented Papua Merdeka in my paper at the Conference - I would let them know my decision in a couple of days' time. That way the piece - and its concerns about the destruction of West Papuan culture, the theft of the West Papuans' resources, and the beatings, rapes, and murders of indigenous West Papuans by the Indonesian military - would still be aired. With no further ado, the Festival ran with the first part of my as-yet-unsubmitted proposal, informing me that the second part would be a "breach of (the) trust" that the Embassy and the Festival now enjoyed. But since I had not agreed to that arrangement, and since there is no trust between the Embassy and me to breach, I said that I would go ahead with my proposed paper.

The Asia Pacific Festival is supposedly devoted to the study of the music of Asia Pacific cultures - yet it kowtows to a situation where an Asia Pacific culture is being destroyed. What's more, apparently an official in a foreign embassy can dictate what New Zealanders are allowed to look at and listen to. To an outsider, it seems that New Zealand democracy ain't worth very much ...

In 2005 there was a 60th birthday concert of my music. I wrote in the program:

I have often been criticised for bringing politics into music [always, as it happens, by people whose political views are vastly different from mine]. My response is usually along the lines of this:

[a] why not?;

[b] composing a piece of music is already a political act;

[c] if the plight of the people in East Timor, say, inspires me to compose, then as a composer trying to reflect in music, as honestly as possible, my relationship to my time and place, I should not ignore that impulse;

[d] ... I don't want to fiddle around writing abstract pieces while the world transforms itself into an ugly authoritarian market place of everything except ideas (but I would love to get back to abstract music, one day, and I applaud those who compose pure, beautiful music, bringing light into the darkness);

[e] I still have the right, I think, as a citizen of a democracy, to express my views in whatever forum I can get access to; and

[f] I don't see the offending pieces as overtly political but, rather, as pieces that show, or try to show, humanitarian or humanistic concern.

That still applies ... Throughout history there are many instances of composers pushing a particular political line in their pieces, operas, songs etc, some obvious, some less so. Most of my "political" pieces use images, and hence are more confronting than pure audio, even text-based, pieces. I hope they promote thought, even discussion, by audience members (this has certainly happened many times in the past), and that people will feel free to venture alternative views. If the Indonesian Embassy in New Zealand disagrees with the views expressed in Papua Merdeka it is free, as far as I'm concerned, to distribute leaflets at the concert arguing that the Act of Free Choice in West Papua really was free, that the indigenous West Papuans are enjoying full human and political rights, and that their forests, mineral wealth, fisheries etc are not being plundered and destroyed.

to Aug 2 2007

* Wednesday January 31 2007: have been extraordinarily busy of late ... no time to blog ... Last Friday I put on a special Australia Day concert in Kangaroo Valley Hall featuring soprano Annalisa Kerrigan, violinist Jennifer Hoy, harpist Genevieve Lang and a local choir called, for the occasion, The Court House Choir (after the building in Berry where we rehearse) or The Surge Singers or something. See here. It was a great success, as the following extracts from emails received after the concert indicate:

what a surreally magical night it was last night -- it just holds such an amazing energy sitting in that hall with such amazing musicians performing -- there is a lot of love that goes into your concerts, and we really appreciate you letting us know they are on. Loved your choir also, your performance was beautiful

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed friday night! I particulary liked your pieces and Annalisa sang them with such passion, she is so extraordinary! The choir sounded great too, we were so glad to be able to get tickets at the door ... May there be many more evenings of such top standard in Kangaroo Valley!

...we really enjoyed the concert, the new paint and better lights, the new dish washer in kitchen, everything made the venue perfect for an amazing performance for those talented and gorgeous performers. The KV lights were also great to see (my first viewing of them after almost mythical tales of their creation). The film went over very well and looked great ... it was hilarious ... It was well worth your considerable efforts and time ... I too thought the choir sounded beautiful, the Timor song definitely better than Berry performance, Lord I even got teary eyed, and Walzing M was just amazing. Ok, now you wont be able to get your big head thru the door, so no more, but fanbloodytastic, goodonya.

Tonight was fabulous but.....I caught myself yodelling under the shower! Thanks again for letting me know it was on. I sat there extremely grateful that I love music and have my sense of hearing and that I am lucky enough to be able to enjoy talent like this evening's in a small country hall not that much bigger than a loungeroom with a bunch of people who obviously enjoy and appreciate it as much as (my friend) and I did ... I hope there was much money raised for Remexio.

Absolutely fabulous night! We are very lucky residents in the Valley to be able to enjoy such a quality performance. Thanks to you, Peter, the choir, moviestars and all helpers who put it all together.

from choir-members:

What a fab concert it was, a really beautiful and memorable evening... my father was just in love with Annalisa, both my parents enjoyed it immensely... it was an honor to be involved and to see how the pros do it!

To participate in such a performance and have an opportunity to meet such talented & approachable musicians & artists was worth all the hard work.

fantastic concert.... Annalisa, Genevieve and Jen were wonderful of course... and I especially liked Dirty Dan's appearance ... THANKYOU for having the "nerve"/"guts" to take us on (!!!) and prepare us for the "Big Gig"... it was a wonderful experience and I hope the first of many (??!!) ... Personally I feel soooo lucky to have an opportunity to be guided/directed by the likes of yourself and Carlos... if only I could afford to leave the "day job" and just sing and do the music thing!!! ...

... the experience will go down in my short history of performance as among the most memorable. What a treat to sing with such wonderfully talented people and pieces that are at the very least powerfully moving.

The concert raised money for the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, which assists projects in East Timor. It included a song called Afghan Lullaby:

In 2002 I composed an audio-visual piece about Afghanistan called Merry-Go-Round, for clarinet, cello & computer, commissioned by Charisma (Ros Dunlop, clarinet, and Julia Ryder, cello). Photography by George Gittoes and Alice Wesley-Smith. Australia, as a member of the Coalition of the Willing, had just helped America bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age, bringing the people freedom and democracy. There was no need, therefore, for Afghan refugees to land on Australian soil - they could go home and enjoy the fruits of our labour and sacrifice. Nor was there any need for a mother to sing this fretful lullaby, which I included as an example of what life was like before we gave the people such happiness and hope.

* The group Cambiati (Pete Ellis, organ, Matthew Manchester, trumpets, Anna Sandstrom, soprano, and Rachel Scott, cello), which premiered this song in its non-Merry-Go-Round manifestation, will be performing it at their next concert in Kangaroo Valley: "special days, a summer evening of song and surprises", Yarrawa Estate, Upper River, 7pm February 10 2007 (for bookings call 02 4465 1165). The program will include Peter's and my song She Wore a Black Ribbon as well as music by Bach, Britten, Charpentier, Reynaldo Hahn, Lully, Vittorio Monti, Purcell, Mark Summer (his bluegrass cello solo Julie-O), our late brother Jerry Wesley (his special song Special Days - probably its first public performance), and Hugo Wolf. Note that Rachel is not playing my Jerrinja Song. Unfortunately I can't be there as I will be in Wellington, New Zealand, at the Asia Pacific Festival (see below). I went to Cambiati's previous performance at Yarrawa Estate, one year ago, and enjoyed it enormously. The combination of fine music, fine musicianship, fine food and fine wine in beautiful surroundings makes it a very special day!

* I recently received a book from Germany called Simone Young: Die Dirigentin (Ein Porträt von Ralf Pleger; Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Hamburg 2006). The brilliant musician Simone Young - artistic director of Hamburg Opera - was a student of mine at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music many years ago, and we've remained friends ever since. I was interviewed by Mr Pleger as he was preparing the book.

* I'm currently writing a song, Baghdad Baby Boy (lyric by Peter Wesley- Smith) for soprano Yvonne Kenny to sing at the Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival. The music was commissioned by the Festival with financial assistance from the Music Board of the Australia Council. And I'm getting ready to give a paper at a conference associated with the Asia Pacific Festival in Wellington, New Zealand. While there I will be presenting, with clarinettist Ros Dunlop, my piece Weapons of Mass Distortion within a program of computer music (well, yes, I know - I know that the piece advertised was Papua Merdeka, but you simply can't put on pieces that offend friendly foreign embassies, I mean, that's simply not on ... the West Papuan people have to realise that there's a lot of injustice in this world, that they're not the only victims, and that what's happening to them is all for the good, really, in the long term, so they and their supporters should just shut the fuck up about it ...) Actually, the American, Australian and British governments will find Weapons of Mass Distortion pretty offensive, too (it's about propaganda, doublespeak, lies etc, especially those that led to the invasion of Iraq). We'd better find another piece! Watch this space ...

* Next Monday, February 5, the New South Wales Coroner will begin a hearing into the disappearance and possible whereabouts of former Sydney resident Brian Peters, a television journalist last seen in Balibo, East Timor, in 1975. One of the Balibo Five. Every Australian Prime Minister from Whitlam to Howard has protected Australia's "Indonesia Lobby" and denied the people, including the victims' relatives, access to the truth. Will this hearing get to the bottom of what happened? At least there is some hope ... In 1992 I composed a piece for flute & CD called Balibo, which Geoffrey Collins recorded on his Tall Poppies CD Spinning (TP069). See my discography.

Appendix [February 23 2007]

Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties concerning the Agreement between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia on the Framework for Security Cooperation:

Like many other Australians, I have been critical of aspects of the Republic of Indonesia's performance in East Timor and West Papua. My criticisms have been directed not at the Indonesian people, or bureaucracy, or, even Government, but at the army - the TNI. Thus I am alarmed to read that the Agreement proposes "the closest professional cooperation between (Indonesia's and our) Defence Forces".

On the surface, this would appear to be a good move. But there is not the slightest evidence that the close professional cooperation that Indonesia's and our Defence Forces have enjoyed in the past has had any effect in reducing the TNI's savagery in its dealings with the people of East Timor and West Papua. Not a single TNI officer has been called to account for any of the atrocities committed in East Timor during Indonesia's 24-year occupation. As we are currently learning at the New South Wales Coroner's Court, Indonesian forces murdered five journalists working for Australian news services back in 1975, plus Australian newsman Roger East, yet the TNI has consistently denied, and escaped, all responsibility. It appears that the TNI is pursuing the same disastrous policies and methods in West Papua as it did in East Timor - disastrous for the indigenous people, for the environment, and for the Indonesian Government but not at all for the TNI itself, which has made vast profits from illegal logging, corrupt business practices, prostitution rackets etc. During all this, successive Australian Governments have maintained a "softly, softly" approach, claiming that this is a better way to address Australian concerns about human rights and other abuse by the TNI. Well, news for you, Gareth: this approach failed miserably. If anything, it has made the situation worse. It's time now for us to stand up, publicly, for what we believe in. No need to hector, necessarily, but to state our case in a spirit of co-operation and solidarity and to let the Indonesians state theirs.

As things stand, the TNI is free to commit any atrocity it likes, knowing that Australian and other governments, eager to appease the world's largest Muslim nation, will turn a blind eye. If once, just once, its atrocities were forcefully condemned by the Australian Government, then perhaps it would think twice about committing more of them. But, instead, its behaviour is rewarded, with a security agreement to provide official cover. Other benefits include trips to Australia (and America and Britain), which allow the Generals to check their real estate holdings in Perth and elsewhere. Many officers of the TNI are "terrorists in uniform", to borrow Sister Susan Connolly's memorable description - what a strange world it is where Australia co-operates with and supports terrorists in order to maintain its security. The TNI operates a protection racket, and Australia, as always, meekly gives in.

It is clear that this AGREEMENT was spurred on by Indonesia's concern for its "territorial integrity", meaning its concern that West Papua might follow East Timor's example. In my view, if Indonesia's "territorial integrity" is any of our business then our position should be to support the indigenous West Papuans' desire for independence. The so-called Act of Free Choice was nothing of the sort but was accepted as such by a Western world governed by Cold War rhetoric and, just as it is now, eager to appease Indonesia. I accept, however, that the indigenous West Papuan people have little hope of getting their country back. In this situation, Australia, rather than support the TNI's murderous attacks on local people - which it effectively does through this AGREEMENT - should do everything possible on behalf of the victims.

Richard Woolcott and others maintain, as they did in 1975, that Australian diplomacy is about Australia's interests. I agree, but I ask "Are we talking here about Australia's short-term, medium-term, or long-term interests?" One might argue that this AGREEMENT is in Australia's short-term security and commercial interests (although a disaster for indigenous West Papuans). But the possible long-term ramifications are frightening: a large acquisitive Indonesian island (the TNI could easily gobble up Papua New Guinea) immediately to our north, greedily looking south ...

A few years ago terrorism against Western countries and interests was unheard of. When it arrived, it was directed against the USA as a result of that country's interference in the affairs of others - its support for right-wing dictators, death squads, assassinations of popularly-elected presidents, holy warriors fighting against the Soviets, and so on. It is called, by some, "blowback". Australia would have escaped terrorist attack had we stood up on principle against the USA's actions. But, instead, frightened little country that we are, we eagerly sought the role of Deputy Sheriff to the USA in this region, thus guaranteeing that we too would be a target of religious extremists. The perception of many Muslims, if not the reality, is that America is waging a crusade against Islam (this was once admitted but then immediately denied by President Bush). By extension, so is Australia, a perception reinforced by our enthusiastic participation in the illegal invasion of Iraq. What, now, is the best defence against Muslim extremists' desire for revenge? To go to bed with what is in effect a Muslim army? Surely the time has come for us to stand up on principle - on the moral principles that we, as a supposed Christian country, espouse - and decry injustice wherever we see it, to put into effect our so-called "Australian values" - e.g. standing up for the little man - and to be truly independent, a force for good, for compassion, for human rights? Why is the solution necessarily a military one? Where in this AGREEMENT is there any mention of co-operation between the ordinary people of Indonesia and Australia through the arts, say, or sport, or education, or community activities at a grass roots level? I believe that activities in these areas are the best defence against terrorist attack.

I was recently in Wellington, New Zealand, where I attended a performance of a wayang kulit (Javanese shadow puppet play). It was marvellous! Performed in English, it was funny, topical, satirical - a hugely enjoyable production, complete with gamelan orchestra consisting entirely of native New Zealanders. This is what we should be aiming for: bilateral cultural endeavours that allow each culture to understand the other. Instead, we seek bilateral military endeavours, which is a complete failure of our imagination. In Wellington I talked to an officer of the Indonesian Embassy there, stressing that my criticisms were directed at the TNI and not at ordinary Indonesians. He agreed, in private, that the TNI caused the diplomats no end of trouble and that at least some of my criticisms were valid.

I see that this AGREEMENT seeks to strengthen "bilateral nuclear cooperation for peaceful purposes" (clause 17), pre-empting the debate that Australians need to have about the use of nuclear energy. It is not yet, I hope, a foregone conclusion that Australians will opt for a nuclear energy future. If we do not then we will hardly be in a position to strengthen "bilateral nuclear cooperation".

My final point is that this AGREEMENT could easily constitute a threat to Australian democracy. Under ARTICLE 2, PRINCIPLES, we read:

3. The Parties, consistent with their respective domestic laws and international obligations, shall not in any manner support or participate in activities by any person or entity which constitutes a threat to the stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of the other Party, including by those who seek to use its territory for encouraging or committing such activities, including separatism, in the territory of the other Party.

What does "support" mean here? If an Australian, say, were to demonstrate about TNI atrocities against the indigenous population of West Papua, would Australia be supporting these activities merely by not preventing them? I fear that this AGREEMENT could be used to justify further attacks (similar to those contained in the Sedition legislation) against the free speech and other rights of Australians. Artists will steer clear of Indonesian subjects in their plays, paintings etc. Self-censorship - already rife in Australia amongst people fearful of incurring official displeasure - will spread still further. I believe that a robust democracy should welcome alternative views, discussion, debate etc, not try to stifle them.

In conclusion, I too want the best possible security for Australia and Australians. But I believe that going down the same old path - the one that has manifestly failed us so far - is bound not only to fail in its stated objective but to threaten our own values. I think that if an AGREEMENT is to be reached at all - and I'm not convinced that a formal agreement is necessary - then a new one should be negotiated: one that emphasises cultural links between our countries; one that recognises the need for mutual cultural (artistic, religious, gastronomic etc) understanding; one that honestly recognises our differences and seeks, where necessary, to accommodate them; one that recognises each other's security concerns and needs from a long-term perspective ...

Martin Wesley-Smith
February 23 2007

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