Martin Wesley-Smith's
baby shot


in 1956 or so


in 1988 
or so


old pic


mw-s new pic


an incomplete and opinionated ramble through miscellaneous events, performances etc so far in 2010 ...

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* Thursday December 30 2010:

* Tuesday December 28 2010:

Had a lovely Christmas in Kangaroo Valley, with my family and an American WWOOFer, Aussie Cyn.

* Have finished a short article, published on-line by the Australian Music Centre:

Boojum! in America

The other day I came across the following passage in a blog by young Australian composer Aristea Mellos:

"While Australia has a thriving musical culture and a rich history, during my undergraduate studies [at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music] I often sensed that my music did not fit the preferred aesthetic which dominated the contemporary music scene. For some reason I just don't feel this in the US."

Interesting comment. I had the same feeling when I was at the Sydney Con - and I was a lecturer there. I never discovered what the justification was for imposing a particular aesthetic. In fact, officially, no aesthetic was imposed. But most students quickly worked out that the way to academic success, and to success as a composer, was to adopt the aesthetic that appeared to be dominant in their lecturers' own music and in concerts, broadcasts etc. My belief was - still is - that students should be encouraged to study, and try their hand at, as many different styles, idioms, techniques, sound resources etc as possible on their way to discovering their own voice. These include instrumental, electronic, vocal, choral, orchestral, computer, free-form improvisation, "sound art", tonal, atonal, serial, minimalist, complexist, the styles and idioms of popular music, even country and western - and so on. Experience with a variety of these improves students' facility with sounds, which is what I believe compositional technique to be fundamentally about.

One of the first times I stepped out of the dominant aesthetic was in 1979, when I composed an a cappella choral piece, Who Killed Cock Robin?. Later that year, on a trip to the USA, I went to see Sondheim's Sweeney Todd on Broadway, and discovered that Sondheim had been a student of Milton Babbitt's. I suspected then that had he been living in Australia he might not have felt free enough - would not have been given permission, in effect - to move out of so-called "serious art-music" into musical theatre. But it was now the late 70s, and the exuberance of that decade had not yet succumbed to the button-down 80s. I decided, somewhat naively, to follow Sondheim's example and start work on an opera/musical/music theatre sort of thing.

Seven years later, the piece - Boojum!, based on Lewis Carroll's epic nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark, with lyrics by my brother Peter Wesley-Smith - was produced by State Opera of South Australia at the 1986 Adelaide Festival of Arts. Although the piece was successful at the box office, and received some positive reviews, for me the whole experience was a nightmare, for the piece was chopped and changed with no regard for our intentions and without our permission. When I objected, I was sent to Coventry by the cast and most other people associated with the production. I am still being pilloried by some, including Anthony Steel, the Director of the Adelaide Festival back then, in a recent book. My crime? Objecting publicly to our piece being re-written. Big no-no. As a result, the Australian theatre door was slammed shut.

Some people in the so-called "serious art-music" scene concluded that my writing a "musical" was further evidence - post-Cock Robin - that I was not to be taken seriously as a composer. This included electronic music colleagues - yet none of them had heard the work or seen the score. To be a composer in Australia back then was to be put into a box from which one was not allowed to escape. No straddling of multiple boxes allowed.

After Adelaide we put the show back to what it was, made a few minor changes, and had it performed a couple of times in concert. For a forthcoming recording - by the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir, conducted by John Grundy - I did a new score, arriving at the definitive version. Three more concert performances later, one in Newcastle, two in America, Boojum! found itself on the shelf - alongside many other Australian music theatre pieces - unloved, forgotten, for years ... until:

In early 2009 I received a letter from American composer and director Eric Reda. It turns out that many years before, as he was starting university, he was working in a newly-opened CD store in Phoenix, Arizona. He came across the CD of Boojum! (on the Vox Australis label) and immediately fell in love with it. "I recently founded an alternative opera company dedicated to creating new works ...", he wrote. "I am looking back at my beloved recording of Boojum! and think that it might be the perfect addition to our season." Fast forward to November 18 2010, and the show, a co-production by Chicago Opera Vanguard and Caffeine Theater, opened at the Storefront Theater, Chicago. It finished, 22 performances later, having enjoyed general audience acclaim and a dozen or so positive reviews.

The director, Jimmy McDermott, asked us about a cut he wanted to make, to which we readily agreed (it was exactly the same as one we'd made ourselves in a concert performance years before). Apparently there was no need to toss out our material and put in scenes written - words and music - by others. Our piece was treated with great respect by a production team determined to make it work brilliantly. And they did, as various crtics commented. "Boojum! makes Carroll's unimaginable nonsense unimaginably human", wrote Chris Vire in Time Out Chicago. Gaper's Block wrote: "Nonsense and confusion aren't usually the aim of an opera, but Boojum!'s Gilbert-and-Sullivan-meet-David-Lynch vibe is pulled off admirably by the small cast. Confusion, silliness, and vagary may be the best possible way to explore the life and work of such an unusual and surprising man as Lewis Carroll (and his moral counterpart). When executed with beauty and imagination, as it is here, the overall effect is much like the general delight one feels when reading one of Carroll's famous stories." Hedy Weiss, Theater Critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, selected our work as one of 2010's "Best Moments in Theater" in the category "The bold and the quirky".

Boojum! is not an opera. But it's not a musical comedy either. It's somewhere in between. But there was no box for it, so sometimes it was put into the opera box ("the composer is always responsible for supplying the orchestral score and parts"), at other times into the musical comedy box ("musicals get re-written all the time") - whatever suited the Adelaide production team. But Chicago Opera Vanguard and Caffeine Theater took no notice of that. They simply got on with producing the work in front of them, whatever it was, with great integrity as well as skill. I was struck by their generosity: not only did they produce an unknown work by unknown Australians, but they flew us there, provided accommodation, and invited us to critique their production.

Of course, one can't generalise about an arts scene as huge and diverse as America's, but all my experiences there have supported Aristea's implication that American generosity transcends any notion of preferred aesthetic. In comparison, our scene here is tiny. In a small pond it's very easy for a few big fish to dominate, whether they intend to or not. In my view, we need to make sure that aesthetic diversity is not only tolerated but encouraged.

My name might not be up in lights, but it did feature on a Chicago street banner (click to see whole banner):

Hedy Weiss, Theatre Critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, selected Boojum! as one of 2010's "Best Moments in Theater" in the category The bold and the quirky:

Building Stage's marathon, multimedia take on "The Ring Cycle" was ingenious and, best of all, great fun. The Caffeine Theatre-Chicago Opera Vanguard collaboration on "Boojum! Nonsense, Truth, and Lewis Carroll," offered a true through-the-lookingglass journey. Congo Square Theatre Company's revival of "The Colored Museum" was vintage satire played with great wit and high spirits. The Trap Door Theatre production of Ken Prestininzi's "Chaste" offered a wild and twisted view of what happens when genius, lust and arrested development collide. In "This Train," actor-artist-writer Tony Fitzpatrick took us on a deeply poetic and musical journey that captured elements of himself, Chicago and all things American. And finally, two shows by The Hypocrites worked wonders - Greg Allen's quite brilliant meditation on many things Kafka in "K," and Sean Graney's whimsical reimagining of that salty Gilbert & Sullivan gem, "The Pirates of Penzance."

* more things Carrollesque:
On my recent trip to the USA I had great pleasure in meeting up again with American clarinettist F Gerard Errante, an old friend from way back who's now living in Las Vegas. He gave me a photograph he had from an audio-visual piece I once did for him called Dodgson's Dream, for clarinet, tape & slide projectors, one of my early explorations of Carrollesque themes. The photo at left is a detail from the original transparency - click on it to see how it's a sandwich shot with a negative of my daughter Olivia, who was 8 or so at the time. The transparencies were projected onto the clarinettist, who was dressed in white and standing in front of a projection screen. Two slide projectors (remember them?) were connected to an ES69 dissolve unit made by English company Electrosonic, the frequency of what the clarinet played determining which projector was on the screen and when the slides changed. It was a spectacular effect. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get all the technology together, so the piece wasn't played very often. I intend to do a new version, one day, using something like MAX/MSP and a data projector ... I composed For Clarinet & Tape for Gerry, although before I gave it to him it had been hijacked by percussionist Graeme Leak and turned into For Marimba & Tape.
* Am working on a solo piece for harpist Alice Giles. And finishing assessing a thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of a Master of Creative Arts degree. And keeping my vegetable garden alive during a current hot spell. And sorting through new repertoire for the Thirsty Night Singers when we get back together again in February ...

* Thursday December 16 2010:

One of my favourite columnists is Mark Morford of SFGate, home of the San Francisco Chronicle. In an article called Five things that change everything, published yesterday, he wrote:

4) Do you know what Wikileaks is? What it actually represents? It's not a dire threat to national security. It does not endanger soldier's lives. Nor is it some bogus trigger for the unutterably vile Espionage Act of 1917, appallingly brought back to life not merely by right wing nutballs but also far too many members of the Obama administration, as they try to convince the world the very heart of democracy is being threatened by some oddball blond Aussie and his mad fetish for political transparency ...

It's because Wikileaks is just terrifically embarrassing, humiliating to the bone, so lucid and detailed in its anatomy of the dark and heartless political soul, it will be years before its sundry nasties are fully unpacked and absorbed.

This is the real reason Washington and world governments alike are so alarmed by Wikileaks' revelations. It reveals most of them to be world-class charlatans and fools, dictators and megalomaniacs who would eat their own babies for a glimpse into each other's personal Dear Diaries. Same as it ever was? Sure. Only much, much worse.

The humiliation, the awkwardness, the ugly maneuverings are simply off the charts. Wikileaks is global politics, banking, diplomacy, war stripped ugly and flea-bitten and bare. More civilian deaths, abuses of power, assassination attempts, botched raids, illegal air strikes, wasted funds, inane acts of spying and clandestine backroom dealings than even these thousands of pages can capture.

Truly, the banality of global political evil has never been this exposed. Hell, even the Vatican is condemning Wikileaks over revelations about its own pathetic sex scandals in Ireland. In my book, that alone makes Julian Assange a goddamn saint.


Naomi Wolf:

"we are all Julian Assange"

* Tuesday December 14 2010:

Only four more performances of the Chicago Opera Vanguard and Caffeine Theatre production of Boojum!: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 3pm. Buy your tickets now!

* Reading a blog by young Australian composer Aristea Mellos, now studying in the USA after undergraduate studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, I came across this:

While Australia has a thriving musical culture and a rich history, during my undergraduate studies I often sensed that my music did not fit the preferred aesthetic which dominated the contemporary music scene. For some reason I just don't feel this in the US.

This was something I railed against for most of my 26 years' teaching at the Conservatorium. Forcing a particular aesthetic on student composers, with zero intellectual justification, was often unproductive, even damaging. I was all for an eclectic approach that encouraged students to find their own voice, perhaps after trying their hand at various different idioms. Too many original voices have been silenced by conventional composition teaching, and by examination processes that favour those who toe the current conventional line.

* Monday December 13 2010:

William Bowles in yesterday's Information Clearing House:

Economics of Slaughter
It really is us against them

The state/media argues that when engaging in foreign relations, if diplomatic notes are to be effective they have to be private. Okay, aside from around 250,000, they are. Carry on with whatever it is you're doing but bear in mind we know what you really think. You're not a special breed, apart from the rest of us and you do things in our names allegedly endorsed by a vote every few years. A vote that gives state policies the stamp of our approval. Remember, these are the same people that supply information that contributes to people being blown up somewhere in the endless wars being waged by capital around the planet ...

The release of these cables is an historic event for they forever transform the relationship between the state and its citizens. They blow away the illusion that our leaders are honourable men and women rather than mere servants of capital ...


It feels like WikiLeaks is providing a watershed moment in the history of capitalism. We've been kept in the dark, and fed bullshit, for too long. People around the world who believe in the democratic values that our leaders say they are bringing to poor benighted people in other lands (those who have oil, anyway) will be forever cynical of what those leaders claim ...

* On Saturday I attended a locally written and produced pantomime called The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe: very funny, very well done! Written by Sean Kramer, who starred, in drag, as Old Mother Hubbard, it was enjoyed by children and adults alike.

* Thursday December 09 2010:

photo: Carmen Valino for the Guardian

Good article by conservative Australian politician Malcolm Turnbull in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Governments and politicians should be careful not to make a martyr of (Julian) Assange and fools of themselves. Julia Gillard's claim that Assange had broken Australian laws, when it is clear he has not, demonstrates how out of her depth she is.

One may well ask whether her denunciations would be so shrill if the documents had been handed to a powerful newspaper group - if the contents were being dribbled out by The Australian, would she be accusing Rupert Murdoch of high crimes and misdemeanours? [more]

[Political risk in making a martyr of Assange, Dec 9 2010]

When Labor politicians show abysmal ignorance and no respect for human rights such that a conservative politician has to set them right, the world must be upside-down. Sense and nonsense become the same.

"Those through the looking-glass know" (Boojum!)

an article in The Guardian (UK), Fri Dec 3 2010, called Julian Assange answers your questions, can be read here

see Robert Scheer: From Jefferson to Assange; Julian Assange: The Truth Will Always Win

* It's thirty years since John Lennon was fatally shot. I pay tribute to a great activist and popular music song-writer and performer.

* The Thirsty Night Singers have started rehearsing again after my time in the US of A. Next performance is at a Christmas party at Bellawongarah.

* Tuesday December 07 2010:

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. It's also the last day of the Australian cricket team's craven capitulation to England in the second test of the current Ashes series.

An entry on facebook, today, by a woman referring to her young daughter:

Yesterday I went out on a date with my little girl and we saw BOOJUM! She loved it! At the end of the second act, after sitting in the theatre for 2 hours she said: I wanna see Boojum again!

This, from a member of the cast:

The pleasure of working on Boojum is all mine. I have adored this project from the get-go and it has been such a privilege to work on your glorious material. It continues to grow as a production night after night--I think you would be very pleased.

* When I was in San Francisco the other day I caught up with old friend trombonist Miles Anderson. He found a couple of shots of us both from the early 80s:

click on the photo at right
to see a larger version
l to r: my son Jed (with cat),
me, Miles, 1982
Miles and me with
a Fairlight CMI,
Sydney Conservatorium
of Music, 1984

Miles and his wife, violinist Erica Sharp, commissioned my piece White Knight & Beaver (a study for Boojum!), and performed it many times. They also commissioned Pip!, a kids' piece in which they played, narrated and sang.

* Monday December 06 2010:

Am home, after a few days in San Francisco. More reviews of Boojum! in Chicago:

Chicago Theater Blog
Chicago Tribune
Chicago Stage Review
Chicago Broadway World
Gapers Block


... its compelling examination of Dodgson's fractured and recurring motives. Boojum! makes Carroll's unimaginable nonsense unimaginably human. [more]

Boojum! is admirable for its spare but striking stage scenes, creative technical theater, the energized skill of the cast and the play's grand designs. [more]

... this is a show filled with music (34 total musical numbers), some quaint and comical and some romantic and a few very powerful songs that will send chills down your spine. [more]

So many of the Wesley-Smiths' songs had us laughing out loud. And yet they didn't shy away from exploring (albeit gently and tastefully) the murky waters of Dodgson's less than holy hobby of photographing his child playmates in various stages of undress. [more]

The dizzying wordplay, adroit stage pictures and eclectic score slowly peel away to reveal some heavy truths about mortality, longing and loss. [more]

... Boojum! absurd antics, dark humor and razzle-dazzle music-and-dance numbers are all the more impactful because of the sense of tragedy that laps at the edges of the story. All of the details are here: eye-popping costumes, snappy choreography, perfectly timed delivery, wonderful music ... this fine group of actors accompanied by a single piano really make Boojum! shine. We can't help but imagine what they could do with a Broadway sized theater and full orchestra. If the theater gods are smiling, they will certainly get the chance to show us. [more]

... the result is a show that is quite unlike any other I have ever seen. Reminiscent of opera, art song, musical comedy, a play with music, experimental theater and a night in an adventurous bar, "Boojum!" may be a highly original, unique work as written, and it comes across as pretty singular in performance, as well. It's part journey theater, part character analysis. It's a staged secular cantata. I don't know, am I right? ... This Australian musical ... has been dropped onto our laps as a holiday gift no one saw coming. It's not for the faint of heart or those looking for a fancy night on the town. But as a piece of theater/music/music theater/literary theater/community exorcism/storefront magic, this work is powerful, troubling and seductively beautiful. Give yourself to its slow seduction, and try to understand the tortured soul of a genius. I can't shake "Boojum!" I want to, but I can't. [more]

From the source material itself to the rapid changes of scene, time, and place, Boojum! essentially dares you to try and make sense of it all ... Nonsense and confusion aren't usually the aim of an opera, but Boojum!'s Gilbert-and-Sullivan-meet-David-Lynch vibe is pulled off admirably by the small cast. Confusion, silliness, and vagary may be the best possible way to explore the life and work of such an unusual and surprising man as Lewis Carroll (and his moral counterpart). When executed with beauty and imagination, as it is here, the overall effect is much like the general delight one feels when reading one of Carroll's famous stories. [more]

click on the graphic at right to see a
Boojum! poster in a Chicago street

* Today is my younger daughter Alice's 30th birthday. Happy birthday, sweetheart!

* Monday November 29 2010:

After nearly a week in New York City, I'm in Las Vegas, on my way home, staying with friends. I've been in the USA for a totally-wonderful Chicago production of my music theatre piece Boojum!. Dan Cox, of Chicago Opera Vanguard, wrote that Boojum! was the "Critics' Pick" of the weekend on Chicago Public Radio! Reviews that have accumulated so far include:

Time Out
Around the Town
New City Stage
Chicago Reader
ChiIL Mama
The Fourth Walsh

There are more to come. Watch this space!

* Thursday November 18 2010:

I'm in Chicago, where last night I saw the second, and final, preview of Peter's and my full-length music theatre piece Boojum!. I am thrilled to be able to report that it's a wonderful production, with every element contributing strongly to the whole piece. Opening night is tonight. If I can I'll post critical reactions here as soon as they are received ...

later: the show on opening night was even better than at the final preview, and was a great success with the audience. I'm delighted! More later.

* Saturday November 13 2010:

Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki has died after a long illness. He was 76. From the ABC News website:

Known for his trademark simple yet monumental musical style, Gorecki was regarded as being at the forefront of Polish avant-guard classical composers through the 1950's to 1970's, exploring Polish folk music and medieval themes.

Focused on motherhood and the ravages of war, Gorecki's Symphony No 3 or Symphony of Sorrow Songs, gained critical acclaim and worldwide popularity after its 1992 re-release featuring American soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Having topped the charts in both Britain and the United States, it sold more than a million copies worldwide, becoming one of the world's best-selling pieces of contemporary classical music ...


* Am packing to go to Chicago for the opening night of Boojum!. The work had a theatrical production at the 1986 Adelaide Festival of Arts, and has had a few concert/semi-theatrical performances, in Australia and the USA, since. There has been nothing, however, for twelve or so years. Needless to say, I'm delighted it's getting another run! Watch this space for news of opening night and the work's reception.

The excellent double CD of the work - by the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir, now called The Chamber Singers - is still available (click here). Strangely, there is no mention of the recording of Boojum!, or of the work itself, on Sydney Philharmonia's website. Nor is there any mention of Songs for Snark-Hunters, a work of ours that Sydney Philharmonia commissioned and premiered under the baton of Peter Seymour ...

* Sunday November 07 2010:

Yesterday's recording session by The Thirsty Night Singers, at 313 Studios in Nowra, went pretty well, all in all. We recorded the following songs:

Billiards (a conservation song, about an elephant)
The Father's Song (a lullaby by Ewan MacColl)
The Fighters Who Fell (traditional melody from East Timor, based on a poem by Xanana Gusmão)
Hai Tanahku Papua (based on the national song of West Papua)
Hey Ho Cook and Rowe (by Peggy Seeger, based on an English folk-song)
I Want to be Ready (traditional)
In This Heart (by Sinead O'Connor)
The Irish Blessing (we learnt this from that great vocal quartet The Idea of North)
Mad World (by Roland Orzabal)
Old Coat (a love song)
She Wore a Black Ribbon (about Australia's Stolen Generation)
Shut the Gate (Australian song for kids)
Since You Went Away (lyric by James Weldon Johnson, music by Otto Mortensen, another song we learnt from The Idea of North)
Special Days (words and music by the late Jeremy Wesley)
When I Fall in Love (lyric by Edward Heyman, music by Victor Young)

We'll put all that onto a CD, for our own purposes only (we don't plan to sell it, even though we had many requests for a CD after our bracket at the recent Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival).

* The latest from Chicago Opera Vanguard re their joint production (with Caffeine Theatre) of Boojum!:

Just got back from this morning's first full run-through of Boojum! and wanted to let you know that it is a DELIGHT! The cast and creative team have truly worked their bums off making this a fun, thoughtful and exciting production. Their musicality is superb and they all shine on the stage ...

Opening night is November 18. Total of 20 performances. Tickets selling fast!

* From an email from the Australian West Papua Association (Sydney):

The shocking video footage of West Papuans being tortured by Indonesian soldiers has been condemned by human rights organisations around the world. The Indonesian Government has been congratulated by some governments for its quick response in bringing the soldiers responsible to trial, however the only reason the soldiers are on trial is because of the video footage. No footage, no trial. Also, the fact that the chief of Indonesia's armed forces Admiral Agus Suhartono said ''It wasn't torture,'' and ''They are regarded as responsible for conducting [the] interrogation in an excessive way when looking for weapons hidden by those people.'' is definitely paving the way for a lenient sentence.

It's all reminiscent of the trial of the Kopassus soldiers who were found guilty of involvement in the killing of Chief Theys Eluay, who was killed in November 2001. At that time the chief of staff of the army, General Ryamizard Ryacudu was quoted as saying (in reference to the soldiers on trial) "I don't know, people say they did wrong, they broke the law. What law? Okay, we are a state based on the rule of law, so they have been punished. But for me, they are heroes because the person they killed was a rebel". The soldiers received light sentences of imprisonment ranging from two to three-and-a-half years. If the soldiers on trial for the latest incident of torture do not receive sentences befitting their crime, it will indicate to the West Papuans that the military can act with impunity and that they can receive no justice under Indonesian rule ...

It's all reminiscent of what happened in East Timor, where the Indonesian military did act with impunity, killing hundreds of thousands of people during Indonesia's illegal invasion (1975) and occupation (1975-1999).

* Friday November 05 2010:

A review by Graham Strahle of my Tall Poppies CD Merry-Go-Round has appeared in the November 2010 issue of Music Forum. Here's an excerpt:

What makes Martin Wesley-Smith one of the most truly distinctive voices in Australian composition is the abundance of personality in his music. Never one to hide behind stylistic barriers or retreat into abstract technique, he composes like one imagines he is: an observer of people who is interested all aspects of the human experience, including the perplexing, quixotic and downright humorous ... these delightfully memorable pieces ...

To read the whole review (and other reviews), click here. The catalogue number of Merry-Go-Round is TP200.

* Have just listened to a pre-release copy of a recording by Guitar Trek of my guitar quartet Songs & Marches. Yo!

* From The Independent, October 26 2010:

Bad boy Julian Assange, the pretty, blondish founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks was hugely admired when he uncovered oppressors and political chicanery in places like China and Kenya, but now he takes on Western duplicity and crimes. Can't have that. This spawn of Beelzebub, say our masters, a traitor whose insolence is a crime against the secretive states of the US and UK. Disregard the pique and dyspepsia of officialdom. It is a distraction, smoke from fires deliberately started to stop us seeing what lies before us ...

To read the rest of the article, click here.

* Wednesday November 03 2010:

The a cappella vocal group I sing in and direct - the seven-member Thirsty Night Singers - is going into a recording studio next Saturday to record the best of our current repertoire, including some songs of mine e.g. the kids' song Shut the Gate (lyric by Ann North) and several songs with lyrics by Peter Wesley-Smith: She Wore a Black Ribbon (about Australia's Stolen Generation); Hai Tanahku Papua (new words to a setting of the West Papuan anthem); Old Coat, a love song; The Fighters Who Fell, based on a poem originally written in Portuguese by East Timorese resistance leader Xanana Gusmao (now Prime Minister of East Timor), set to the melody of the Timorese folk song Kolele Mai; and Billiards, a conservation song arranged for SSATTB (the score for this can be downloaded, for free, here (one page, 48KB); MIDI files: SSATTB, S1, S2, A, T1, T2, B).

Talking of West Papua, check out the short film Act of Free Choice, directed by Mark Worth (1958-2004) with music by David Bridie:

As the blurb says, this "is a precursor to (Mark Worth's) outstanding documentary Land of the Morning Star and succinctly outlines the political history of West Papua to date. Act of Free Choice is the title of David Bridie's debut solo album ... It later appeared on the 5-track Act of Free Choice EP ..."

* The recording of my piece for cello & piano, Morning Star, which also uses the beautiful melody of Hai Tanahku Papua, has been postponed till February next year. It had been scheduled to take place last weekend in Melbourne.

* Everything is apparently progressing well and on track for the Chicago production of Peter's and my full-length work of choral music theatre Boojum! (opens November 18). Someone associated with the production (by Chicago Opera Vanguard and Caffeine Theatre) wrote the other day to say:

"Act 1 is on its feet, Act 2 is coming along, and all involved are finding a TON in the material [I mean, there is a lot there ... :)] The design has taken a really fun Steampunk bent, with the set being at times a church and at times the inverted hull of a boat. The costumes are delightfully thuggish in just the right, off-putting way ..."

For more information about the production, click here. To buy the double CD of the work (by the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir), click here.

* from an article by Juan Cole in yesterday's Information Clearing House:

Iraq's security problems continue to be severe, if not generally crippling the way they were in 2006, as underlined by Sunday's guerrilla takeover of a Baghdad church and the subsequent deaths of dozens when the terrorists detonated suicide belts during a government rescue attempt on Monday. The al-Qaeda operatives who took hostages said that they were taking revenge for Qur'an-burnings by churches in the United States. Religious bigotry is the gift that keeps on giving ...


Exactly. What next? More religious bigotry from American Christians, followed by more attacks by Muslims?

* Friday October 29 2010:

While the Australian establishment huffs and puffs about the lack of respect shown by the man who threw his shoes at ex-Prime Minister John Howard during a recent television program (Rupert Murdoch's Daily Telegraph described him as a "pest"), American pundit William Rivers Pitt gets down to business (excerpt):

The release by Wikileaks of some 400,000 pages of official Iraq war documents has ripped the lid finally and forever off what must surely become known as one of the largest lawless actions by a presidential administration in all of American history. The documents prove, beyond all doubt, that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice and the rest of them deliberately led this nation down a nearly-unprecedented path of infamy. The only comparable criminal act was the grindhouse of Vietnam, which spanned five presidencies, left millions dead and enshrined the so-called "defense" industry as the biggest money players in the American political game. What was done in and to Iraq has not yet risen to the level of what happened in Southeast Asia, but it is right up there, and the Wikileaks documents hammer this fact home with no remorse and no room left for doubt.


Rather than shoes, Howard should have the book thrown at him - the War Crimes book. He claims that invading Iraq was the "right decision". Let him argue the point as a defendant in the International Criminal Court.

Of many readers' responses to the article above, I particularly like this one (excerpt):

Every single last politician who has failed to demand the arrest and prosecution of all war criminals is himself guilty of complicity. The rule of law, the very basis for our society, has been violated and breached at its most fundamental level, meaning the "law" has value only to those with the power and money to pervert its intentions for their own benefit. The real war is against the rest of us, to continue keeping us in the chains of corporate greed abetted by an imperialism that sacrifices millions of innocent lives and the earth upon which we live for its own narrow psychopathic interests.

All these traitors deserve nothing less than the worst torture imaginable: let them drink coliform-infested water, get cholera, work in mines, eat mud cakes for dinner, go without homes, and die from the common cold. Failing that, hang every last politician who fails to represent the best interests of the rest of us. They've declared war on us, and time is past to turn the one-sided war against us into a one-sided massacre of the rich and powerful.

Well ... it's a little extreme, perhaps. I don't believe in capital punishment, so the rest of their lives in jail would have to do. Nor do I condone torture, whoever does it. And being rich and powerful doesn't necessarily mean that one is a criminal. But I like the general sentiment ...

* Wednesday October 27 2010:

I'm at the age where increasing numbers of my friends and ex-colleagues are popping off, the latest being Australian music mover-and-shaker James Murdoch [1930-2010], who died on Monday in Bali (his home for many years). Read more here.

* Sunday October 24 2010:

Have just spent most of the weekend at the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival - very enjoyable! The Shoalhaven's own Thirsty Night Singers did a 25' bracket that was very well received. Other than that, the highlights for me were Mal Webb, Totally Gourdgeous ("Imagine Joni Mitchell and James Brown getting down in Bob Marley's pumpkin patch via the Muppets"), The Miriam Lieberman Band, and Doc Jones and the Lechery Orchestra. Once was when folk festivals consisted of traditional folkies, singer/songwriters, and not much else. Over this weekend there was that, but it was within a much broader range of performers and material. No-one seems too fussed about the word "folk" these days, its definition being more about what it's not than what it is (it's not, for example, something whose main inspiration is/was Top 40 success). The result on the weekend was lots of joyous, eclectic music-making, some of it played with astonishing musicianship.

* Last Friday I said goodbye to a lovely French WWOOFer couple who'd been staying for a week, working in the garden (one of them is a chef, and cooked some beautiful meals, including the best crepes suzette I've ever tasted). Around 1.30pm I received a call from a friend and neighbour who said he'd cut his hand and could I come over? I did so to find that he'd had a serious accident with a circular saw. I took him into the local ambulance station, then followed the ambulance into Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital, where it was discovered he'd lopped the tops off two fingers and seriously damaged a third. Not a pretty sight. One heck of a way to lose weight.

* Friday October 22 2010:

For a selection of YouTube videos about West Papua, and the violence the Indonesian military is inflicting there on the indigenous population, click here.

* Have just come across a review by Oleg Ledeniov, dated September 2010, of my chamber music CD Merry-Go-Round (Tall Poppies TP200), which contains the following paragraph about my piece of the same name (about Afghanistan):

There is no smile in Merry-Go-Round, despite the title. It has political roots and was inspired by a picture of a primitive wooden merry-go-round photographed in Afghanistan, with Afghani children riding it. The music starts with cold and misery. Oriental melodies entwine in the air, and then we hear a sad lullaby. The mechanical carousel is turned on, with its false lights and sweet promises. But the winding goes down, and we are left with the cold and the misery. An agitated, pleading episode follows, and then the sad lullaby returns. Children and war, children in a land tormented by endless conflicts; this is a painful subject, and the emotional picture cannot leave one indifferent. Technically, the music is performed by two "live" instruments - a cello and a clarinet - with a lot of percussion and synthesized sounds from an electronic device. Such solution allows the composer to combine the mechanical and the humane, the clockwork and the soul. There is no explicit suffering depicted; the music has a certain documentary feeling. I was deeply moved by it.


In a review in the July 2010 Limelight magazine, Ken Page concludes: "An imaginative CD of great warmth and depth".

* Wednesday October 20 2010:

As always, Sister Susan Connelly, of the Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission in Sydney, puts her finger on the issue in a letter to the Editor published in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Why Indonesian army still offends

The price of protecting "our people" in Indonesia is compromising to say the least: mouthing mild exhortations about human rights while funding and training human rights abusers ("Abuses will not stop co-operation with Indonesia", October 19).

Reports of Indonesian military and security personnel torturing Papuans are disturbing but not surprising. Criminals who get away with their crimes are likely to offend again.

The only outcome of 24 years of violence against the Timorese by the Indonesian military apparatus was a little egg on the face. No one was convicted or even charged, except a Timorese militiaman who got off on appeal.

The Indonesian military's impunity in Papua is a result of the refusal of Indonesia and its Western friends to bring to account previous crimes against humanity.

I've just finished a revision of my piece Morning Star, for cello & piano, which is due to be recorded for CD (Tall Poppies) by cellist David Pereira and pianist Timothy Young at the end of the month. It sets a hymn - Hai Tanahku Papua - written in the 1930s by Dutch pastor Rev'rend I. S. Kijne, that has become West Papua's national anthem. I've also used that melody in Papua Merdeka, for bass clarinet and sounds and images on computer. The Thirsty Night Singers sing an SATB version of it (and will possibly include it in their bracket at next Saturday's Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival).

Speaking of Mary MacKillop, a sensible letter from Robert Springett of Ermington also appears this morning. Excerpt:

Mary's cross is heavy with the burden of hypocrisy

The Catholic Church has co-opted (Mary MacKillop) for its own purposes; it has set up the pretence that Mary is ''one of them''. But look at her story. She took a stand against the church, to the point of being excommunicated. And she is not alone in this regard.

Joan of Arc is probably the best known saint who was convicted by an ecclesiastical court and burnt for heresy. St Francis, famous for his pacifism, was a living rebuke to the Pope who waged war.

Only after they are conveniently dead, and thus unable to speak for themselves, does the church creep in and steal their clothes, presuming to claim them as its own ...


Another letter in this morning's SMH speaks good sense about the situation in Afghanistan, which the Australian Parliament is debating at the moment. It's from Benjamin Gilmour of Lane Cove:

In 10 years things may only be worse

What evidence, if any, has convinced Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott that Afghanistan will look any different in another 10 years ("War strategy is right: PM",, October 19)? After a decade of trying to shove the Afghan constitution down the throats of tribal Pashtuns at gunpoint, our predicament is unchanged and they refuse to swallow. In the process we have sponsored warlords, murdered thousands of civilians and sacrificed our young soldiers.

Gillard is misleading, too, about the truth of our mission. Australian troops are not only training the Afghan forces, but still hunting the insurgents we are supposed to be negotiating with. And now, for another 10 years, we will continue to see our soldiers killed and injured with no proof of any benefit to the people of Afghanistan or the security of our nation.

Australian leaders are so blinkered in their devotion to our alliance with the USA that they will sacrifice as many Australian soldiers as it takes. Click here for an article on the current debate.

* In a news report in today's SMH, it is reported that Prime Minister Julia Gillard:

... lambasted as "stupid" comments from the president of the Victorian Trades Hall Council that the September 11 attacks were an "inside job".

President of the Victorian Trades Hall Council Kevin Bracken told ABC Radio the 2001 attacks on the United States were not properly understood.

"In my mind the buildings were imploded," Mr Bracken said today. "Aviation fuel doesn't get hot enough to melt steel and no high rise steel frame building before or after September 11 has ever collapsed due to fire."

Ms Gillard was questioned on the comments during parliamentary question time. "Obviously I don't agree with the remarks, obviously they are stupid," Ms Gillard said ...

[read more here]

Apparently our Prime Minister is an expert on the way high buildings fall, and on aviation fuel and the temperature at which steel melts. I think that rather than dismiss Mr Bracken's view out of hand, Ms Gillard should come up with evidence that refutes it. It is frightening to have a leader so in thrall to America that she is prepared to believe, without question, everything its government says. By calling someone's comments "stupid" she is trying to close down debate rather than encourage it.

New independent MP Andrew Wilkie is an ex-military man and intelligence analyst. His contribution to the debate included the following:

... (I) believe we must bring our combat troops home as soon as possible ... I envisage a withdrawal timeline carefully planned by military professionals, not politicians, which speedily hands military responsibility over to Afghan security forces in a matter of months. Yesterday the Prime Minister was talking about us still waging war in Afghanistan in ten years' time. That was an extraordinary admission of the difficulties we've gone and got ourselves in to and entirely inconsistent with our national interest. If it was up to me, I'd be very concerned with any military plan that still had us fighting in Afghanistan in 10 months time, let alone 10 years ... The Prime Minister said yesterday she believes Australia has the right strategy in Afghanistan. She is wrong, dangerously wrong ... The only certainty is that Afghanistan will never face the possibility of enduring peace unless it's allowed to find its natural political level. And that can not happen while the Afghans regard themselves as being occupied by foreign powers propping up an illegitimate puppet central government ...


Spot on, Mr Wilkie.

* Wednesday October 13 2010:

I subscribe to several email newsletters, including t r u t h o u t, Tom Feeley's Information Clearing House (subscribe), and IPS News - Iraq and the Middle East. The latest IPS newsletter contains an article by Jim Lobe called Nine Years in, Afghans Don't Trust U.S.:

"WASHINGTON, Oct 7, 2010 (IPS) - On the ninth anniversary of the U.S. military intervention in their country, a new report released here Thursday finds that Afghans remain deeply distrustful and resentful of the impact and intent of foreign forces there ..." [more]

As the Australian parliament prepares to debate the situation in Afghanistan - amazingly, for the first time - I am almost dumbfounded that Western troops - including Australians - remain there. By what right did they invade? By what right do they still occupy the country nine years later? Nine years! That's longer, by far, than World War II. Not finding bin Laden, which was the initial justification for the invasion, the Crusaders thought they would overthrow the government and bring democracy, and freedom, to the people, even though the people didn't request it. The whole enterprise has been a disaster - a quagmire to rival the Western invasion of Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s - yet Australia's Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are falling over themselves trying to outdo each other in their enthusiasm for it, even though a majority of Australians think Australia should pull out. There will be a lot more lives lost, including those of Australian soldiers, before the Invaders declare victory and depart, whereupon the Taliban will take their country back. And it is their country, not ours. I detest their policies, but overthrowing them should not be anyone's business but the people of Afghanistan. As it happens, everything - e.g. conditions for women, heroin production - is far worse now than it was before the invasion, despite the huge expenditure of money and blood. And getting worse ...

* A couple of days ago Australian coloratura soprano Dame Joan Sutherland passed away. There have been many tributes from opera-lovers all over the world, including some on an ABC News website. Peter of Mitcham, for example, wrote:

Goodbye Dame Joan. What an outstanding Australian!!! We will all miss you. Condolences to her family and friends. There are some people that we really just can't afford to lose and I believe Joan Sutherland was indeed one of those.

This is typical of the adulation and respect shown in the published tributes. There was one, however, who chose the occasion to contribute the following:

A great performer and, I'm sure, a wonderful woman in all sorts of ways. But I don't recall her ever singing any Australian music - she limited herself to European music of the 18th and 19th centuries instead. Why? I wonder. She could have made an enormous contribution to Australian composition, for the benefit of all.

This attracted various attacks e.g.

Australian parochialism has such a monumentally bad sense of timing!


To read the criticisms that some ... have made on the passing of this great Australian makes one ashamed to be an Australian and goes to the heart of what is wrong with this country ... It is little wonder that anyone of intelligence or artistic ability feels that they have to get out of Australia in order to be recognised and encouraged and, when they achieve the greatest feats, as Dame Joan did, they get carping and criticism - even (with the most grotesque bad taste) on the day their death is announced.

The Australian parochial responded:

I don't think it's parochial to ask that Australian performers at least investigate the music of Australian composers. It's partly about helping to strengthen the culture from which one comes. And giving a helping hand to fellow musicians. "Buy Australian"! As for timing, when is the right time? In a week? A month? There's never a good time to make a plea on behalf of culture in this country.

Fair enough, in my opinion.

* In a discussion on Facebook this morning, someone posted the following:

Surely it is the composer's responsibility to approach artists/orchestras with their works and not the other way round, it is implausible to suggest that one must procure an interest before the production of a work.

to which I replied:

It is implausible to suggest that a composer will spend three months, say, of her/his life working for no fee on a piece that may have no hope of performance. There is usually at least an expression of interest, if not a commission, from a performer that implies a commitment to perform the piece. For existing pieces, there is the Australian Music Centre: the pieces are lodged there, and performers are welcome to browse the collection in search of something they may like to perform.

It's humiliating for a composer to go cap in hand to performers asking that they deign look at a score of hers/his. And it can be very expensive: I have spent thousands of dollars sending scores to performers, rarely receiving even an acknowledgement. I now rarely bother, simply accepting that most performers have no concept of the need to help develop local culture or to give a helping hand to struggling composers - they unthinkingly perform music by 200-year-old dead white European males, thus helping to perpetuate classical music's grip on "music-lovers" and arts funding ...

* My lyricist/librettist Peter Wesley-Smith is currently lecturing at universities in South East Asia.

* This coming Saturday the a cappella vocal group I sing in and direct, The Thirsty Night Singers, is performing at a private recital by brilliant harpist Alice Giles. Our bracket might include - if we get it together in time - a new arrangement I did recently of an old kids' song of mine called Shut the Gate.

* Saturday October 9 2010:

Yesterday I attended a funeral service, at Batemans Bay Baptist Church, for my aunt Sheila Draper - anthropologist, author, ethnographer, linguist, and, with her husband Norm, pioneering Baptist missionary in Papua New Guinea and West Papua. She died last Sunday, aged 88. She was born Sheila Wesley-Smith, the same name that my mother acquired when she married my father.

Amongst the many tributes received was one from Tim Flannery and this one (excerpt) from Andrew Pawley, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, Australian National University, Canberra:

It is not often that you hear anthropologists praising missionaries, but clearly Professor Bulmer thought very highly of the Baiyer River Baptists, both for their medical work and for their attitude towards and interest in the culture and language of the Kyaka. He had in mind, in particular, Norm and Sheila Draper.

Sheila let me use some of her photographs in my audio-visual piece Papua Merdeka. Click on the photo above to see her at a Baptist Mission station at Tiom.

* Rachel Tolmie (oboe) and Rachel Scott (cello) have recently recorded for CD release my Intervention, originally for soprano & cello, then arranged for clarinet, then flute, then oboe. It's a simple little piece consisting of one of the Minuets from J. S. Bach's Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 with a melody of mine played on top, in the tradition of the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria.

* Yesterday would've been John Lennon's 70th birthday. It's interesting that in 1972 the Nixon White House - infuriated by Lennon and Yoko Ono singing "Give Peace a Chance" at anti-war rallies, and suggesting people vote against Nixon - ordered that Lennon be deported. Various artists, including Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, wrote to the US immigration service on Lennon's behalf. See Bob Dylan's Defense of John Lennon by Jon Wiener, The Nation, Oct 9 2010.

* Tuesday October 5 2010:

Indiscriminate violence by Indonesian soldiers against West Papuan citizens continues:

Information has just been received from sources in Wamena that Indonesian security forces have shot dead three West Papuan men who were part of the newly formed civil people's guard. Members of Petapa, the indigenous non-violent security force formed by the Papuan Customary Council to protect West Papuan people engaging in peaceful free expression, were attempting to defuse a tense situation caused by an Indonesian police raid at 0800 local time this morning.

A crowd had gathered outside the Jayawijaya Police headquarters peacefully but vibrantly demanding the return of uniforms and legally approved paraphernalia for the Petapa, or Regional Indigenous Council Civil Bodyguard. Police officers escalated the situation without warning and with full force, as they came running from the Police office firing live rounds into the air and at the crowd according to witnesses interviewed by a local human rights team today.

ISMAIL LOKOBAL, 34, died after being shot in the heart outside the local DAP (Dewan Adat Papua, or Papuan Customary Council) office. POLRI officers had chased the crowd, firing indiscriminately toward them, and chased down most of the victims as they attempted to seek refuge in the DAP office ...

from West Papua: Indonesia shoots three community security guards in Wamena on Pacific Scoop by Nick Chesterfield, West Papua Media Alerts


Yesterday, Dumma Socratez Sofyan Yoman, President of the Fellowship of Baptist Churches of Papua, issued a press release in Jayapura decrying the continuing violence committed by the security police. He was a good friend of my aunt, the late Sheila Draper.

* Sunday October 3 2010:

At 5 o'clock this morning, my Aunt Sheila - Sheila Draper - was "called home", as she would have put it. For many years a Baptist missionary in West Papua and Papua New Guinea, she'd been looking forward to being with her Maker and being reunited with her mother, husband Norm, son John and others. A funeral service is being planned for Friday in Batemans Bay (I'll post details here when I have them).

* Saturday October 2 2010:

Yesterday my beautiful Aunt Sheila - Sheila Draper - suffered a massive stroke. She is not expected to survive the weekend. Watch this space for updates on her condition ...

* I've just spent another few days working at the National Film & Sound Archive in Canberra, going through and identifying materials of mine that I've deposited there. A short article of mine, with a couple of photos, appears on the NFSA blog (scroll down the page).

* On Thursday I drove from Canberra to Sydney to attend my son Jed's birthday party. His 40th (crikey!). His old funk band The Strange re-formed for the evening - first time they'd played together in 13 years ...

* Today (Saturday), which is brother Rob's birthday (he's currently working on projects in East Timor), I went to the opening, in Goulburn, of a marvellous exhibition of photographs taken by Jonny Lewis in Kiribati, a collection of islands and coral atolls that is already being devastated by the effects of global warming. We're talking about collaborating on an audio-visual piece next year sometime ...

* We have here at the moment two young German WWOOFers, Greta and Leonie. Together we've got the covered garden going again ...

* In an article - Iraq: The Age of Darkness - published today in T r u t h o u t, Dirk Adriaensens quotes William Blum:

No American should be allowed to forget that the nation of Iraq, the society of Iraq, have been destroyed, ruined, a failed state. The Americans, beginning 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, killed wantonly, tortured ... the people of that unhappy land have lost everything - their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children to pick them up.

The other day, American General Ray Odierno said that the American invasion "was for the shared ideals of freedom, liberty and justice" ...

* Tuesday September 21 2010:

Cellist Rachel Scott played my Jerrinja on her two sold-out Bach in the Dark concerts last weekend in the crypt of St James church in Sydney. Apparently it went well and the audience, as a whole, loved it.

* My favourite Snarkologist, Mahendra Singh, writes in his Just the Place for a Snark Blogspot (May 25 2010):

The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the snarks!

I can assure all North American Snarkologists that this delightful piece [Boojum!] is of ... high caliber and well worth the trip to Chicago [see here for information about a forthcoming production there]. The musical's post-colonic epithet of Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll is a pretty fair summation of things, an intermingling of Snarkian and Alician themes with semi-comic relief provided by those two indefatigable fixtures of High Nonsense, Messers Dodgson and Carroll. Unlike Mike Batt's Snark (a rather turgid affair redolent of Lewis Carroll in his brief arena-rock phase), the Wesley-Smith Bros. possess the good sense to keep things light, yet never mawkish. Both lyrics and scoring are subtle enough to let Carroll's theatrical mojo work on its own, for both the Snark and the Alice books are deeply imbued with the ritual and structure of the theater and the musical builds upon that very well. And frankly, the lyrics are quite funny and the music is genuinely fun to listen to, all of it done without insulting your intelligence or even arousing the wrath of the genuinely devoted Carrollian.

CDs of the musical are available here ...


Rehearsals are starting in Chicago this week.

* Monday September 13 2010:

I'm in Canberra, working at the National Film & Sound Archive. Amongst other things I'll be identifying bits of the NFSA's collection of some of my audio-visual materials, particularly those to do with my involvement in the East Timor cause.

Today I made a contribution to the NFSA's blog:

The inspiration for many of my compositions, especially my audio-visual pieces, has been the situation in East Timor from 1975 on. Having deposited most of my old audio-visual materials in the vaults of the NFSA, with more to come, I'm now spending time here identifying the components of the collection and writing notes to put it all into perspective. These will eventually be available on line.

I first got involved in the East Timor cause after Indonesia invaded in 1975 (before that I was as concerned as many other Australians about the deaths of five journalists working for Australian television companies - the so-called Balibo Five). I started attending demos, writing letters to newspapers and politicians, and generally being an activist. But there was a limit to my involvement, for I was in a busy job (I was Lecturer in Electronic Music at what subsequently became the Sydney Conservatorium of Music), I had a young family, I was working on renovating a house, and I was trying to make my way as a composer. Partly as a way of maximising my time, I put my composition and my activism together, in 1977 coming up with Kdadalak (For the Children of Timor), for prepared piano, percussion, tape & transparencies.

Ultimately, though, for me to write powerful music I needed to be powerfully inspired by something. I still do. Learning about the massacres of Timorese citizens, about a country denied its fundamental right of self-determination, about the plunder of Timorese possessions and resources, about my government's complicity in the invasion and occupation of this "isle of fear", and so on, was the inspiration I needed for a dozen or so Timor pieces over the next quarter of a century.

Art and politics: there are countless examples of songs, "political" pieces, poems, films, photographs, plays, art-works etc created about particular situations. Very few of them have had, by themselves, much influence in effecting change, but occasionally the sum of many of them has had resounding success. I believe this was the case with pro-East Timor artistic and other activism between 1975 and 1999, especially in the dark days of the 1980s. The efforts of activists kept the issue alive when most countries wanted the situation - and the Timorese people - buried. Indonesia was too powerful, and too important to the West (and many non-Western countries), not to be appeased.

Timorese poet Francisco Borja da Costa (murdered by Indonesian troops in 1975) wrote that streams coming together become rivers and that rivers oppose whatever stands in their way. My Timor pieces were mere streams, but they came together with art-works by others, helping to create a river of change for East Timor. People power!

I hope that in my time at the NFSA I'll be able to document all my Timor pieces and explain what lay behind each one.

Tomorrow night I'm gonna be at a private function in Canberra listening to composer Elena Kats-Chernin play a piano piece she has just composed. The Australia Ensemble is playing a miniature of hers at a free lunchtime concert at the University of New South Wales in Sydney (Clancy Auditorium, 1.10pm). Also on the program: miniatures by Ross Edwards, Andrew Ford, Matthew Hindson, Raf Marcellino, Peter Sculthorpe and me (my Intervention, for clarinet & cello).

* Wednesday September 08 2010:

It's too early to know for sure, but yesterday's final outcome of Australia's recent federal election might be very good news for this country. A coalition between the Australian Labor Party, the Greens, and three independents has meant that Prime Minister Julia Gillard has kept her job. She is the first female Prime Minister ever to be elected in Australia.

There's a spirit of bipartisanship - actually, multi-partisanship - in Australia at the moment, although one can't imagine it lasting for very long (till this afternoon, perhaps?). The inclusion in government of several politicians of principle - e.g. Adam Bandt, Rob Oakshott and Andrew Wilkie - suggests that we might make some progress on various key issues ...

* Last night I attended a public meeting presenting information about a Kangaroo Valley rezoning proposal designed to allow developer The Colys Group to build a housing estate that would double the population of Kangaroo Valley village. There are so many things about the proposal that simply don't add up, but for some reason Shoalhaven Council seems to be seriously considering it. They can expect a full-on fight with local residents alarmed at the rustic beauty and charm of this unique valley being destroyed.

* My vocal group The Thirsty Night Singers is busy rehearsing for our bracket at the 2010 Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival on Oct 23. We'll be contributing to a choral concert that includes local groups The Berry Choir, Food of Love and Raised Voices.

That's Thirsty soprano Nell Britton at left.

* Have just come across an old review of a piece of mine that I don't recall seeing before. It's of a Charisma CD (Great White Noise: GWN002) that includes White Knight & Beaver, for one or two instruments & CD. Here are excerpts from the review by David Sudmalis:

Title: Charisma
Performers: Roslyn Dunlop (clarinet), Julia Ryder ('cello), David Vance (piano)
Genre: Classical. New Music.

... The repertoire presented on this disc is a collection of works drawn across numerous musical styles: from Paul Hindemith's light hearted miniatures Musikalisches Blumengartlein und Leyptziger Allerley, to the harmonic simplicity and rhythmic verve of Stephen Ingham's Verfranzt, and the timbral and ensemble possibilities in Martin Wesley-Smith's electro-acoustic famous work White Knight and Beaver ... an excellent collection of performances superbly captured in the studio and rendered on disc. Excellent balance, tone colour, space and spread make the disc a pleasure to listen to. I found the Julia Ryder's 'cello performance in Ingham's Frampton Elegy 2001 incredibly moving - the most delicate pizzicato, the most rapturous arco and the most subtle sul ponticello are represented here alongside some sensitive ensemble playing. Another work I particularly enjoyed was Howard Skempton's evocation of space and time in Surface Tension. The aural simplicity of the work belies the intense nature of its performance - this intensity is palpably captured by the ensemble.

Skempton's more serious miniatures are well contrasted with the final selection on the disc: Wesley-Smith's White Knight and Beaver. Perhaps something of a standard in the electro-acoustic repertoire, the work has lost none of its personable humour, vitality and playfulness, and is expertly managed by Charisma. Delicate and precise instrumental articulation match the 'sometimes humour/sometimes fury' of the tape part resulting in a performance that successfully captures and projects the eclectic nature of the composer.

This disc would be a valuable addition to those interested in expert ensemble playing with a focus on the more accessible music written in the twentieth century. Fine performances excellently recorded equal a disc worthy of listening.


White Knight and Beaver (1985) was a study for a much larger work, Boojum!, which will shortly be produced in Chicago by Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard. Click here for details.

* Sunday September 05 2010:

I'm a great fan of independent news-and-comment publications that are available on line, my favourites being Truthout, Tom Feeley's Information Clearing House (click here to subscribe), David Michael Green's The Regressive Antidote (subscribe), and TomDispatch ("A Regular Antidote to the Mainstream Media"). This morning another one, Reader Supported News, brought me an excellent article from ("Independent Investigative Journalism Since 1995") titled How the Right Still Frames Iraq, by Robert Parry (Sept 01 2010). Sometimes readers' comments on these sites are as interesting as the articles. I liked one (see excerpt below) by Daniel Fletcher, commenting on Parry's piece:

I used to ask: "What would winning (so called) look like in Iraq, or Afghanistan for that matter?". To my horror I have an answer. Winning in Iraq has meant destroying its' infrastructure so completely that it may take decades to rebuild; so destabilizing the region that any hope for durable peace in the middle east has been destroyed; that terrorism and rising Islamic fundamentalism is a certainty; that we have become reviled to the point that we are beyond redemption; that we toppled a tyrant at the expense of leaving the country we occupied in far worse shape than before we attacked. See? This is what "winning" looks like. We get to be the baddest sob's on earth; get to wear our arrogance like a medal; get to shield ourselves with the lie of exceptionalism; lose any capacity for shame and get to inflict our friends with DU poisoning forever. And we call it patriotism. Gotta love it!

In an article about former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on, Powell said he believes that "... the Iraq War -- which began while he was in office in 2003 -- could have been averted":

Had it been proven that Iraq had no WMD before the outbreak of hostilities, "My own judgment is that the United States would not have gone to war because it was WMD that was the basis of the resolution we got from the United Nations; it was the basis that President Bush took to the American people," said Powell. The former secretary also stated that as he, President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress all acted in the belief the intelligence was valid, the invasion of Iraq was legal.


What? If you choose to believe obvious lies presented by politicised intelligence agencies then it's legal to go off to war, cause the deaths of over a million people, and trash a country?

Comments from readers include the following:

There were dissenters in the intelligence community and the weapons inspectors did not agree with Powell and the administration. None of that mattered to Powell and the Neocons ...

Scott Ritter was up here in Albany telling everyone who would listen the scientific reasons why there were no WMD. All of what he said turned out to be true.

Powell was lying then; he is lying now. One of the few truthful things he said is he did not make up the intelligence. True, it was made up by others in the Bush administration. Powell just parroted the lies. And that absolves him, or mitigates his responsibility how exactly?

What a mealy-mouthed excuse! He lied to the UN and KNEW he was lying. He knew that Saddam had caved in and offered totally free access for inspectors. He knew Hans Blix had urged time and resources to follow that up-. He knew his own crowd brushed Blix aside. If he and they had really thought there were WMDs they'd have called Saddam's bluff and if there were WMDs Blix's team would have found them and they could have been seized, averting war, mass murder, occupation and the reward of geostrategic advantage. When the Germans and Japanese committed aggression the ringleaders were hanged for this war crime. By the same token Bush, Cheney, Blair and Howard - and Powell - deserve to hang.

* Today is Fathers' Day. Later: it was incredibly windy, with trees down all over the Shoalhaven and a power blackout that lasted most of the day. Not being able to use my computer I thought I was justified, it being Fathers' Day, and me being a father and all, in sneaking back to bed for a nap. When I woke up the power was still off, so I spent several hours in the garden, weeding, composting, planting ...

* Saturday September 04 2010:

My piece Jerrinja Song (1999), for singing cellist, will be performed by Rachel Scott on her next Bach in the Dark concert (7pm Sat Sept 18 2010 in the Crypt, St James Church, King Street, Sydney). The blurb says:

Cellist Rachel Scott is joined by guitarist Raffaele Agostino for this, the third in a series of four concerts. Enjoy an hour of great music and wine in an intimate and engaging listening environment. Programme includes: J S Bach, Erik Satie, Heitor Villa Lobos & Richard Charlton. Tickets $25 - includes glass of wine (or non-alcoholic beverage). Tickets strictly limited - call (02) 9943-2077 for advance booking.

Here are my notes for Jerrinja Song:

In preparing to compose this piece I came across the following statement by Delia Lowe, Co-ordinator of the Jerrinja Land Council:

A Gentle Reminder from the Owners of the Land

For thousands and thousands of years, Koories have lived and hunted around Beecroft Peninsula and Wreck Bay, and down in the valley submerged by the ocean that is now called Jervis Bay.

For all those years we have cared for our land and its sites, for it is Koori belief that the land falls into ruin if the sites are not properly cared for.

Now we, the Jerrinja people, have put in a claim on our traditional land on Beecroft Peninsula. Gubbahs - even our friends - come and ask us what we will do with the land when it is ours once again.

That is a Gubbah question! Land is not always something to be used or something that you do things to. Sometimes it is special land and it is enough to be part of it, to be one with it.

We sometimes look in wonder at the way Gubbahs rush around organising everything. Sometimes they even take upon themselves the responsibility of talking on our behalf without coming and consulting with us first.

We do not doubt their good intentions and we value their support. But Gubbahs, without being aware of what they are doing, have a way of trying to take from Koories what belongs to us - our struggle for our land! Over the years, we have seen this happen time and time again.

Perhaps what Gubbahs do not understand is that all things happen in their own good time. There is a time to move quickly, and a time to rest with the land while you learn what it wants of you next.

The Land and the sea, and all they hold, move with their own rhythm. The wattle blooms and the salmon travels. Koories move in much the same way.

What we expect of Gubbahs is that they recognise that the land is ours and Jervis Bay is ours - and that they learn to work in harmony with the land and sea - and us!

KOORIES: The word we use for ourselves, the people who came here first, in the Dreamtime.

GUBBAHS: The word we use for the people who started coming here 200 years ago.

This piece, which was written to accompany an exhibition of photographs of Jervis Bay by Belinda Webster, and wood sculptures by Ole Nielsen, reflects a Gubbah's appreciation of this stunningly beautiful area on the New South Wales south coast. The main motive came from Belinda's photographs of undulating sand patterns.

Last Sunday there was a performance of my piece White Knight & Beaver by clarinettist Ros Dunlop and cellist Julia Ryder at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Unfortunately I was unable to get there, but I've heard that the concert - featuring works by "Composers from the Illawarra" (Wollongong area) - went very well. Other composers represented included Michael Barkl, Houston Dunleavy and Steve Ingham. Houston and Steve teach in the Music Department in the Faculty of Creative Arts of the University of Wollongong - but not for much longer: the department is being scrapped and they, along with Warren Burt, my ex-colleague Greg Schiemer and others are wondering what to do next ...

* Friday September 03 2010:

Last Monday I helped out at an audio-visual performance by students at SCEGGS Redlands, a secondary school in Sydney. The music teacher who herded the cats and eventually got it all together is Struan Smith, whom I knew way back at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He took on too much, of course, but for events like this unless you do then usually not a lot happens. In the end, an interesting collection of impressive original works was marred by technical hiccups, but the enterprise was well worth doing ...

* The other day I arranged a kids' song I wrote back in 1979 - Shut the Gate - for a cappella choir (SATB) and tried it through with The Thirsty Night Singers. We'll have another go at it at our next rehearsal - if it goes well then we'll include it in our bracket at the 2010 Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival (Oct 23).

Cinematic hopeful Patsy Radic (right) is one of our altos. See the film review below.

The current issue of the Kangaroo Valley Voice contains a review, by Ken Park, of the recent Eighth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, which I organised:

Blair's Pills Hit the Spot

Are we witnessing a Kangaroo Valley-led resurgence in the Australian film industry? If the success of Libby Turnock's "Blair's AntiBilious Pills" is anything to go by, perhaps so!

The movie was premiered at the Eighth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, held last month in Kangaroo Valley Hall. Members of the audience hooted with laughter as they watched various local thespians demonstrating the effectiveness of this magic cure-all.

Whoever knew that Dan the Chemist was capable of such a sensitive portrayal of ... well, of Dan the Chemist? We look forward to his next role (rumoured to be in a local re-make of "Gone With the Wind").

Sarah Butler's movie "Plumbing the Depths", made for a trivia night a couple of years ago, saw the triumphant big-screen debuts of cinematic hopefuls Patsy Radic and Gary Thomas. It was a brief but entertaining examination of the perils of employing cowboys with low-riding shorts to plug your leaks.

We also saw a selection of Australian cinema ads from the 1920s and two Buster Keaton movies: "The Haunted House" and the feature film "Three Ages". Both were hilarious, especially the former.

Tickling the ivories all night, as he does at this event every year, was the excellent pianist Robert Constable. What a wonderful contribution he makes! Each year he comes to Kangaroo Valley from Auckland to play, for no fee, to help our Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership raise money for its projects in East Timor.

This event started in 2003, with this year's edition being the eighth in a row. It has become a superb addition to the Kangaroo Valley cultural calendar, appreciated by all ages (including the large number of kids lying on the floor looking up at the screen).

Plans are already being made for more local contributions to next year's event, with Buster Keaton in grave danger of being upstaged. Australian movie-making is looking good!

* Saturday August 28 2010:

Came across the following in a blog by Jim Manning, dated Sunday February 8 2009:

Musical Memories

I was cruising the net and stumbled on this photo. They are the Wesley Three made up of The Wesley Smith Twins - Martin on the Right and Peter on the Left (I think - hey they were twins). The bloke in the middle is quite well known in this town he is Adelaide Media Personality Keith Conlon. All of them pretty good blokes to my memory.
It took me on a memory trip back about 45 years to the lunch time Music Club at School gathered around the Piano in Mr Winstanley's Music Room above the Bookshop.
Jimbo the 13 year old boy soprano and these much older schoolboys - well a lot of the songs that these guys went on to record were being bandied around the piano. They were fun songs and great fun to sing. Think they released about three albums as the Wesley Three and were generally very happy feel good type songs of the mid sixties. Probably the most contentious song was about the Voyager disaster when the Aircraft Carrier Melbourne and Voyager collided at sea with a number of casualties. The chorus went something like this "tell me why did they die tell me what for and how" aggressive stuff hey?
I still love my Music as I know these guys do too - very fond memories indeed of an era I love today.

Aaaaaaah .... the 60s ... Jim got it wrong: that's me on the left. Our group made four albums (so-called long-playing records, or LPs - large flat black round discs made of vinyl) on the CBS label. The song was The Voyager by Gary Shearston.

* Wednesday August 25 2010:

The Thirsty Night Singers' gig last week at River Music, presented by the Shoalhaven Folk Club, went very well, earning us an appreciative reception. Our new song Hey Ho Cook and Rowe, by Peggy Seeger, was particularly well received. We're now working towards an appearance at the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival, Oct 22-24 2010. We'll be sharing a concert - from 1pm to 3pm on Sat Oct 23 in Kangaroo Valley Hall - with local choirs Raised Voices, The Berry Choir, Food of Love and Malaika.

* Last Saturday I handed out Federal Election how-to-vote cards on behalf of the Greens at the Kangaroo Valley polling booth ...

* Sunday August 15 2010:

from The Suffering of Fallujah by Robert Koehler, Huffington Post, August 9 2010:

Along with whatever else we did to Fallujah ... we also, apparently, nuked the city, leaving a legacy of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality and genetic abnormality ...

To help clean up our legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam, for instance, Congress has appropriated $9 million since 2007. We sprayed 19 million gallons of this highly toxic defoliant on the country between 1962 and 1971, causing harm to at least 3 million Vietnamese in the process. Our sense of responsibility amounts to $3 per person. And such money becomes available only after decades of denial that we have any responsibility at all.

I think again about Fallujah. The city's suffering will haunt our national dreams for decades to come. It is our future. In a generation or so, our children will face the consequences of what we have done there; but in the meantime, we'll keep trying to buy "victory" and ultimate justification in multi-billion-dollar increments until our financial bankruptcy equals our moral bankruptcy.


My choral piece Who Killed Cock Robin? is about the use of DDT and the harmful effects it had on the environment. It also condemns, by implication, the use of such carcinogens as Agent Orange and depleted uranium.

* Friday August 13 2010:

Click here for details of performances in Chicago of Boojum!, Peter's and my full-length piece of choral music theatre about the life, work and ideas of Lewis Carroll. It's being put on by Chicago Opera Vanguard ("Venturesome music theatre troupe!" - Chicago Tribune). To read the libretto, click Act One, Act Two. Click on the pic at left for a larger image.

The vocal group I sing in and direct, The Thirsty Night Singers, is gearing up for a performance at River Music, 8pm Fri Aug 20, Nowra Golf Club, presented by the Shoalhaven Folk Club. We have an eclectic repertoire that will include, on the 20th, Hey Ho Cook and Rowe by Peggy Seeger, The Father's Song by her late husband Ewan MacColl, The Long and Winding Road by Lennon & McCartney, Sinead O'Connor's In This Heart, and the West Papuan anthem Hai Tanahku Papua. One of our members is Peter Morgan (right). Click on his pic to see the whole group.

* Monday August 9 2010:

Have been busy of late getting on last Saturday's The Eighth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, with pianist Robert Constable. A fund-raiser for student scholarships in East Timor, it was a great success, the hall ringing with laughter for most of the evening as Robert accompanied Keaton's 1923 feature film Three Ages, his 1921 short The Haunted House, a selection of Australian 1920s silent cinema ads, and a couple of ads made in Kangaroo Valley, including one for Blair's AntiBilious Pills. To see Diana Jaffray's poster for the event (880KB), click here. To view the printed program, click here.

* It's now less than two weeks before Australia votes in the Federal election. While the Australian Labor Party deserves to be trounced, the thought that the conservative coalition, under Tony Abbott, might regain government - a real possibility according to recent polls - is almost too much to bear. Support for the Greens, who have been polling well, has started to slip ...

* Wednesday July 21 2010:

I've just read a book - A Woman Among Warlords (Scribner, New York, 2009) - by Afghan human rights activist Malalai Joya. Elected to the Afghan parliament but suspended for upsetting powerful and corrupt warlords, the incredibly brave Ms Joya, who has survived several attempts on her life, must constantly be on the move as she works to promote true democracy, and women's rights, in Afghanistan. In this inspiring book, she is withering in her condemnation of the Western countries that invaded her country. One can only wish that politicians like Julia Gillard would read this book, for surely they would reconsider their policies and withdraw their troops immediately (although the other, hidden agendas at play would no doubt prevent this).

Conventional wisdom has always been that the Afghan war is a "good war" while Iraq is a "bad war". I don't believe that there was ever any reasonable justification for the invasion of either country. Both invasions were illegal under international law; each has been a disaster for the people and the invaders (especially American soldiers); the dollar cost has been huge; rather than reduce terrorism the invasions have increased it; in many areas the natural environment has been devastated; women's rights have gone backwards; heroin production has increased dramatically; there's now a refugee problem that didn't exist before ... and so on, yet still the USA pours in more troops. It is madness - criminal madness - yet the perpetrators, including the Australian Prime Minister at the time John Howard and his henchpeople, continue to escape sanctions.

* Monday July 19 2010:

Saturday was the tenth anniversary of my last day working at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where I established, and ran for twenty six years, its Electronic Music Studio. Getting the job there was one of the best things I ever did; leaving it was one of the next best things I ever did. I then moved to Kangaroo Valley - one of the most beautiful locations in New South Wales - where I compose, put on fund-raising concerts, keep a few stray animals (two horses, a donkey, an alpaca, six chooks, a duck, a dog etc) and attempt to grow vegetables ...

* The recent death of another friend of mine is a reminder me that whatever else happens, the Clock continues to tick ... Sydney lawyer Ken Tribe, who died the other day in his late 90s, was a great supporter of music in Australia, particularly of the chamber music organisation Musica Viva. I met him when I was a member of the Australia Council's Music Board, of which Ken was chairman, in the late 70s. A most charming and cheerful man, he was always ready to help any musician or composer with a legal (or other) problem. He will be greatly missed by many people.

* Nancy Frazier O'Brien, of the Catholic News Service, writes "The Vatican's decision to declare the attempted ordination of women a major church crime reflects 'the seriousness with which it holds offenses against the sacrament of holy orders' and is not a sign of disrespect toward women, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said July 15 ... The archbishop, who chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine, spoke at a news briefing in the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops hours after the Vatican issued new norms for handling priestly sex abuse cases and updated its list of the 'more grave crimes' against church law, including for the first time the 'attempted sacred ordination of a woman.'" It seems that attempting to ordane a woman is a crime as grave as raping her, or raping a child. Nice one, Pope! Ophelia Benson - a self-styled "great believer in the non sequitur" - has posted a suitably scornful response here (Butterflies & Wheels blog).

* Monday July 12 2010:

I was saddened to read the other day that English composer David Fanshawe died on July 5. I met him a few times when he lived for a while in Sydney in the late 80s, I think, and was impressed by his energy, his delightful eccentricity, and his innovative and idiosyncratic approach to, amongst other things, sound recording. His best-known work is African Sanctus, which has been performed many times all over the world. But ultimately he will be remembered mainly for his ethnomusicological recordings, particularly of the musical traditions of the Pacific.

Read a biographical blurb about him here.

* Thursday July 8 2010:

I'm currently organising The Eighth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, with pianist Robert Constable. A fund-raiser for student scholarships in East Timor, it will be at 7.30pm on Saturday August 7 in Kangaroo Valley Hall. To see Diana Jaffray's poster for the event (880KB), click here.

* Out of the woods: last Tuesday I had a PET scan at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. On Wednesday I took the results to oncologist Prof Philip Clingan in Wollongong. He concluded that there is no evidence of any cancer and that therefore there is no immediate need for further chemotherapy, although I will need to be monitored fairly closely for a while. Good news! I'm incredibly grateful for the excellent treatment and care I've received since this thing was diagnosed earlier this year. I still get tired easily, a result of a low haemoglobin count, which is a side effect of chemo. To push it back up I'm taking iron pills, amongst other things, and eating foods that have high iron content.

* Saturday July 3 2010:

I'm currently focussing again on Peter's and my full-length choral music theatre piece Boojum!, which is scheduled for a production in Chicago in November-December this year. Am re-digitizing the score. Boojum! was first produced, as a sort of musical comedy, by State Opera of South Australia at the 1986 Adelaide Festival of Arts. A subsequently re-written version has received several productions, including one by the Newcastle University Choir and a couple in the USA (La Jolla, Pasadena) during the 1990s. In 1991 it was brilliantly recorded for CD by the Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir, conducted by John Grundy (available for purchase here).

Last year a book by Anthony Steel, the Director of the 1986 Adelaide Festival, was published (Painful in Daily Doses, Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2009). He talks about this production of Boojum! and one in Brisbane in 1988. Now I have no wish to revive the bitter controversies of the early days of the work, but I vehemently disagree with almost everything he says and feel that I must defend myself. I will do this in detail elsewhere. For now let me say that Mr Steel had no direct experience of what he writes about, his claims are plain wrong, they are presented with zero evidence, and they are probably defamatory ...

* Thursday July 1 2010:

The on-line classical music site MusicWeb International contains a review, by Jonathon Woolf, of the Tall Poppies CD of my chamber music Merry-Go-Round. Read it here. Excerpts:

This disc of chamber music by Martin Wesley-Smith, who is both politically engaged (East Timor is an abiding focus) and a huge admirer of Lewis Carroll - the two being not mutually exclusive - attests to his consistently engaging musical ideas ... db is a tribute to Don Banks and references his music. It has a rather French feel in places - Poulenc and Francaix even, in terms of clarity - though the music is also infiltrated by more rhythmically brisk and jazz-like lines, before a genuinely funky jazz club workout emerges. Reich-like patterns also make an impression in the Pat-a-Cake second movement as do some jaunty Carroll inspired Edwardian moments too. There's plenty of dance and colour, plenty of wit and even drollery ... Written for clarinet, cello and CD (laptop and data projector, to be specific) Merry-Go-Round('s) ... powerful and arresting start leads onto more reflective, keening soliloquies for the clarinet and the evocative computerised sounds ... Snark-Hunting (is) full of fantasy and colour, brio and delightful sonorities ... Oom Pah Pah... is an engaging joie de vivre-filled opus. Finally there is fin/début (which) quotes Beethoven's Septet ... The second movement is a tribute to Peter Platt, a musical colleague, and is a melancholy elegy cum eulogy ...


Buy the CD here.

* Since I last blogged, Australia suddenly found itself with a new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. While I'm delighted that a woman has reached the pinnacle of politics here, I'm appalled at the ruthless way previous PM Kevin Rudd was rolled. While Rudd let us down badly in some areas, he did some great things and didn't deserve to lose his job just two and a half years into his first term.

One of the first things the new PM did was call President Obama to assure him that Australia was right behind the USA in the illegal occupation of Afghanistan, despite our rising casualty count. Then I saw one of our defence chiefs, Angas Houston, say on television that we're in Afghanistan partly because Australians were kiled in the 2002 Bali bombings. Er, why didn't we invade Bali, or Java, then? As far as I know there was no connection, other than an ideological one, between the Bali bombers and Al Quaeda in Afghanistan. At any rate, the war there is against the Taliban ... For an excellent read on the current state of things in Afghanistan, see Ann Jones' article Counterinsurgency Down for the Count in Afghanistan. Many more people - invaders and locals - will die before Obama and his sycophants manufacture a way to withdraw while claiming "peace with honour" ...

* Last Friday I went to see my oncologist, Prof Philip Clingan (based in Wollongong). Good news: he said that apart from some fluid in my right lung ("moderate right pleural effusion") my lungs are clear with no evidence of cancer cells there or anywhere else - although he recommends I have a PET scan (at RPA in Sydney) to be sure. I was worried about the increasing breathlessness I've been experiencing lately: he says that that's a result of a low haemoglobin count (due to the chemo) and that I should therefore take multivitamin pills and iron pills. There is no need at this stage for me to have any more chemo - hoooraaaaaay!! I went home, swallowed some vitamin pills and ate some red meat. It looks like I'm gonna live!

* Monday June 21 2010:

The CD Jewel, which includes a version of my Beta-Globin DNA, can be purchased through Move by clicking here. Beautifully performed by Beth Holowell (violin) and Robert Constable (piano), the CD also contains Winamin by Michael Whiticker, Sonata for Violin and Piano by Don Banks, Irkanda by Peter Sculthorpe, The Ludlow Lullabies by Vincent Plush, Sonata for Violin and Piano by Margaret Sutherland, and Jewel by Robert Constable.

* I'm organising this year's Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival, the eighth since we started doing 'em in 2003.

* Saturday June 19 2010:

Two letters of interest from today's Age newspaper (Melbourne):

1. Conroy's hypocrisy

JUST a few weeks ago, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy loudly attacked Google and Facebook for privacy invasions. Now Attorney-General Robert McClelland and internet providers are in secret negotiations with the aim of compiling records on all net users' web-browsing habits and emails, so police can have unbridled access for fishing expeditions.

We haven't heard a word from Senator Conroy about this gross invasion of privacy. Has he succumbed to political laryngitis?

Thos Puckett, Ashgrove, Qld

Australia's Labor Government deserves to be thrown out on its ear for even thinking of censoring the internet, or using it to snoop on its citizens, even though the alternative - Tony Abbott and the Liberal-National Pary Coalition - would, IMHO, be even worse ...

2. The West's hypocrisy, or Indonesia's many Bloody Sundays

THE British government's apology for the Bloody Sunday massacre in Ireland in 1972 has caught our attention. When will we heed the cry of the West Papuan political, cultural and church leaders who are waiting for justice for their countless Bloody Sundays?

Yale Law School's Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic has documented just one of these massacres. On July 6, 1998, Indonesian troops shot and raped civilians on the island of Biak and arbitrarily arrested and tortured more than 150. Many men like Nikodemus Smas, Daniel Mandowen and Ruben Orboy were beaten, shot and killed. Filip Karma was shot in both legs, beaten and is still in jail.

Women and girls like Martha Dimara were taken to one of the warships moored off Biak, where they were raped, beaten, mutilated and killed, then thrown into the sea where their bodies were recovered later. At least 38 bodies that could not be identified were recovered.

We won't hold our breath for Indonesia to conduct investigations; even now it is conducting "sweeping" operations in the highlands against its own citizens. More Bloody Sundays.

Peter Woods, Bittern

Meanwhile, the US-based ETAN (the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network) reports that the new Kopassus Number 2 helped form militia in East Timor in 1999:

James Dunn in a report to the UN wrote that Wioyotomo Nugroho "exercised a key responsibility in the TNI/militia command structure ... Militia witnesses allege that he issued orders to kill. Is accused of sexual attack on Timorese woman."

[US journalist] Allan Nairn told the US Congress on September 30, 1999, that "Nugroho, who was the on the ground coordinator for the militias in the initial months of their operation," was a graduate of U.S. IMET and intelligence training.

It seems that nothing changes for the better re the TNI and its murderous Kopassus.

* Friday June 18 2010:

Sheila Draper has made a strong recovery from surgery after she broke her hip in a fall, and has been transferred from Canberra Hospital to one near her home in Batemans Bay, NSW.

* I've started arranging, for choir, a cappella, a beautiful Ewan MacColl lullaby called The Father's Song with a view to our choir adding it to its repertoire. I found it in The Essential Ewan MacColl Songbook, compiled and edited by Peggy Seeger, Oak Publications 2001.

* Friday June 11 2010:

Yesterday was my twin brother and lyricist/librettist Peter's birthday. He's currently in Hong Kong on his way to London, where he will be doing research for a seminar paper he'll be giving in Hong Kong and Macau in October.

In November he and I will both be in Chicago for a production of our full-length work of choral music theatre Boojum!.

* On Wednesday I started the fourth and final course of the chemotherapy I've been having. Going OK.

* Yesterday my 88-year-old aunt, Sheila Draper, had a fall and broke her hip. She was operated on in Canberra Hospital, with little hope that she would survive - but she did. More news as it comes to hand ...

* I recently arranged a Peggy Seeger song, Hey Ho, Cook and Rowe!, for The Thirsty Night Singers (the vocal group I sing in and direct). We're hoping to perform at the Kangaroo Valley Folk Festival (22-24 October), so we need to develop a more folky repertoire.

* Tuesday June 1 2010:

Journalist Antony Lowenstein writes (Israel's Choice Is Clear, New Matilda, today):

I agree with the editorial in the Electronic Intifada that states "it is unclear how anyone could credibly adopt an Israeli narrative of 'self-defence' when Israel had carried out an unprovoked armed assault on civilian ships in international waters. Surely any right of self-defence would belong to the passengers on the ship."


Seems so to me.

I like this comment (edited) by hanthala is watching, today:

So old peace activists overwhelmed commandos and attacked them with band-aids and q-tips and thank jehovah that the commandos had submachine guns to protect themselves ...

In a nut shell: special forces armed to the teeth attacked an unarmed civilian ship loaded with medicine, food, water, cement, water purifiers etc in international waters sailing to break an illegal siege, attacked, killed, kidnapped and then hijacked the vessels to their own port while blacking out all communication. I thought piracy was illegal?

Not all supporters of Israel are happy with this latest outrage by its government. The Australian Jewish Democratic Society writes on its website, today:

The terrible and deplorable deaths and injuries that occurred on board the Turkish flagged ship, the Mavi Marmara, one of a convoy of ships attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, are not only heartbreaking for the immediate families of the nine people killed and the many injured, but a tragedy for all people who yearn for a resolution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.


This situation is a disaster from every point of view. It's difficult to see how Israel can come out of it with its head held high - except that it will, with the might and hypocrisy of the USA ensuring business as usual.

Sydney's rabidly right-wing tabloid The Daily Telegraph did not even mention the massacre in its on-line edition today, preferring stories about brutal schoolgirls going wild, Jackman being almost stripped on stage, and the heavily tattooed woman who had an affair with Sandra Bullock's husband stripping for a web site dedicated to infidelity. ABC and SBS television news covered the story last night but in a most unbalanced way. Sydney activist Dr Vacy Vlazna wrote to the SBS News Desk:

Last night's news coverage of the Aid Flotilla massacre by Israeli commandos was shameful and blatant pro-Israeli bias:

* It provided to the most rabid Israeli officials ample time to deliver their horrendous lies
* It did not interview any of the organizers of the flotilla
* It did not mention that the convoy includes 35 European parliamenterians, a Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivors
* It did not mention that it received the backing of eminent world figures
* It did not mention that the attacked ships were in international waters
* It did not mention that the blockade of Gaza is illegal

Clearly, none of you, including the ABC News, has the integrity or journalistic professionalism to demand that you present the truth to the Australian people.

Only Kerry O'Brien on the 7.30 Report had the integrity to challenge the appalling Israeli spin.

In utter disgust ...

Tonight's SBS News featured a long interview with an Israeli government spokesperson but no comparable interview allowing the Palestinian position to be aired. Democracy cannot function properly when important news is either unavailable or heavily slanted. Australia's news media move inexorably to the right. Meanwhile, independent media such as New Matilda can no longer afford to keep publishing. We're in dire straits.

* The new CD, Bolmimerie, by the Seven Harp Ensemble (SHE) has attracted its first review in print. Patricia Kelly, of Brisbane's Courier Mail, wrote on May 22:

It is immensely satisfying ... that the number seven became so significant in the literature and mythology of so many world cultures, impossible to enumerate here. (Alice) Giles and her team of seven have captured this perfectly, from naming the disc and opening its program with Bolmimerie by French-born composer Carlos Salzedo, who created a seven-member Salzedo Harp Ensemble in 1917, to commissioning pieces by Australian composers including Sevenfold Amen by Sharon Calcraft and Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo, a poignant lament for their men lost at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, written by Martin and Peter Wesley Smith and sung by The Thirsty Night Singers. An assortment of more familiar fare including Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, a setting of Malaguena by Ernesto Lecuona and Rhumba by Salzedo leads to the serenity and simplicity of Pavane, a perfect close.


The CD is available via mail order from the Tall Poppies website.

* Monday May 31 2010:

My brother Rob Wesley-Smith, who lives in Darwin, was recently given an award by the Timor-Leste parliament in recognition of his years as an activist working towards self-determination for the East Timorese people. A supporter wrote to him:

I was very pleased to read that the TL government has officially recognised the work you did for so many years in support of the people of East Timor. It is high time that they did recognise this work, which was so critical to achieving the final victory in 1999. I differentiate your activist contribution from that of others. Others did their bit, others were committed, others made a difference. Your work however had two conspicuous hallmarks, first that it was long-lasting, that is from 1975 to 1999, from beginning to end, and second that it was intensive, that is 7 days a week for 24 years. I don't know of anyone else who put in so much work or had such an effect on government and popular opinion.

I dislike Honours and the accompanying Congratulations that go with them. We work for justice and for people, no matter the outcome, win or lose. However I am pleased that the Timorese officially feel grateful to people outside their country, and understand the huge contribution that outsiders made. You were, amongst the pro-Timor activists of the world, primus inter pares. Nobody else made a greater contribution.

Quite a wrap! And thoroughly deserved.

* The news today of Israel boarding the Freedom Flotilla, with the deaths of up to nineteen of the activists on board, is almost unbelievable. No doubt a lot of the story will be revealed over the next day or two, but for now it seems to me that if you're on a boat in international waters which is suddenly stormed by soldiers dropping from helicopters, you have a right to defend yourself. Surely?

See Israeli Commandos Kill Gaza Aid Volunteers (Truthout).

You can read Gilad Atzmon's take on the situation here. Excerpts:

As I write this piece the scale of the Israeli lethal slaughter at sea is yet to be clear. However we already know that at around 4am Gaza time, hundreds of IDF commandos stormed the Free Gaza international humanitarian fleet. We learn from the Arab press that at least 16 peace activists have been murdered and more than 50 were injured. Once again it is devastatingly obvious that Israel is not trying to hide its true nature: an inhuman murderous collective fuelled by a psychosis and driven by paranoia ... What happened yesterday wasn't just a pirate terrorist attack. It was actually murder ... The massacre was a premeditated Israeli operation. Israel wanted blood because it believes that its 'power of deterrence' expands with the more dead it leaves behind. The Israeli decision to use hundreds of commando soldiers against civilians was taken by the Israeli cabinet together with the Israeli top military commanders. What we saw yesterday wasn't just a failure on the ground. It was actually an institutional failure of a morbid society that a long time ago lost touch with humanity ...


Israeli journalist Uri Avnery in Gush Shalom:

This night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, BBC:

I am profoundly shocked by the tragic consequences of the Israeli military operation against the peace flotilla for Gaza. Nothing can justify the use of violence such as this, which we condemn. The circumstances of this drama must be fully brought to light and we wish for a thorough inquiry to be put in place without delay.

Israeli Prime Minister's Spokesperson Mark Regev, BBC:

Though our naval servicemen were instructed to exercise maximum restraint, they were attacked. They were attacked with knives, with iron clubs, and also with live fire. We have unfortunately 10 servicemen injured, one of them very, very seriously. The violence was initiated unfortunately by these activists, and this is regrettable.

* Bruce King, a New Zealand friend of mine, died on Saturday after "a short but intense battle with cancer over the past three months". I say "friend", but in fact I met him just once, at his and Jessica's place in Takaka, South Island (I stayed there a few years ago while touring New Zealand with clarinettist Ros Dunlop giving concerts of my audio-visual works): on first meeting it was as if we'd known each other for years. He was a Renaissance Man, with many skills and interests, including a deep love of music. My sincere condolences to his family.

* Friday May 28 2010:

Jazz saxophonist and political activist Gilad Atzmon writes, May 27:

Haaretz reports today that Israel will attempt to block the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla heading toward Gaza. However, according to the Israeli paper, the humanitarian cargo would then be unloaded, inspected and sent to Gaza overland via the United Nations.

Typical for Israel, it tries to win a lost battle. On the one hand, by stopping the flotilla Israel attempts to maintain its regional status as an omnipotent super power that controls the land, the air and the sea. On the other hand, the Jewish state pathetically also wants to evoke sympathy for being 'sensitive' to humanitarian issues and the Palestinian plight ...


* The seven-person vocal group I sing in and direct, The Thirsty Night Singers, is currently exploring new repertoire. Last night we started on Lennon and McCartney's The Long and Winding Road. We're shortly going to re-visit Billiards, which is one of Peter's and my conservation songs. Arranged for six voices a cappella, it is available as a free download here (pdf, one page).

* Tuesday May 25 2010:

Martin Gardner - "American mathematics and science writer specializing in recreational mathematics, but with interests encompassing micromagic, stage magic, lieterature (especially the writings of Lewis Carroll), philosophy, scientific scepticism, and religion" - died on May 22 aged 95. "He wrote the Mathematical Games column in Scientific American from 1956 to 1981, and published over 70 books", including The Annotated Alice, which first got me in Carroll's world, and The Annotated Snark, which was a direct influence on and major source for Peter's and my full-length choral music theatre piece Boojum!.

Richard Dawkins writes:

Martin Gardner (1914-2010) was one of the great heroes of the American sceptical movement ... During his last year I was privileged to visit him, in his retirement home in Norman, Oklahoma. He was old and frail, but immensely lively, and brimming with youthful intelligence and curiosity. His room was filled with puzzles and illusions, with which he delighted in teasing me ...

Rest in peace, good old man.


[read more here]

Also on that page a tribute by "that other luminary of the sceptical movement, James Randi", in which Randi writes "That man was one of my giants, a very long-time friend of some 50 years or so", and one by Douglas Hofstadter, "author of Godel, Escher, Bach and other remarkable books":

This is really a sad day. Not so much sad that Martin died, since we all knew it had to come pretty soon, but sad because his spirit was so important to so many of us, and because he had such a profound influence on so many of us. He is totally unreproducible -- he was sui generis -- and what's so strange is that so few people today are really aware of what a giant he was in so many fields -- to name some of them, the propagation of truly deep and beautiful mathematical ideas (not just "mathematical games", far from it!), the intense battling of pseudoscience and related ideas, the invention of superb magic tricks, the love for beautiful poetry, the fascination with profound philosophical ideas (Newcomb's paradox, free will, etc. etc.), the elusive border between nonsense and sense, the idea of intellectual hoaxes done in order to make serious points (for example, one time, at my instigation, he wrote a scathing review of his own book "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener" in "The New York Review of Books", and the idea was to talk about the ideas seriously even though he was attacking the ideas that he himself believed in), and on and on and on and on. Martin Gardner was so profoundly influential on so many top-notch thinkers in so many disciplines -- just a remarkable human being -- and at the same time he was so unbelievably modest and unassuming. Totally. So it is a very sad day to think that such a person is gone, and that so many of us owe him so much, and that so few people -- even extremely intelligent, well-informed people -- realize who he was or have even ever heard of him. Very strange. But I guess that when you are a total non-self-trumpeter like Martin, that's what you want and that's what you get. And so perhaps it's all for the best that he remains sort of hidden behind the scenes, known only to a special set of people ...

* A delightful source of interesting takes on Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark can be found on Montreal, Quebec, illustrator Mahendra Singh's website, where he busily fits Lewis Carroll into a protosurrealist straitjacket with matching dada cufflinks.

* I was delighted to receive an email the other day from a specialist music teacher at a New South Wales primary school asking for permission to change a few words in Peter's and my song I Wish I Wasn't Me. This is prior to a performance by one of the school choirs at the local Eisteddfod. One of the verses says "I wish I was Princess Diana", which has not, of course, been appropriate for some years now ...

I can't resist quoting this line from the email: "Thank you for writing songs such as this - they really do have a real musical quality and depth that is not found in a lot of repertoire today."

* Yesterday I had dose 2 of course 3 of the chemotherapy I'm currently having: so far so good, with minimal side FX. My final course - course 4 - starts in a couple of weeks' time.

* Sunday May 9 2010: From a Chicago press release:

Boojum! (Nonsense, Truth, and Lewis Carroll)

Presented by Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard Media Opening: Thursday, November 18, at 7:30 pm November 16 - December 19, 2010 Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm

No performance on Thursday November 25, due to the Thanksgiving holiday
Additional matinee performance on Saturday, November 27, at 2 pm
Post-show Discussion following the Thursday, December 2, performance Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph Street

Tickets: $25 general admission; $15 for seniors and students; $15 for previews (11/16 & 11/17) or (312) 742-TIXS (8497)

"For the Snark was a Boojum, you see," sets the stage for this fun-filled romp through the mind of writer Lewis Carroll. Part existential musical theatre and part fantasy adventure story, this riff on Carroll's epic poem "The Hunting of the Snark" examines the psychological life of Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the man behind the Lewis Carroll pen name. As his poem warns, "catching Snarks is all well and good, but if your Snark is a Boojum, you will softly and suddenly vanish away." But while the hunting party moves towards its fateful catch, they discover with Carroll and his Alice that Nothing is quite what it seems. Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard collaborate on the US stage premiere of this hit Australian musical.

Visit the Boojum! website here.

* Saturday May 8 2010:

A May 6 post by Kris Vire on a Chicago theatre website contains the following:

The city's DCA Theater has set a terrific fall theater slate for Gallery 37's Storefront Theater and the DCA Theater Incubator Series. The Storefront season kicks off August 26-September 26 with LiveWire Chicago Theatre's world premiere of Hideous Progeny, Chicago playwright Emily Dendinger's witty, salacious, and often melodramatic work about Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and the birth of Frankenstein; New Leaf Theatre's Jessica Hutchinson will direct. That's followed October 5-November 7 by a remount of the Factory Theater's Ditka-meets-Orwell hit 1985 and a concurrent Halloween edition (October 13-November 3) of Molly Brennan's Madam Barker's Variety Show; Madam Barker's guests are expected to include Rick Bayless and Peter Sagal. And November 16-December 19, Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard collaborate on the U.S. premiere of Boojum!: Nonsense, Truth, and Lewis Carroll, a 1986 musical by Australian brothers Martin and Peter Wesley-Smith based on Carroll's epic poem The Hunting of the Snark.


* Monday May 4 2010:

Sunday didn't see the first performance of a new version of my piece Papua Merdeka (see previous post): the performer, Robert Davidson of Topology had hurt his back; while he could play the rest of the concert on electric bass, so I'm told, his back wouldn't let him manage the big acoustic bass needed for my piece. Bummer. All the best, Robert: hope all is well soon.

* Thursday April 29 2010:

This coming Sunday:

The Pulse of Power Part 1 - Music and Politics

Topology presents:

Affordable Escape by Tolga Zafer Ozdemir
Riesenschritte by Andrián Pertout
Papua Merdeka by Martin Wesley-Smith
Voice Portraits by Robert Davidson

1.30pm Sun May 2 at Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith, New South Wales
tickets: $29/$18; bookings: phone 02 4723 7600 or visit

This concert is part of the Aurora Festival, which in turn is part of the World New Music Days of the International Society for Contemporary Music.

This will be the first performance of a new version, for double bass with sounds and images on computer, of Papua Merdeka. I'm hoping, of course, to be there, but I'm having another dose of chemo tomorrow and it may be considered inadvisable for me to make the trip.

* Last Sunday we put on the second wake for Mum, in Adelaide. It was as beautiful, and as moving, as the one we did in Kangaroo Valley on Feb 27. A highlight for some was the reunion, for one song, of The Wesley Three, a group - initially a folk group - in which I sang and played at school and university. It was the first time we'd sung together in public for more than forty years. In this photo, taken after the wake, Peter is on the left with Keith Conlon in the middle.

* Thursday April 22 2010:

On Sunday we're doing another wake for our old Mum, Sheila, who died on Feb 5 this year. It will be at 6.30pm Sunday April 25 in the Belair Uniting Church Hall, Sheoak Rd, Belair, Adelaide, South Australia. Amongst other items, Sheila's greatgrandson Oskar Wesley-Smith is going to play The Last Post on trumpet. His brother Bassy will play my piano piece Grey Beach.

* Tuesday April 20 2010:

Another CD containing a piece of mine - Beta-Globin DNA - has recently been released in New Zealand. It's called jewel - australian gems for violin and piano, it's played by Elizabeth Holowell (violin) and Robert Constable (piano), and it's ACD 110 on the atoll label (see Other pieces on the CD include The Ludlow Lullabies, by Vincent Plush, Sonata for Violin and Piano, by the late Don Banks, and Robert Constable's beautiful Jewel.

Robert comes to Kangaroo Valley once per year to play for the Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival. This year's festival is on Saturday August 7.

* Monday April 19 2010:

Last night's concert in Kangaroo Valley by SHE (Seven Harp Ensemble) was wonderful. A combination of excellent musicians, an interesting and eclectic program, a delightful old wooden hall with superb acoustics, an enthusiastic audience, a stunning tableau of seven harps all beautifully lit, a delicious (and free) supper ... there was nothing not to like! See for details.

The concert was the second in a tour taking SHE to eight different towns around New South Wales (Gunning, Kangaroo Valley, Orange, Bathurst, Gosford, Camden Haven, Coffs Harbour and Armidale). They are keeping a tour blog: see for daily reports on their activities. And they are launching a new CD - Bolmimerie - as they go (Tall Poppies TP204). This, which contains a couple of pieces of mine, can be purchased via secure mail order by visiting the Tall Poppies website. Fans of composer Ross Edwards will be delighted to know that the CD contains his beautiful Arafura Arioso.

One of those pieces - Alice in the Garden of Live Flowers, for seven harps - was played last night. The other one is Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo, for seven singing female harpists and choir. My little choir, The Thirsty Night Singers, does the honours. One of the harpers, Tegan Peemoeller, sings a solo, beautifully.

Needless to say, putting on a concert like that is a lot of work, although I, as the organiser, had a lot of help from other members of the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership. I'm now resting up as much as I can before another dose of chemo on Wednesday.

* Thursday April 8 2010:

Italian flautist Emilio Galante will be playing my piece Balibo, for flute & CD, in Riva del Garda, Italy, on the 15th of April. "I play your piece everytime with great pleasure", he writes.

* Yesterday I had the second dose of my first course of chemo at the Oncology Unit of Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital. Gemcitabine and carboplatin. So far no worries.

* Monday April 5 2010:

From an editorial in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

THE news that Indonesia's government is planning a vast new agricultural project in the south-eastern corner of its Papuan region is a disturbing one, suggesting that its officials have learnt nothing from the disastrous mistakes of the Suharto-era "transmigrasi" scheme ...


The poor disenfranchised indigenous West Papuans are ignored and dispossessed yet again.

* So far so good with the chemo. While I'm not feeling great, there have been no serious side FX so far. And probably won't be. In the meantime, I have heard that an ex-colleague of mine from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, musicologist Richard Toop, is in intensive care. According to a report on Facebook, "news from the weekend is that Richard turned his head in response to his daughter's, and others', voices, but will of course have to be in intensive care for some time, and the final outcome of course is still very much to be determined." That's all I know. Hang in, Richard. And hang in, Sylvia, a Kangaroo Valley friend who has just discovered she has cancer.

* I received an email the other day from an American banker about my little piece Invention (which later became Intervention):

Hope you are well. I am a former professional bass trombonist. I heard your piece Invention No. 1 (for cello and clarinet) on the radio yesterday. How do I purchase the sheet music for this piece? It was beautiful. Thank you for your time.

I emailed it to him. He replied:

Thanks so much for the piece. I'll try it this weekend with another trombonist.

I heard the piece on my public radio station, KPBX at 91.1 FM in Spokane, Washington. I have spent many hours trying to master the Bach Cello suites, so when I heard your work with Bach juxtaposed with the beautiful clarinet line on top, it was grand. Thanks for doing what you do.

The world shrinks a bit more every day ...

This is the piece about which critic Geoffrey Gartner wrote last year:

It was a major disappointment. The cello part consisted of a verbatim account of a Minuet from Bach's Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 to which was added a simple clarinet obbligato. The result was nothing more than an academic counterpoint exercise.


Can't win 'em all ...

* Saturday March 27 2010:

My audio-visual piece Papua Merdeka, in a new version for double bass and computer sounds/images, will be performed as part of this year's ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music) World New Music Days in Sydney. The concert, called Music & Politics, will be held on May 2 at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith, starting at 1.30pm. The performers are the Brisbane group Topology, with Robert Davidson playing the solo bass part in my piece. The other pieces on the program include Affordable Escape by Turkish composer Tolga Zafer Ozdemir, Riesenschritte by Australian Andrián Pertout, and Davidson's Voice Portraits.

* My chemo will start next Wednesday (March 31); last dose June 2.

* Talking of audio-visual pieces, my Merry-Go-Round, about Afghanistan, is being studied at a secondary school in Sydney. After a recent performance there, a teacher wrote:

I was ... going to write to tell you that the piece was really very good. (It) might be 17 minutes long, but it felt like 5 minutes it was so riveting the second time even. There is something very powerful the way the music and image blend. The girls were terrific and the balance was just right. Your instrumental and computer generated sounds were very skilfully woven and I think that the students will gain a lot from studying this piece ... I think the students got a lot out of the work and asked quite a few questions ... it was a really worthwhile event ...

The images used in the piece were taken by George Gittoes and Alice Wesley-Smith.

* Wednesday March 24 2010:

Have been proof-reading the booklet for a forthcoming CD that contains a couple of pieces of mine. Called Bolmimerie, it's by SHE (Seven Harp Ensemble), led by harpist Alice Giles. Produced, and to be released, by Tall Poppies Records (TP204), my contributions are Alice in the Garden of Live Flowers (2006) and Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo (2008), the latter being for seven female singing harpists and choir (my choir, The Thirsty Night Singers, did the honours). The CD will be launched at a SHE concert in Kangaroo Valley on Sunday April 18.

* I went to see oncologist Professor Philip Clingan in Wollongong the other day. He has prescribed a short course of chemotherapy "as an insurance policy", just in case. This will start within the next couple of weeks.

* Tuesday March 16 2010:

Have come across an entry on a website called Australian Culture and Society:

In 1988 (yes, that year) I was involved in the 39th Intervarsity Choral Festival in Sydney, and we commissioned a work called Songs of Australia by Martin and Peter Wesley-Smith. The work was an assemblage of humourous, satirical, and reflective songs about Australia in a variety of styles from cabaret to avant-garde. This may sound potentially quite awful, but it wasn't, because it didn't wallow in the fake sentimentality that characterised so much of the Bicentennial. Instead, it took a rather more critical look at issues like the treatment of Aboriginals, East Timor and Indonesia, White Australia policy, homosexuals, uranium mining and environmental devastation, the ABC, etc.

I recall a few gems, some of which which I quote here without permission ...


* Have had a coupla set-backs in my inexorable rise back to full health, but nothing to worry about.

* Friday March 12 2010:

All going well. A few little hiccups, health-wise, but nothing major. Meanwhile, I'm organising this year's fundraising concerts for the Kangaroo Valley-Remexio Partnership, which initiates various projects in East Timor. The first, by the seven-harp ensemble SHE, is at 7.30pm on Sunday April 18. The other is EAKVBKSMF (that's the Eighth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival), featuring pianist Robert Constable, which will be held on Sat August 7. Both events will be in Kangaroo Valley Hall. I'm also helping organise the second Farewell Sheila get-together, this time in Adelaide. See here for details.

* At 7pm on Friday March 26, cellist Rachel Scott will be presenting another one of her Bach in the Dark concerts in St James Church Crypt, King St, Sydney. This one includes J. S. Bach Inventions, Inventions by Elena Kats-Chernin, and my little Intervention, this time for flute & cello (Sally Walker will play flute). Also on the program: my Uluru Song, for singing cellist, which Rachel sang and played - magnificently - at the Farewell Sheila get-together on Feb 27. Tickets (strictly limited): $25 (includes a glass of wine or of something non-alcoholic) - call 02 9943 2077 for advance booking.

* Sunday March 7 2010:

On Sat Feb 27 we hosted a Farewell Sheila get-together in Upper River Hall, Kangaroo Valley. Even if I do say it myself it was a superb occasion, with reminiscences, photographs, an audio-visual presentation, poetry readings, and musical performances. The next day I went to Sydney so that I could report to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at 7am Monday for a surgical procedure: the removal of a bronchioloalveolar carcinoma in the bottom lobe of my right lung. I came home on Thursday, the operation - a lobectomy - having been, as far as one can tell, a complete success. Yo! I now face up to six weeks of recuperation: lots of sleep, regular exercises, and daily pain-relief medication (mainly for sore ribs, which were prised apart so that the surgeon, Brian McCaughan, could get at the offending tissue). I take my hat off to McCaughan and all his team, who as far as I can see did a magnificent job.

Bronchioloalveolar carcinoma is slow-growing and non-invasive ("if you must have a cancer of the lung, this is the one to have"). My prognosis is excellent: with regular monitoring, especially for the next five years, there is no reason for me ever to be troubled by this disease again.

* Friday February 5 2010:

I've been busy of late looking after my old Mum, Sheila, who at 93 and with heart problems was getting very infirm. She died this afternoon. We intend to cremate her remains privately then host a couple of get-togethers in her honour, with spoken tributes, reminiscences, music, audio-visual presentations, and so on. Details will be posted here and on the Sheila blog (click here).

Needless to say, Sheila was a Magnificent Mum who will be greatly missed.

* Friday January 29 2010:

Cellist Rachel Scott is currently in Timor-Leste with other Australian musicians working for Hadahur, a music school in Dili which is a project of the Mary MacKillop East Timor Mission in association with Tekee Media Inc. She wrote to say that my songs She Wore a Black Ribbon and Andy's Gone with Cattle were performed at a fund-raising concert last Monday night and again the next night at the President's palace. In addition, an arrangement I'd done of The Fighters Who Fell was being sung by Australian soprano Wendy Dixon and local singer Domingas with Rachel playing cello: "It seems to be even more poignant when Domingas sings the song - she has an incredibly beautiful voice."

* Have just read a great article by Dr Jim Elmslie called West Papua: Australia's greatest regional challenge since Timor?. It's in the current issue of Australian Options Magazine (Discussions for social justice and political change):

West Papua - the Indonesian side of the island of New Guinea -- has been getting more attention lately, but the ongoing conflict there between the government and the indigenous Melanesians remains shrouded in mystery and ignorance. This is no mere co-incidence: the Indonesian government has been denying journalists and researchers access to the region for decades, while Australian governments of both persuasions avoid the issue like the plague. Yet there is a great tragedy unfolding there, both for the original Melanesian inhabitants and their stunning tropical wilderness - now under great threat from unrestrained logging, mining and land clearance.


Jim Elmslie is co-convener of the West Papua Project, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney. He is author of Irian Jaya Under The Gun - Indonesian Economic Development versus West Papuan Nationalism. I consulted his work when composing my audio-visual piece Papua Merdeka (to be performed this year at the International Society for Contemporary Music's World New Music Days (1.30pm Sunday May 2, Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Penrith, New South Wales)).

* Last Tuesday was Australia Day, an annual celebration when hoons drive around the streets, Australian flags fluttering from their cars, demanding that all residents, especially immigrants, love this country or leave it. Ugly. I was reminded of a piece that Peter and I wrote in 2001, for the centenary of Federation, called Black Ribbon, which tried to look at some of this country's weaknesses as well as strengths. It's for solo singers, choir & orchestra. Read the libretto here.

* One of the dangers of being involved in a small singing group is that when one of its members is sick, or leaves the group, the viability of the whole group is threatened. One of the sopranos in the Thirsty Night Singers resigned last night, meaning we've suddenly got a whole lot of work to do ...

* Thursday January 28 2010:

read John Pilger's take on The Kidnapping of Haiti

* Tuesday January 26 2010:

Tonight, Italian flautist Emilio Galante is performing my piece Balibo, for flute & tape, in Alicante, Espana.

* Have come across a brochure for the percussion group B'tutta. It contains this:

B'tutta is a highly motivating, talented quartet of percussionists based in NSW ... They have many years of experience, performing both in Australia and Southeast Asia ... All members have written or collaborated to produce new pieces for the group and they have performed many pieces by leading contemporary Australian composers such as Carl Vine, Nigel Westlake, Martin Wesley-Smith and Graeme Leak ...


B'tutta does a lot of concerts in schools for Musica Viva.

* I'm being commissioned to write a piece for choir, classical guitar & clarinet. More later ...

* Monday January 18 2010:

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, talking about the aftermath of the disaster in Haiti on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now (January 14 2010):

We have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy - which is part natural, part unnatural - must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt Haiti and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interest of our corporations. This is not conspiracy theory. They have done it again and again ...


I'm a fan of Greg Palast, who wrote in yesterday's Huffington Post:

Don't blame Mother Nature for all this death and destruction. That dishonor goes to Papa Doc and Baby Doc, the Duvalier dictatorship, which looted the nation for 28 years. Papa and his Baby put an estimated 80% of world aid into their own pockets - with the complicity of the US government happy to have the Duvaliers and their voodoo militia, Tonton Macoutes, as allies in the Cold War ... What Papa and Baby didn't run off with, the IMF finished off through its "austerity" plans. An austerity plan is a form of voodoo orchestrated by economists zomby-fied by an irrational belief that cutting government services will somehow help a nation prosper ... In 1991, five years after the murderous Baby fled, Haitians elected a priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who resisted the IMF's austerity diktats. Within months, the military, to the applause of Papa George HW Bush, deposed him. History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The farce was George W. Bush. In 2004, after the priest Aristide was re-elected President, he was kidnapped and removed again, to the applause of Baby Bush ...


See, also, The Militarization of Emergency Aid to Haiti: Is it a Humanitarian Operation or an Invasion? by Michel Chossudovsky, January 15 2009.

* I've just spent a couple of days working on a new version of an old male quartet song of Peter's and mine called Recruiting Song (Crooked Back Whackers League), then submitted it for consideration for inclusion in a revue planned as a fringe event at the next Adelaide Festival of the Arts. Not surprisingly, perhaps (it's about masturbation), it was rejected:

... a five minute song about the pros and cons of pulling the pud is quite inappropriate ...

One might well ask, however, what is wrong with a song about masturbation? I mean, 98% of the population does it, or will do it, or has done it (the other 2% are liars). It is because society refuses to talk about it that we felt we needed to at least sing about it. For years no-one would sing our song Lollipop Man on the basis that it was about oral sex, which it wasn't. Well, perhaps it was, sort of, depending on how you looked at it, but it didn't have to be - it made perfect sense as a song about a sugar daddy. But then President Clinton put oral sex on the front page of every newspaper in the world, and suddenly Lollipop Man was being sung all over the place! We're hoping that President Obama will oblige ...

* Sunday January 10 2010:

I received this email today:


How surprising for me to come upon your blog in my search for a copy of the Wesley Three LP about Banjo the Singing Rabbit, Mr. Thwump, Who Stopped the Rain, and Hippity Hoppity Wallaby Bill! I teach Kindergarten in NY/USA and remember your LP so fondly after all these years. It was given to our family when I was a child as a gift from a relative who worked in Australia that year. My sister and I listened to it over and over again! Sadly, we don't know what happened to it. As my children were growing up, I'd occasionally wish I still had the album to share with them. And even today it crosses my mind at the oddest times and I wish I could listen to it again myself and share the songs with my Kindergartners.

Interesting you're not a fan of it! Perhaps it must be heard first through the ears of a child to be appreciated! I would be SO interested in any update with regard to your efforts with Sony Corp or if you have any other suggestions about how to obtain a used LP. Scratches and all would be fine!

I've just briefly scanned your blog prior to writing this email---it's heartwarming to get a sense of the important contributions you've made over the years (and continue to make) to music and humanity.

This made my day! Unfortunately I haven't yet been able to elicit a response from Sony Corporation in Australia as to the master tapes of any of the LPs that my old folk-group The Wesley Three recorded for CBS, which Sony now owns.

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