mw-s pic Martin Wesley-Smith

Australian composer


links from I'm a Caterpillar of Society (from Boojum!) page 2
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a recent composition: Eyeless in Gaza, for soprano, piano & cello [2009]

mw-s works: Quito | Boojum! | Cock Robin | Mrs Hargreaves Remembers | X | others
mw-s discography | articles by MW-S (re East Timor, Conservatorium) | articles about MW-S
interview | WMDs? | The Sixth Annual Kangaroo Valley Buster Keaton Silent Movie Festival

Wesley-Smith, with clarinettist Ros Dunlop and cellist Julia Ryder, is available for gigs. For info, click here.


As a composer, Martin Wesley-Smith's main interests are computer music, audio-visual works and choral music, although he also composes chamber music, orchestral music, children's songs, music theatre, and music for film, revue etc. He's an eclectic composer at home in a diverse range of idioms. Two main themes dominate his music: the life, work and ideas of Lewis Carroll (e.g. Snark-Hunting, Songs for Snark-Hunters, and the full-length choral music theatre piece Boojum!) and the plight of the people of East Timor (e.g. Kdadalak (For the Children of Timor), VENCEREMOS!, and Welcome to the Hotel Turismo). A radiophonic version of the "audio-visual music theatre" piece Quito - about schizophrenia and East Timor - was nominated by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a 1997 Italia Prize (in the Music category) and has been released on CD by Tall Poppies Records. One of his pieces - For Marimba & Tape - is the most-performed piece of Australian so-called "serious art-music" (it exists in versions for other instruments, too, including For Clarinet & Tape), while several of his children's songs (e.g. I'm Walking in the City) have become classics on such television programs as Play School.

Wesley-Smith was born in 1945 in Adelaide (South Australia). He studied at the Universities of Adelaide and York (England) before taking up a position lecturing in composition and electronic music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. In 1988 he was the Australia Council's Don Banks Fellow; in 1997 and 1998 he held an Australia Council Fellowship.

After 26 years' teaching at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and finding himself increasingly disenchanted with the direction in which it was heading, Wesley-Smith left in July 2000. He is now living in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, attempting to supplement his meagre income from composition by growing vegetables and raising ducks (both, alas, fairly futile activities, what with the predations of snails, slugs, bower birds, foxes etc and the absence of a green thumb ...)

Wesley-Smith's composition teachers included Peter Tahourdin, Peter Maxwell Davies and Sandor Veress. His DPhil supervisor was Richard Orton. Most of his choral music sets the work of his brother, Peter Wesley-Smith.

In 1976 Wesley-Smith founded the multi-media collective watt, which he directed until 1998 and with whom he has given many concerts in Australia and overseas. In 1992 he founded The Greenway Group, which specialised in performing new chamber works. In the late 70s and early 80s he was Musical Director for a now-legendary series of multi-media events produced at Wattamolla Beach in Sydney's Royal National Park, working with Gabrielle Dalton, the late Ian Fredericks, George Gittoes and others. In 1983 he presented two concerts of original works at the Festival d'Automne à Paris, including one with violinist/improvisor extraordinaire Jon Rose with whom he later released an LP record of collaborative improvisations (Fairlight CMI and violin). In 1986 Boojum! was produced at the Adelaide Festival of Arts before the Queen of England! Later that year he established, at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China's first computer music studio, and was dubbed, semi-seriously, "The Father of Chinese Computer Music" (in 2007 he was dubbed, by the Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth, "the Godfather of Australian Computer Music"). In 1988 he was the Rayson Huang Fellow at the University of Hong Kong where, in 1994 and 1995, he subsequently lectured. In 1997 he was awarded the Paul Lowin Song Cycle Composition Award for Quito, which has been performed in Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Portugal as well as in Sydney. Tall Poppies Records won the Best Recording of an Australian Composition award in the 1997 ABC-FM Recording of the Year Awards for its recording of this piece, which was nominated by the ABC for a Prix Italia and a Grawemeyer Award. In 1998 it earnt Wesley-Smith a Special Award for Music in the 1998 Michele Turner Writing Awards (awarded by ETRA (East Timor Relief Association)). In 1997 a version for six voices & tape was performed by The Song Company at "Pacific Marathon 1: Australie", a festival in Groningen, Holland, where Wesley-Smith was composer-in-residence (to listen to an audio extract from the Song Company's CD of Quito, click here). Other pieces of his performed there were For Bass Clarinet & Tape and the audio-visual pieces Beta-Globin DNA, Dodgson's Dream and Wattamolla Red.

In 1998, Martin Wesley-Smith was admitted as a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for services "to music, as a composer, scriptwriter, children's songwriter, lecturer, presenter of multi-media concerts and a member of various Australia Council boards and committees". He gave a plenary paper at THE LEWIS CARROLL PHENOMENON (an international interdisciplinary conference marking the centenary of Lewis Carroll's death) in April 1998 at the University of Wales, Cardiff. In July he gave the key-note address at the 1998 ACMA (Australian Computer Music Association) Conference at ACAT (Australian Centre for Art and Technology) in Canberra. He was awarded a 1998 Sounds Australian Award for "long-term contribution to the advancement of Australian music", and was nominated for a Human Rights Award (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) and for the inaugural Denis Freney Memorial Award, given by ETRA ("to recognize the outstanding commitment and work of an activist, anywhere in the world, working in solidarity for East Timor"). A new version of the 1984 audio-visual piece VENCEREMOS!, for computer (programmed in Director 6.0 using an LCD projector), was performed in 1998 at a concert he presented as a fringe event of the Melbourne Festival and at the last watt concert. His name is an entry in The Macquarie Dictionary, third edition, Macquarie University, NSW 2109 Australia, 1997.

In November 2000, Wesley-Smith produced a concert in the Sydney Town Hall for the visiting East Timorese choir Anin Murak. In 2002 he was nominated, by the Music Council of Australia, for the International Music Council/UNESCO International Music Prize. In March and July 2002 he went to East Timor, presenting concerts there. In Jan and Feb 2003 he presented concerts, with clarinettist Ros Dunlop and others, in Manchester, Kent, Reading, Liverpool, Glasgow, Oxford, Kingston, York, London and Hong Kong. The tour ended with a guest lecturer stint at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. In September and October 2003 he presented concerts, again with Ros Dunlop, in the USA, featuring the premiere of his 2003 multimedia work Weapons of Mass Distortion. In October 2005 he joined Ros Dunlop in Europe for concerts in Newcastle (UK), Glasgow, Vilnius (Lithuania), London, Sandwich (Kent), Cork and Rotterdam, again lecturing at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts on his way home. In 2007 they toured New Zealand.

Works produced in the past few years include The Knight's Gambit (from Boojum!) for five singers & orchestra (2001), Black Ribbon, for singers, choir & orchestra (2001), Merry-Go-Round, for clarinet, cello & computer (2002), Tekee Tokee Tomak, for clarinet & computer (2003), Weapons of Mass Distortion, for clarinet & computer (2003), Kolele Mai, for classical guitar (2003), Songs and Marches, for classical guitar quartet (2004), A Luta Continua, for baritone, girls choir & orchestra (2004-5), doublethink, music theatre for six singers (2004-5), Papua Merdeka, for bass clarinet & computer (2005), Baghdad Baby Boy, for soprano, piano & cello (2007), Seven Widows at the Gates of Sugamo, for seven female singing harpists & choir (2008), Eyeless in Gaza, for soprano, piano & cello (2009), and Morning Star, for cello & piano (2009).

for information about a recent Wesley-Smith orchestral composition (A Luta Continua), click here
for the script, by Peter Wesley-Smith, of doublethink, click here

for information about more of Wesley-Smith's recent activities, see his blog


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In 2003 Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda defended a possible military crackdown in Aceh:
"What we are doing or will do in Aceh is much less than the American power that was deployed in Iraq. We aren't violating anyone's sovereignty."
Great! Western - including Australian - disdain of international law is thus used to justify more terrorist acts - by terrorists in uniform - which in turn will provoke yet more. Yet Downer, Hill et al have gone out of their way to support the Indonesian "crackdown". With the Indonesia lobby now fully in control of DFAT again, Australian appeasement of the TNI is even worse than it was when Gareth Evans was Foreign Minister. Which is saying something ...

re West Papua (have finished an audio-visual piece - Papua Merdeka - about the plight of the West Papuan people):

On Sunday Aug 7 2005, Melbourne Bishop Hilton Deakin delivered a homily at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne called The Cry of the Poor. Excerpts:

"(West Papuan) leaders articulate clearly and carefully what their people hope for. They make their claims based on declarations of universal rights, on reasonable analysis of problems, issues and challenges they constantly face ... We are talking about Melanesian people. They share an ethnic and cultural identity with other Melanesians in the South West and South of the Pacific ... West Papuans have a right to know the truth - especially about what took place in the1960s when their land and people became part of another country ... was the country annexed after the fashion of a colonial power swallowing up a defenceless neighbour without consultation, and for its own expansive and or exploitative purposes? ... Was the process of absorption actually based on legitimate consultation and self determination or was it contrived - similar to another such exercise in East Timor a few years later? ... Let us all pray that we hear the cry of the poor, the suffering people of West Papua."

From an email from Duncan Dean:
"Praying will not be enough. Australia needs to ACT NOW. This is a tragedy in the making and I, for one, am not prepared to wait for 'God' to intervene to fix this disgusting and barbarous intensive slaughter and mayhem being heaped upon our near neighbours in West Papua. We need to get the TOAD to understand that if he is willing to free East Timor then there is NO DIFFERENCE in our attitude and help we need to give to West Papua."


And is TCCD a WMD?

US Vice President, Aug 26 2002: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction"

US President, September 12 2002 (speech to the United Nations General Assembly): "Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon"

US President, October 5 2002: "Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons - the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."

US President, October 7 2002, Cincinnati, Ohio: "(Iraq) possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons ... We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas."

US Secretary of Defense, January 7 2003: "There is no doubt in my mind but that (Iraq) currently (has) chemical and biological weapons"

Ari Fleischer, Press Briefing, January 9 2003: "We know for a fact that there are weapons there"

Colin Powell, remarks to UN Security Council, February 5 2003: "We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more"

US Vice President, March 16 2003: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons"

US President, March 17 2003 (Address to the Nation): "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised"

White House spokesperson, March 21 2003: "Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly"

US Secretary of Defense, March 24 2003: "We have seen intelligence over many months that they have chemical and biological weapons, and that they have dispersed them and that they're weaponized ..."

US Secretary of Defense, before the war (I do not have the exact date): "There's no debate in the world as to whether they have those weapons. There's no debate in the world as to whether they're continuing to develop and acquire them ... We all know that. A trained ape knows that."

US Secretary of Defense, March 30 2003: "We know where they are: they are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad"

er, how come they haven't been found, then?

US President, interview with TVP Poland, May 30 2005: "But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them"

US Secretary of Defense, May 28 2003: "It is possible Iraqi leaders decided they would destroy them prior to the conflict" (yet on March 18 2003 the UK Prime Minister had said: "We are asked to accept Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd." Cracks in the Coalition?)

Our own dear Mr Howard and his cronies think we should not dwell on this question and that we should move on. After all, the witch is dead and the people of Iraq are free! But if the evidence was wrong, they say, then it's hardly their fault: they relied on what the UK and USA Governments told them. This conveniently ignores the fact that one of their own intelligence experts, Andrew Wilkie, of Australia's Office of National Assessment, publicly resigned before the war, saying that the evidence did not support his Government's position. "We decide who comes into this country" says Mr Howard, referring to poor hapless asylum-seekers seeking our help (he calls them, with fine doublespeak, illegals - even though they haven't broken any law - then locks them up in detention centres). But, apparently, "We let the USA decide when and against whom we go to war".

see US lies

But evidence of biological weapons has been found! So says John Howard (see Rob Taylor in The Age, June 17 2003). "Responding to claims that Australians were misled over the weapons of mass destruction issue, Mr Howard told parliament that British and American intelligence reports had concluded that a trailer found in Iraq was a biological weapons facility. (He) is the first leader of the coalition of nations that invaded Iraq to make such a claim.

"(He) said the Government was proud of Australian involvement in the Iraq war. 'Those on the opposition who now seek to denigrate what this Government and this country did are in effect calling for the restoration of Saddam Hussein.'"

No, Mr Howard. Those who denigrate what this Government did are calling for it to speak the truth. The core truth, not the non-core "truth". Strange concept, I know ...

TCCD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin)

Colin Powell said that Saddam Hussein was the biggest user of chemical weapons since the First World War. In fact, according to Heather Mallick (Globe & Mail, Sat June 7 2003), "the greater culprit was ... the United States. From 1961 to 1974, the United States admits that it dropped 72 million litres of chemicals on Vietnam, most of it Agent Orange with a super-toxic strain of dioxin called TCCD. U.S. soldiers dumped an additional 260,000 gallons of herbicide just to empty their tanks. The Guardian reports that one soldier regularly dumped his poison into a central drinking water reservoir. He doesn't want his name used, at which one can only smile hollowly.

"A Canadian environmental science company, Hatfield Consultants, has discovered that the dioxin hasn't dispersed. It has rooted itself in the soil at levels 100 times higher than we would tolerate on Canadian farmland, spreading through water into the food chain and from there into human blood, breast milk and fetuses.

"The poison has blossomed through three generations of Vietnamese so far. It appears it will continue. Its toxicity is difficult to describe. When General Powell held up his tiny vial of what he said were scary anthrax spores, it hardly compared to a small 80-gram tin of TCCD. That tin would destroy New York City. The United States dropped 170 kilograms of it.

"This WMD kills and maims unstoppably. The grandchildren of those who first saw the sweet-smelling yellow powder fall from the sky are damaged beyond belief. Agent Orange causes innumerable diseases plus almost every cancer known to humankind."

Who killed Cock Robin?

To learn more, click here and here.

Postscript: Depleted uranium on US shells makes those shells radiological weapons but not chemical or biological weapons, so that's alright, then.

Australian film-maker David Bradbury has made a must-see documentary, called Blowin' in the Wind, about American testing in Australia of new weapons that use depleted uranium.

Kim Hawkins, Gulf War Veteran, writes:
"I took an oath when I joined the Navy. I swore to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Nowhere does it state that I must blindly follow the orders of unjust or immoral leaders. This is the reason that I am compelled to speak out against our use of depleted uranium. It is the biggest, invisible danger that our troops and the Iraqi people face and most insidious. What we are committing is a silent genocide of both planet and people."


BLOG list of works Boojum! Mrs Hargreaves
Quito X discography
Who Killed
Cock Robin?
Black Ribbon
Boojum! libretto:
act one, act two
A Luta Continua
Lewis Carroll
home page
Tall Poppies
Music Centre

dissertation by Alice Wesley-Smith to do with East Timor:
How does the meaning of an image change when viewed from different cultural perspectives?

Martin Wesley-Smith email:


The October 2006 Lancet Report puts the number of "excess deaths"
(the number of deaths since the invasion in addition to the number of deaths expected
had the invasion not occurred) at 655,000 - for more information click here

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator

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A Human Rights Bill for Australia?

page last updated July 12 2009; for news, recent activities etc, see blog

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