quito pic Q u i t o

a multi-media "
documentary music drama",
for six singers, keyboard and CD-ROM, about schizophrenia and East Timor

by Martin Wesley-Smith and Peter Wesley-Smith

'... a sonic landscape full of allusions, cross-references, widely differentiated styles ... and suddenly shifting textures - a truly "schizophrenic" narrative, a tour de force of contemporary audio art ... A masterpiece.'

[from The Alberta NEW MUSIC & ARTS REVIEW (Canada), Vol. I No. 2, Summer 1997/Spring 1998, pp.110-112; for the complete review, click here]

Available on CD from Tall Poppies Records (enter "Quito" into the search engine)
This CD won the "Best Recording of an Australian Composition" award
in the 1997 ABC-FM Recording of the Year Awards

winner of the Paul Lowin Award
(Song Cycle) for 1997

next performance:

7pm Sunday April 29 2007
The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth Cultural Centre, Perth
performed by The Song Company
as part of Tura New Music's Totally Huge New Music Festival

most recent performances:

Saturday June 11 2005
Kangaroo Valley Hall, Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia
performed by The Song Company

Wednesday June 15
The Studio, Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia
performed by The Song Company

for reviews etc, click here

previous performance:

Wednesday March 29 2000
Hong Kong City Hall Theatre, Hong Kong
performed by The Song Company

Victoria Finlay, South China Morning Post, March 19 2000:
Voices for tragic schizophrenic; Australian group on the theme of struggle

Two years ago it might have seemed ironic that the Australian Government was sponsoring the Sydney-based a cappella group The Song Company to go on international tour with a show like Quito. After all, the hard-hitting piece of music - about a young East Timorese musician and schizophrenic who hanged himself in jail and a foreign policy that many believed was hard-hearted and mercenary - hardly sings the praises of the Australian administration.

But today the piece - which uses the true story of Francisco Baptista Pires as a metaphor for the equally painful true story of East Timor itself - is more in line with Australia's change in foreign policy ...

other performances include:
August 16 1999
Panggung Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

August 21 1999
Auditório do Parque Palmela, Cascais, Portugal

both performances by The Song Company

top | about "Quito" | creative team | Vance review | Conroy review | other reviews | detailed description
credits | script | listeners' and press comments | X (multimedia piece about East Timor) | bottom

book and music: Martin Wesley-Smith
book & lyrics: Peter Wesley-Smith
music recording: Belinda Webster
sound engineering: Phillip Ulman
production: Andrew McLennan
research and support: Rob Wesley-Smith (winner of 1998 ETRA Denis Freney Activist Award!)
featuring: The Song Company

"Quito" is a co-production between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and
Tall Poppies Records

listeners' and press comments

"... lacerating honesty and great beauty ..."

buy the CD!

mail order (quote TP111)

enquiries: contact Martin Wesley-Smith [mwsmith@shoalhaven.net.au]
computer graphic (above) by Kia Mistilis; original photograph by Steve Cox
see The Schizophrenia Home Page for information about schizophrenia
a song about East Timor: After the Storm, arranged for six voices a cappella
a choral piece about East Timor - Thank Evans (Australian Foreign Policy and East Timor, 1975-1999), for choir (SATB) & piano - was premiered by The Australian Boys Choir in November 2001
a piece for cello and CD - Welcome to the Hotel Turismo (about the Hotel Turismo in Dili, Oct 1999) - was premiered in the Sydney Opera House in August 2000; a version for cello or bass clarinet & CD-ROM, with images of the resistance, has now been played many times, including at the Hotel Turismo itself (to download and view a short Shockwave movie (2.6MB) of the last section of this piece, click here)
the Wesley-Smith's latest East Timor piece - A Luta Continua, for baritone, girls choir and orchestra [2005] - was premiered in Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, at 8pm on Sat April 2 2005 - see here for more information (and Peter Wesley-Smith's text)

top | about "Quito" | creative team | review 1 | review 2 | review 3 | other reviews | description | credits | script | comments | X | bottom

some reviews:

David Vance, Sydney Morning Herald, Aug 13 1998:


The Song Company
Newtown Theatre, August 6 1998

Political and social issues have often found a powerful advocate in musical theatre, where an effective marriage of text, image and sound can reach beyond the specific and the immediate to the universal and the timeless.

Such is the case with Quito by Martin and Peter Wesley-Smith. The work deals with schizophrenia, which afflicts Quito, a mild young Timorese man who fled to Darwin from the Indonesian invasion in 1975. The personal tragedy of Quito - shot through the throat by police responding to a domestic row, later found hanged by a pyjama cord in a Darwin hospital - evokes a compelling pathos.

However, Quito's schizophrenia carries a significance beyond his individual plight: the illness becomes a potent metaphor for the political situation afflicting East Timor. Consequently, the work explores both histories in such a way that the two accounts resonate with a moving and disturbing intensity.

Much of the strength of Quito rests in the seamless integration of different elements: the many layers of meaning are reflected in the multi-layered collage of aural and visual effects, where prerecorded voices and electronic sounds mingle with solo and choral song (superbly delivered by the Song Company), while projected images in a series of graphic, documentary-like photographs fragment and disintegrate into thin air, evoking an unbearable fragility of life, individual and social.

Martin Wesley-Smith's music has never been far removed from political or social comment, and his gift for pastiche has served him well in adopting familiar styles, often (but not always) drawn from popular music, to ironic or satiric purposes.

In Quito he excels in this technique, but his purpose has more profound intentions: employing a Passion motet by di Lasso ("Timor et tremor") he puns with deadly seriousness on the Latin text, and thereby implies the fear and horror that lie ahead. Adopting an English text to the music of the motet, and absorbing blues inflections and elements of popular and traditional songs into its pristine 16th-century harmonic world, he can comment on the present in terms of the past. The view is not reassuring: fear remains, and Timor is not yet free.

top | about "Quito" | creative team | review 1 | review 2 | review 3 | other reviews | description | credits | script | comments | X | bottom

A song for Quito

Newtown Theatre, August 6

Review by Rebecca Conroy

Quito is a music drama concerned with schizophrenia and the plight of the East Timorese. Composed by Martin Wesley-Smith with lyrics by his brother Peter, it is a moving exploration of the parallels between mental illness and the common suffering of the East Timorese under Indonesian occupation.

The story is based on the life and death of Francisco Baptista Pires (nicknamed Quito), who at age 26 was found hanging from his pyjama cord in Royal Darwin Hospital in 1990.

Quito was shot in the throat in 1989 by a police officer attending a domestic disturbance at his Darwin home. Despite being diagnosed with schizophrenia, Quito was later charged with the attempted murder of a police officer at the scene.

Stress, brought on largely by the charge against him, overwhelmingly contributed to his eventual death.

The main narrative deals with Quito's mental condition and the similarities it bears to the overall situation in East Timor: voices in the head, delusions, shattered logic, mental distress and invasion by alien forces.

Through Quito, we see his struggle and suffering reflected in the entire psychology of the East Timorese landscape. His life is used as a powerful metaphor, vividly brought forward by the fusion of the two parallel narratives.

Various sources were used to identify Quito's state of mind, including recordings of his own songs, a poem he wrote just after he was shot and recordings of his sister Fatima Gusmao. These were paralleled by documentary material on the screen and voice-overs related to the situation in East Timor.

Stark contrasts are made between fast tempo songs, dissonant chord patterns and disturbing images of torture victims, gradually distorted by video technology. Quito's voice cuts through songs narrating his own suffering before moving on to eyewitness accounts of the Dili massacre in 1991.

The story is in this way composed of interconnected moments, which the audience is left to link together. Identifiable noises establish location before the audience is whisked off again to experience another parallel dimension of the story.

The final song left an indelible mark with the audience, a tragic image of the continuing suffering of the Timorese held static on the screen fading into a distorted outline, accompanied by dirge-like music.

The six singers from the Song Company, who presented Quito as part of the Modern Art Series, performed the piece in Newtown Theatre with just a piano offstage and a screen for projected images.

Overall, it was an effective exercise in linking a documentary narrative with the personal tragedy of an individual. Executed brilliantly, it left the audience very much affected by both its stark imagery and its accurate portrayal of a country that, like Quito, has suffered, resisted, loved, despaired and hoped.

As the saying goes in East Timor, "Only those with open eyes can see". But as they say in Quito, "The dumb can hear the thunder, the deaf can see the rain, the blind can speak and understand, and all can know the pain of a body torn asunder, of a devastated land".

top | about "Quito" | creative team | review 1 | review 2 | review 3 | other reviews | description | credits | script | comments | X | bottom

Diederik De Jong, American Record Guide, May 1 1998:

CD: Quito

Like the musical-theatre work Boojum, reviewed most favorably in Nov/Dec 1993, the 52-minute Quito is a joint effort by Australian composer Martin Wesley-Smith (b.1945) and his twin brother Peter, who wrote the book and lyrics.

Quito is called "a documentary music drama about schizophrenia and East Timor" and is summarized as follows: Quito concerns the life and death of Francisco Baptista Pires, a young East Timor-born Darwin man who suffered from schizophrenia. He was nicknamed Quito (pronounced Keetoh). In 1987 he was shot through the throat by police in a domestic disturbance. Three years later he was found hanging from his pajama cord in Royal Darwin Hospital. Pires was accused of shooting a policeman and, ironically, died on the day prosecutors were filing for an acquittal. The authors have used the Quito character to expose widespread human rights violations after Indonesian troops invaded East Timor in 1975, unleashing an unspeakable 23-year reign of terror and brutality that has caused much suffering in East Timor, especially of the "emotionally and mentally disturbed people" of the former Dutch colony. These human rights violations were almost ignored by the western world, including the government of nearby Australia, which soft-pedaled the Indonesian invasion, turned a deaf ear to pleas for help by the East Timorese people, and all but ignored their plight.

The texts and lyrics of Quito were taken from a multitude of sources, including newspaper articles, interviews with East Timorese exiles, eyewitness reports, radio and television news broadcasts, Timorese poetry, books on schizophrenia, and Quito's own words and writings. A speech by President Clinton, in his own voice, about taking quick, decisive action in 1994 in Haiti, serves as a contrast to speeches by Australian prime ministers who took little action and talked out of both corners of their mouths. The music is a mixture of solo songs, some with a rock beat, electronic sounds, guitar and piano accompaniments, and ensemble singing by the six-member Song Company, with frequent voice-over or solo narration by male and female narrators. One song is based on the music and Latin words of Orlando di Lasso's 1566 motet Timor et Tremor. Background sounds include forest sounds, children laughing, young men playing soccer, people shouting, and a Timorese song, all recorded in East Timor. Tracks 20-25 contain six separate songs from Quito.

This is a disturbing, chilling, spine-shivering work to listen to. The spoken words and lyrics carry all the weight here, the sometimes dissonant singing by the Song Company is effective and dramatic, but not much of the music sticks in the mind. But then, I don't believe it was Wesley-Smith's intention to write "pretty", lyrical tunes. The sonics are clear and detailed, the performance expert. This release was of interest to me, a Dutch 1953 graduate in tropical agriculture who was slated to go to Indonesia as a coffee planter, but it may be too specialized for most readers.

to listen to Oh Lord, from Quito, sung by The Song Company, click here (1.4MB)

visit the APCET web site

Martin Wesley-Smith | Peter Wesley-Smith | Rob Wesley-Smith

ETAN US | ETAN Canada | East Timor cartoons

X | Boojum! | Who Killed Cock Robin? | Mrs Hargreaves Remembers | X
wesley-smith works | choral works | chamber works | discography
The Tekee Tokee Tomak Tour to England and Hong Kong, Jan-Feb 2003
The Tekee Tokee Tomak Tour to the USA, Oct 2003

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