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Dance of dispossession : lyrics by John Kinsella, adapted by Becky Llewellyn

by Becky Llewellyn (2001)

Dance of dispossession


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Work Overview

Dance of Dispossession was inspired by listening to poet John Kinsella read at the Adelaide Writer's Festival. I went straight to the book tent and found his poem Dispossession which seemed to sing off the page with its lists of words associated with what happened at and after white settlement. I met John and asked his permission to set the poem, which he agreed to. As I worked on it, though I could hear distorted words coming out of his words - how they sounded rather than how they looked, so the music embodies my imagined meanings of his words: John's 'protection' becomes my 'protect/shun'. Imagine how aborigines must have heard or misunderstood such words.

I have used a kind of Elizabethan dance form, the height of civilisation's gift - a jaunty counterpoint to the reality of the words, as the settlers remained in their cloistered 'society' mostly very unaware of how the fact of their presence changed everything for indigenous people here. Within the busy text narrative are moments of musical atonement (my take on John's word 'autonomy' is 'Atone! Ah, me!'). It is all artifice, at once playful and light, masking very dark subject matter and pain.

Work Details

Year: 2001

Instrumentation: SATB a capella choir (or vocal quartet)

Duration: 5 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Professional.

Commission note: Commissioned by Syntony for 2002 concert season.

First performance: by Adelaide Syntony — Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Flinders St

Text from 'Dispossession' by John Kinsela, adapted by Becky Llewellyn.

Protest song.


Performances of this work

16 Feb 02: Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Flinders St, Adelaide. Featuring Syntony.

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