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Five minutes past midnight : A radiophonic story

by Jaroslav Kovaricek and Becky Llewellyn (1991)

Five minutes past midnight


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Work Overview

Five Minutes past Midnight dwells in the twilight world of Australian politics in the 1950s, when Prime Minister Menzies agreed to let British nuclear scientists, headed by Sir William Penney, explode lethal nuclear bombs over the homeland of the Maralinga Tjarutja people. The story includes Betty Sumner, Ngarrindjeri woman, telling the story of Icarus, as if our Western myth was her dreamtime. As Icarus gets too close to the sun, so the over-reach of these scientists brings its own meltdown.

The story includes taped interviews with Len Beadell, original surveyor of Maralinga, a surviving airman and archival footage of scientists and sounds of the bomb itself. Becky Llewellyn studied aboriginal music from Kooniba and Ooldea desert country and wrote these sparse melodies for cello, played by Janis Laurs. The eerie sound of the country was extrapolated from bowed piano played by Stephen Whittington. Clapsticks transmuted into the sound of Geiger counters.

Commissioned by sound artist Jaroslav Kovaricek for ABC Classic FM, it was part of a movement of artistic works that raised consciousness about what happened at Maralinga. In 2009, after several years of clean-up works by British and Australian governments, the land was handed back to the original owners.

Work Details

Year: 1991

Instrumentation: Cello, bowed piano, Aboriginal clapsticks.

Duration: 55 min.

Commission note: Commissioned by Jaroslav Kovaricek.. Jaroslav Kovaricek, for Inner Space program on ABC Classic FM.

First performance: by Betty Sumner, Janis Laurs, Stephen Whittington — 23 Nov 91. Australian Music Day, ABC FM Stereo


Performances of this work

11 Sep 95: ABC Classic FM - The Listening Room program. Featuring Betty Sumner, Stephen Whittington, Janis Laurs.

23 Nov 91: ABC Classic FM, Inner Space program. Featuring Betty Sumner, Janis Laurs, Stephen Whittington.

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