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Program note: Quito for six singers and tape (1997)

  • Martin & Peter Wesley-Smith
  • Source: The Song Company Modern Art Series 98 6 August 1998

for six singers & tape (1997)
book & lyrics: Peter'Wesley-Smith (b. 1945)
book & music: Martin Wesley-Smith (b. 1945)
tape prepared in the studios of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the
Electronic Music Studio, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney

producer:Andrew Mclennan
technical production:Phillip Ulman
additional engineering:Russell Stapleton
additional songs:Orlando di Lasso, Veronica Pereira, Francisco Pires (Quito)
additional poem:Xanana Gusmão
original television report:Rosemary Hesp
actors on tape:Filomena de Almeida, Francisco Boavida, Xanana Gusmão,
Andrew Mclennan, Agio Pereira, Alfredo
Sarmento, Greg White, Martin Wesley-Smith
musicians on tape include:Roland Peelman (keyboard), Veronica Pereira
(voice), Michael Sheridan (guitar)
"Quito" graphic:Kia Mistilis from an original photograph by Steve Cox

The original version of QUITO was commissioned by The Australian Music Centre
with funds provided by The Australia Council, which also provided funds for the
recording of the tape
In 1990, aged 26, Francisco Baptista Pires (Quito) was found hanging by his pyjama
cord in Royal Darwin Hospital. Born in East Timor, Quito suffered from schizophrenia.
This piece looks at the influences on his life and death.
QUITO is a music drama concerned with schizophrenia and the plight of the people of
East Timor. This version is a slightly modified version of the Tall Poppies CD recording
[TP111] featuring The Song Company.
Its focus is the life and death of a young East Timorese man who suffered from
schizophrenia: Francisco Baptista Pires, nicknamed Quito (pronounced "kee-toh"). At
age 11 he fled from Dili with his family just prior to the Indonesian invasion of 1975,
settling in Darwin in the Top End of Australia. In 1987 he was shot through the throat
by police during a domestic disturbance. In 1990 he was found hanging from his pyjama
cord in Royal Darwin Hospital.
Quito's story is one of personal tragedy: a young man, gentle and loving, and much
loved, is haunted by demons which eventually destroy him. His brief life, in which he
experienced hope and horror, courage and fear, truth and deceit, stands as a metaphor
for the tragedy of his homeland. With the award last year of the Nobel Peace Prize to
East Timorese Bishop Carlos Belo and activist José Ramos Horta, East Timor, "Isle of
Fear", is only now attracting the international attention its people so urgently need.
The brutal Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor profoundly affected Quito
in many ways. No wonder, for members of his family who had stayed behind
experienced unspeakable horrors: his sister Fatima, for example, who witnessed
senseless massacres and endured great hardship, lost two children while on the run from
Indonesian troops and a third in hospital in Dili. It is conceivable that the illness that
plagued him - schizophrenia - was made more severe by the personal traumas that he,
like many others, inevitably suffered, albeit second-hand. In any event, one cannot fully
appreciate Quito's tragedy without appreciating the other, and thus we juxtapose the two
stories. They have much in common. Timor since 1975 must seem to its inhabitants to
be a country presenting the common symptoms of schizophrenia: voices in the head,
delusions, shattered logic, mental distress, and invasion by alien forces. Quito suffered,
struggled, resisted, loved, despaired, hoped, and was eventually humiliated and
overwhelmed. His death may be the one point where the stories diverge: East Timor
seems to be hanging grimly to life, and may even recover. People suffering from
schizophrenia sometimes do. Quito will not: he submitted to the invaders, and is at rest.
Requiescat in pace, Quito. But it is the repose of the grave, and we can wish no such
resolution of the Timor conflict.
From an essay by "Allan Dermody", written after he had just spent a month in East
Timor (he wrote under a pseudonym in order to protect his sources):
"(It) is a country of emotionally and mentally disturbed people .. . finding refuge only in
their beloved Church".
QUITO is partly about blind eyes, deaf ears and silent mouths - those, for example, of
successive Australian Governments, which have chosen not to see, hear or speak about
the blatant injustice of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor in order to protect its
trade relationship. More than anything else, it's about invasion. The invasion of Quito's
head by voices, of his body by drugs and a police bullet, and of his homeland by enemy
troops. Few of us can tolerate invasion of any sort. Everyone needs a private, secure
space - mental and physical. Our hope is that in depicting, artistically, the invasions of
Quito, we can understand more about them and thus find ways of dealing with them.
We have used various sources: some of Quito's own songs, a strange poem he wrote not
long after he was shot, and an essay he wrote at school; a poem by resistance leader
Xanana Gusmao; a motet by Orlando di Lasso; extracts from eye-witness reports by
survivors of Indonesian atrocities; traditional East Timorese songs and laments, some
recorded in East Timor; and extracts from contemporary media reports, including one
made shortly after Quito's death. Our work seeks to look behind the facts presented in
this report and examine the issues in a more personal way.
We dedicate QUITO partly to the memory of our cousin John Draper and to his work
assisting people in various parts of the world. We dedicate it also to the memory of
those who in our lifetime have suffered terminal invasion, particularly the "emotionally
and mentally disturbed people" of East Timor, Quito included, who died during and
since Dec 7 1975.
"Only those with open eyes can see", as the saying in Timor goes. "But", as we 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 ofa body torn asunder, ofa devastated land.
None can hope for justice - no-one can be free - while the searing, squealing, squalling
wind still blows from over the sea ... "
Martin & Peter Wesley-Smith
Sydney/Hong Kong, October 1997

Composer Martin Wesley-Smith teaches composition and computer music at the
Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, where in 1974 he established
the Electronic Music Studio. In 1976 he founded (and still directs) the multi-media
collective watt, with which he has presented many concerls and events in Australia and
overseas (including a concert at Toru Takemitsu's "Music Today '78" Festival in
Tokyo). He directed the music for the legendary environmental events performed at
Wattamolla Beach in Sydney's Royal National Park in the late 70s and early 80s. In
1982 he composed and performed, with Jean Piché (Canada) & Osamu Shoji (Japan),
the first piece ever to be performed with participants in three countries: "Night
Satellite", where three Fairlight Computer Musical Instruments were linked by satellite.
In 1986 his full-length music theatre piece "Boojum!" (about the life, work and ideas of
Lewis Canoll) was presented at the Adelaide Festival of Arts. Later that year he
established the first computer music studio in China (at the Central Conservatory of
Music in Beijing). ln 1994-5 he taught at the University of Hong Kong. In 1995 he
performed an early audio-visual piece about East Timor ("Kdadalak (For the Children
of Timor)", 1977) at a festival in Berlin. His most widely-performed work is "For
Marimba &, Tape". His music is characterised by three main elements: a wide-ranging
eclecticism, a vibrant sense of musical humour, and a strong commitment to social
issues, including the plight of the people of East Timor.