Maralinga (2009)

for violin and piano
duration: approx. 11 minutes

Faber Music publishing details, also available in a version for violin and string orchestra


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Programme Notes

The Australian aboriginal word Maralinga may sound quite beautiful to people outside of Australia, but to Australians its connotations are much more sinister.

In the early 1950s, the nuclear arms race was underway amongst the major nations of the world. Great Britain wanted to test its recently acquired nuclear weapons, and Australia in the 1950s was a place that still regarded Britain as “home” (particularly the Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies). Consequently secret nuclear testing was conducted in the South Australian desert, at Maralinga and Emu Creek between 1953-1963.

Tests included some very nasty experiments with kilograms of plutonium which subsequently contaminated the test site. Unfortunately, according to a subsequent Royal Commission into the tests, it seems that the welfare of the aboriginal inhabitants and the Australian service personnel at the test sites was never taken into account. Australian military personnel were used as unwitting guinea pigs into the effects of radiation from these experiments.

Maralinga was officially cleaned up by the year 2000, but the site and its history remains a stain upon Australia’s historical record. This piece makes reference to the long Aboriginal history at Maralinga as well as more recent events and attitudes.

Maralinga was commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, for premiere by Lara St. John (violin) on 20 March 2009.

notes by Matthew Hindson, 20009.

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