While the federal government debates whether to send Australia troops to fight IS in the middle east our composers and artists are also engaging the issue.

Brisbane composer Betty Beath’s iconic work Lament for Victims of War has just been re-created for YouTube, with paintings and drawings by artist David Cox. The heart-aching work speaks as deeply as it did when it was written in 1999 in response to the Kosovo conflict. The performance here is by the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Toshiyuki Shimada.

The work has a directness and pathos similar to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, but
with Betty’s distinctive and unexpected pentatonic twists (Indonesian harmonic language pervades all her music). A doleful melody pregnant with repeated notes is interrupted by passages of heavy bowing and dark energy. Sobbing string phrases are cut short at just four notes and each phrase reaches higher and higher towards an anguished climax.

Betty says “(Since the Kosovo conflict) we have witnessed the horror of more and more innocent victims of war, people of many, many races and religions who are forced to endure hardships that we can hardly imagine. David Cox has illustrated this video in response to the music. He too is filled with repugnance at the violence that causes so much suffering across the world and hopes that his paintings express some of that anger and sorrow.”

The Lament has been performed in many countries in both its forms – for piano, mandolin orchestra or string orchestra. It’s next ‘outing’ will be December 6th at the Vienna Concerthouse. The Frauen-Kamemrorchester von Osterreich Vienna have programmed the work in a concert dedicated to the life and work of Bertha von Suttner, the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Betty says, “It is an honour that the piece will be performed in this program which also features works by Nancy Van de Vate, Honegger and Shostakovich.”

Betty Beath

It is a fitting recognition of this distinguished Australian composer, who will be celebrating her 81st birthday on Wednesday (19th December).

Betty’s 80th birthday was celebrated on Noted last year in Happy Birthday Betty Beath and more information on her can be found on an earlier post on her work Transience.

Betty is one of the trailblazing composers featured in my book Women of Note.