Unrest Song Cycle

    This suite of choral pieces was inspired by feelings of unrest. Each expresses an aspect of the disturbance natural to any life-loving person in distressing and declining times – whether this be part of a collective response to the degradation of our planet and its people, or whether a personal excitement inspired by nature or by other human beings. Unrest honours that human spirit which concerns itself with the well-being of other lives around it; which pursues its own passions with integrity and energy; and which keenly understands the implications of its mortality.

    In 2009 I recorded the work as it then stood with the Song Company. That recording is as yet unavailable. I've written two additional pieces for the project and plan to record them in the future.


      Feel envy of the driven
      Whose calm one claim disturbs
      One cause, single and strong
      Insists be wholly given
      Up to its sole purpose
      With frantic speed headlong
      For these when they have striven
      ‘Though comfort it usurps
      Then know where they belong



      I woke this morning
      I felt a warning
      Dark cloud’s are forming
      Men uniforming
      News is alarming
      Ignorance arming

      Our lives are gambled
      Truth kicked and trampled
      Headlines are dangled
      Protest is strangled
      The future trembles
      Armies assemble

      Tabloid analysis
      Selfish callousness
      Brainless malice gives
      Thought paralysis
      Nations jealous
      Find weapon sellers

      Earth mined for poison
      Metal war toys and
      Jobs for the boys the
      Board room enjoys but
      No! There are choices
      Let’s raise our voices

      Raise our voices strongly
      'Though the way is long
      We find relief in action
      Shared belief and passion
      We can do what we must
      We will build love and trust

      And our peaceful spirit
      Will make murder fear it
      All whom war endangers
      Speak! And history changes
      Let our strength be splendid
      Until war is ended



      We're weary
      We who protest
      Who build unrest
      Make this request
      We need to rest
      When will we rest?
      When we're arrested
      Let's share out the stress
      Let our success
      Make the load less
      Let protesters rest
      And let the ease of gentle peace
      Every weary hero bless



      Our weariness still whispers yes
      As in our bed pleasingly spread
      With sighing silk we press

      ‘Though night now flows toward its close
      Our senses wake and for their sake
      The scented candle glows

      Oh gods it’s beautiful!
      Life’s purpose may be felt
      With gliding ardent fingertips
      In hands its hallowed warmth be held
      Or drawn within to find
      The awed and gasping innocence
      Of Nature’s reverent minds

      The hours we keep in our deep
      Enchantment give us leave to live
      Outside the need for sleep

      Your languid touch awakens such
      A lively thrill; it seems to fill
      My own fatigue too much

      Oh gods it’s wonderful!
      And you’re so meshed with me
      Our motion makes an incandescent
      Mouth opening unity
      In this ecstasy bliss
      Promises to keep this
      Night perfectly



      I gave to sleep a heavy hour
      And every mental tissue bathed
      Naked in its power
      Surreal and drifting, rainbow black
      Submerged in depthless lidded pools
      Spiralling and slack

      And when I stood again like crystal
      Sharp clear and glittering
      Reasoning, bright
      Open to clarity
      Sleep's rich colours faded in the light



      Day's brilliant light has sunk beneath the sea
      And intimate stars alone console the void
      Beside night's oceanic edge walks she
      Who had her daughterhood by waves destroyed
      Replenished grief explodes on tearful rocks
      And surges in her barefoot body's core
      She stumbles, reckless of the threatening shocks
      And drenching lonely violence of this shore
      The gentle dark horizon, scarcely seen
      Now pacifies  her sigh-exhausted breast
      In blending floods, both clashing and serene
      In sea and stars her being is expressed
      And ‘though adrift on ocean and in space
      She’s comforted in Nature’s wide embrace



      Alive, the air's moist, moving, immense and solemn, where feathered streakings fly
      The breath of a towering pale and fluttering sky
      Exhales the soothing change from barren dry

      Wild with grateful assent the canopy's jubilant jostling
      Gives giddy shelter to small brown squeaking darts of agile wing

      The fading afternoon enfolds the windborne leaves
      Its greying premature and driven restlessly
      Until from above the treetops
      Fall the first full raindrops

      Sudden, sodden, spattering showers shapes obscure
      Spreading softly shallow sheets of spray
      Soaked cement shines slippery!
      Pelting droplets pouring down
      Splashing puddles and pools
      People are propelled past, swiftly seeking shelter

      The roof’s drumhead beats not for battle but for safe and wakeful peace
      Inside, secure, alive, with mind and heart flung wide
      Renewing rain will water thought and bring release

      Protected calm in growing dark as glass is lashed
      Wet-scented air refreshes face and flesh
      And at the last, as night and storming mesh
      Since Nature does not sleep in her distress
      I also watch for her, I watch and will not rest


    stand fast

      Alone I feel each sense reveal a putrid world's decay
      In print, on screen, the hack obscenely chooses words to say
      Let wealth destroy all Nature's joy: the news is worse each day
      My silence lets the greedy get their stupid worthless way

      Open your hand and place it in ours,
      Let impotent anger pass
      And with your friends find comforting power
      Together we'll stand fast!

      However few, what we can do our courage will achieve
      We cannot but stand up for what we ardently believe
      The eleventh hour is struck but our resolve can yet retrieve
      A sense of worth for planet earth its children may receive

      Reach out your hand, take hold of the time
      Leave despair in the past
      The power for change is yours and mine
      Together we'll stand fast!

      We are alive. We will survive, and as Earth's peril grows
      So shall our cause which overawes each honest heart that knows
      And as we grow we'll overthrow corrupt destructive foes
      The outrage of this insane age we will bring to a close!

      So close your fist and raise it with ours!
      Integrity unsurpassed
      Gives us the essence of our power
      Together we'll stand fast!


    dream at dusk

      Like a favourite coat, elderly
      Frayed from winters past
      His dream is worn:
      However, it, ‘though gradually
      Greyed (and yet too fast)
      Seems reborn
      The threads have come apart
      And there is none to mend
      But although torn
      No shred will he discard
      But wear until the end
      Its warmth forlorn

      If everything that is had Beauty's essence
      Were this, as once she asked, my perfect world
      Dissolved, the ugly struggle with injustice
      Duty lulled in victory's omnipresence
      Racism extinct, its cruelty hurled
      From each infected mind. Its sick disgust its
      Fear destroyed . Could Trust all weapons sheathe
      Were War a word with no modernity
      What would I do, delivered from this strife?
      Within her arms acceptance would I breathe
      Again the perfume of eternity
      And forever kiss the glory of her life

      My thoughts have strayed on alien paths to heaven
      And sipped Impossibility's thin nectar:
      For slow terrestrial steps, afraid to stumble
      Without the spring that youth and friends had given
      Now convey a sour crumbling spectre
      Stalking uneternal realms and humble
      The way I follow leads to lengthening shade:
      ‘Though memory of her sunlight gilds my sky's
      Immense heart-lifting sunset; how can it
      Not fail and fade? Night will not be delayed
      For at the last it’s Death that never dies
      Love's beauty but imagined infinite

      Before it can annihilate
      This sparkling flash of time, efface
      The billion colours of existence
      Both joy and pain eradicate
      Before it stills this restless pace
      Death must conquer my resistance
      But not a lonely screamed protest
      (At least not ‘til the very last)
      Allies have I, all alive
      Who also strive, and will not rest
      Our voices, when the chanting’s passed
      Can leave some hope in Time’s archive

      We need, and have courageous songs
      And laughter past the point of tears
      Age can only slow the dance
      Of hope that human need prolongs
      As with the gathering speed of years
      Decay and beauty both advance



      Terra nullius *
      Lao Gai
      Etnicko cisenyi 
      War of terror on terror

      No more! We wont accept this pain. Not ever again!
      No more! The injustice is obscene and insane!
      Born into hardship or rebels from privilege
      As women and men we demand, in every people's language
      The liberty of all enslaved, the end of fear, the trust of friends
      A world of compassion where peace never ends!

      Dissent is the duty of all whose generous heart
      Whose love of sharing, and of truth is dismayed
      All those who witness aggression and cruelty
      Intolerant and blind belief, the violence of poverty
      Stand up with courage! Organise!
      'Though justice may suffer its cause cannot die!

      Praise for the activists ablaze with selfless consuming flames
      Burning brighter than the banners they raise!
      All whose awareness has taught them to grieve
      Know the need to take action for what they believe
      Let us be generous, honest and strong
      Patient and calm, for the conflict is long

      Even the humblest of actions we take
      Contributes its good to the future we make
      Cruelty's victories will viciously breed
      Where silence gives licence to violence and greed

      Friend if you choke, too fatigued by the horror of
      The hatred that's broken the lives of countless ones we love
      Our arm is always here to help you to stand
      To take strength and comfort from the clasping of hands
      Hands that by sharing their labour extend
      Protection and hope to the lives they defend
      Until atrocity is only a memory
      It’s then, only then that our struggle can end!

    * Terra nullius: ‘Empty land’ the white colonisers of Australia didn’t recognise Aborigines as people, an attitude that still resonates in social attitudes and government policies today.

    Lao Gai: ‘Reform through labour’ China’s vast system of slave labour camps where millions of people, many of them political prisoners, are forced to work under brutal conditions and endure political indoctrination.

    Desapareción: ‘Disappearance’ the abduction, torture and murder of anyone perceived as an opponent of military dictatorship in Latin America.

    Etnicko cisenyi: ‘Ethnic cleansing’ during the war in the former Yugoslavia approximately 200,000 civilians were murdered by uniformed racists.

    Umuganda: ‘Public Service’ originally this was forced labour on communal projects required by the Belgian overlords of Rwanda. Obscenely, it was used to mobilise Hutu civilians to join in massacring their Tutsi neighbours in 1994.

    Endlösung: ‘The Final Solution’ Nazi Germany’s attempt to exterminate Jewish people casts a long dark shadow through history.  Nakba: ‘Cataclysm’ the occupation of Palestine and the exile of its people.

    War On Terror: The United States government, having armed and sponsored brutal regimes and terrorist groups to serve its commercial and geopolitical interests, sought to convince us that war abroad and fascism at home would end rather than extend the carnage it created.



      Existence gifts us with its splendid stimulus
      Don’t resist its swift, immense and awe-inspiring impetus
      Immeasurably emotive
      For magnificence a motive
      Or a marvellous injunction
      To enact without compunction
      The zealousness in all of us!

      Vigorous, accelerated, vital, frantic
      A hurricane: so not pacific (nor atlantic)
      Undestructive all the same
      Building beauty brings no blame
      Torpidity ’s a stupid shame
      Get it done, get in the game
      Make the joy gigantic!

      In this afternoon of all that is
      Who’d stand an idle witness
      Shrug mundane catastrophe
      Say “it’s too much to ask of me”
      And claim some lack of fitness
      For the duty to save beauty?

      Imbued with honest sense, intensely unreposing
      All poisonous and plutocratic power opposing
      Surrounded by a sickening
      Sad and savage stricken thing
      Amplify activity
      Contest with creativity
      The time is short for dozing!



      Vivid visions fill the closed eyesight
      Thinking's twitches witness night
      Endure and drag
      Long it lags
      But sort of feels alright

      The current crawls but strangely swirls unsmooth     
      Its minute flow my fever fails to soothe
      Alertly lying
      Dreams defying
      With relentless truth

      Making restless sense
      Ideas dart. They're quick
      Refuse to sink
      In abstract seas
      And skirting all defense
      Like reptile tail flick
      Thinking blinks
      In blindness sees

      Gradual grey: a harbinger of harm   
       Hardly had dark held its charm
      But with night crossed
      Its softness 's lost
      In morning's sharp alarm

      Herald of the heat and threat of day 
      Dawn's dull insistent gray  
      That, breathless
      All will pass away


    Miguel Heatwole: mheatwole@bigpond.com