Papers of a Dead Man

composed by Linsey Pollak  – 2006based on poems written by refugees
for 2 voices, 3 saxophones, “Lyrebird” wind synth, percussion, wind harps, and clarinis.mp3s:

Listen to “The Only Hope” (mp3 format 1.49mb)   The only Hope

Listen to “Destiny” (mp3 format 1.89mb)   Destiny

“Here is my room.

Oblivion is corroded and silence has grown old.

Enter with candles;

This room is a lair carved from the breast of darkness.

Walk very slowly or you may frighten the dust and the spiders.

Near my broken cup … a bundle of papers:

Between covers a lifetime is scattered.

Take them, they contain my youth.

Read them, don’t deny me immortality.

Publish them, don’t let me die!”

These words by Syrian poet Umar Abu Rishah inspired Linsey to compose a musical work based on the poems of refugees.

When we read these poems, we are entering another country – a shadowy, unfamiliar country with its own laws, language and borders. It is a place where innocents are locked up for years without charge, without trial, without hope, where children live behind razor wire without trees or dreams. It is a country where people sew their lips together in acts of courage and despair, and the fostering of hopelessness is law and the breaking of the human spirit is official policy. This is a country where people, driven mad by despair die by their own hand, or slowly day by day, as the years wear on. It is a country where mercy has no place and children have died of grief.

The writers who inhabit this country have their state of exile in common. Some are detainees who are ‘called to write’ in an urgent attempt to reach the outside world and to express their suffering and pain, some are ex-detainees who are still trying to come to terms with their experiences in the camps. There are journalists, playwrights, fiction writers, poets, cartoonists whose escape from tyranny in their own countries has made them strong enough to speak out eloquently against injustice here as well. This is a nightmare country they’re mapping for us, and it lies here in the heart of Australia.

– edited from Rosie Scott’s Introduction to “Another Country” (writers in Detention)

The poets were: 

Mohsen Soltani

Tony Zandavar

Hojatollah Mohammadi

Hassan Sabbagh

Daniel Alikhani

Mehmet al Assad

Leonardo Karakushi

Umar Abu Rishah

The performers were:

winds – Linsey Pollak

Vocalists – Ann Bermingham & Reni Pavlova-Bojilov

Saxophonists – Ric Halstead and Brendan Hook

Percussionist – Tunji Beier


video design and camera – Chris Peckham

It had a simple but strikingly strong visual presentation that features the words themselves through a video design by Chris Peckham who also was present in the performance mixing a live camera feed.

The words from eight refugee poets (featuring Mohsen Soltani and Tony Zandavar) were woven into the score and performed through song and spoken word. The score featured the sounds of “Lyrebird” (a wind synth) and live looping, Bulgarian influenced singing,  saxophones and virtuosic percussion. These elements provided an aurally rich and exciting context for expressing the words of refugees.