Sound Affects

what is this six-stringed instrument but an adolescent loom?

From Little Things Big Things Grow

with 2 comments

GetUp! is an Australian political advocacy group, modeled on MoveOn! in the USA, but not nearly so reviled by those on the opposite side of the political spectrum

GetUp! has released its first record, a re-working of Paul Kelly’s classic anthem “From Little Things Big Things Grow”. But it is not merely a case of a simple cover version.

The song features famous Australian musicians (John Butler, Kev Carmody, Paul Kelly, Urthboy, Missy Higgins, Mia Dyson, & Ozi Batla) singing not only the original song, but also singing select quotes from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generation as well as former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s historic Redfern Address from 1992.

Their ambition is to reach the very top of the Australian singles charts, thereby achieving high rotation on radio and TV, reaching millions of people who may never even have heard of GetUp and who have never given any thought to issues of reconciliation.

Their website says, “From little things, big things grow. This song can fill every home, cafe, pub and workplace in the country with a message of hope that we will achieve reconciliation and equality for all Australian citizens – a resounding message from the 2020 Summit.”

Lofty aims, certainly. But is the song good enough to achieve this?

As far as the music goes, this truly is an extraordinarily compelling piece. Kelly’s original melody and lyrics have always possessed a certain simplicity and beauty, and that is not lost. Indeed, if anything, it is enhanced by the different voices singing and rapping.

The instrumentation has been revamped from the original acoustic tune to include guitar, drums and even a small string section that swells in the chorus. It’s a beautiful treatment of a strikingly simple song, and it manages to both highlight the beauty of the original and to subtly tug at the heartstrings without ever seeming overbearing and preachy.

But the most remarkable bit of this song is the inclusion of sections from these two famous speeches.

We live in a time of instants.
Instant coffee.
Instant meals.
Instant news.
And what we are losing is our capacity to be overwhelmed.

Every aspect of our lives go by so quickly, and are replaced so quickly, that we are losing patience.

And when you lose patience, you don’t allow anything to grow, and everything becomes quick, immediate and empty.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of oratory.

No one gives speeches anymore. Oh, sure, people speak for a long time, but there is no imagery, no poetry, no sense of performance. Instead, politicians simply try not to offend anyone; to appeal to everyone by playing it completely safe and never actually saying anything of substance.

But humans are, by their nature, hungry beings.

We long for something to inspire us, to stimulate our minds, to force us to sit back and marvel.

Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations was such an event.

True, Rudd is not an orator. His language is almost always bureaucratic, complex and dense, and his delivery leaves much to be desired.

But in this case, the substance of Rudd’s Apology was so extraordinary, and so overdue, that it opened the floodgates on emotions that Australians had been blocking and ignoring for years.

Yes. Aboriginal children were removed (often forcibly) from their families.
Yes. In many cases it was a part of a broader plan to eradicate the Aboriginal race for good.
Yes. This deserves, at the very least, an acknowledgement of past wrongs, and an apology from the government on behalf of those who went before them.

And as the song begins, and the strings swell underneath Rudd’s voice, the song manages to capture the way the Apology made us feel.



“As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry.

On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry.

On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry.

And I offer you this apology without qualification.”


All profits raised by this song will go to GetUp!’s Reconciliation Fund and Aboriginal organisations on the ground. Help take their message to a new audience who they need to join us on this national journey, by clicking here to view and buy the song:

2 Responses

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  1. i have never been to the parliament house or niether i havent been to canberra but our school is having a camp to canberra and there coming to the parliament house but i am not allowed:(


    May 16th, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    • That’s a shame. Why aren’t you allowed to go?


      May 16th, 2010 at 9:02 pm

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