Australian politics can sometimes be a little, well, boring, unlike, say, a live gig. Enter Unrepresentative Swill, a brand new musical production that’s set to debut soon as part of the Queensland Music Festival.

In this unique production, Queensland’s own Topology and The Australian Voices bring provocative text and exceptional musicianship together to create a musical narrative inspired by famous speeches delivered throughout Australian history.

Narrated by author, comedian and TV personality Adam Spencer, this powerful, thought-provoking performance is not to be missed. We sat down with one of the minds behind Unrepresentative Swill to find out what audiences can expect.

What Is It?

Listening to recordings of well-known and characteristic speeches by Australia’s prime ministers, but with live choral/instrumental musical accompaniment that enhances perception of the inherent music in the speech.

It actually sounds as if the PMs are singing, even though no manipulation has been used on their voices. It’s just that we accompany the often-overlooked music in the speech so that you hear it.

You’ll hear many key moments in Australia’s history, including Gallipoli, the Depression, the beginning and middle of World War Two, the Dismissal of the government, struggles over Aboriginal rights and misogyny in parliament.


The initial idea came when Robert Davidson noticed that Gough Whitlam’s “Well may we say” speech had a very strong waltz character and started playing his double bass along with Gough in B flat major.

There was an appeal in the idea of pointing out the music that is hidden inside well-known speeches – like saying “hey did you notice this before?”.

What To Expect

You will start to hear more of the human side of politics, how each of our PMs is a real person with real feelings and emotions. It’s easy to get distracted by the words, and not hear the emotion of speech – when focusing on the intonation, the music of the speech, the emotions come to the fore.

We hear the real sadness in Menzies’ declaration of war, the heartrending empathy in Keating’s “We took the children from their mothers” and the personal journey in Abbott’s coming to terms with the way this country has failed its first people.

The Most Musical Politican

The most musically gripping is Julia Gillard, perhaps because she is the most passionate and authentic, to my ears. We are really hearing the woman behind the political figure as she expresses her great frustration and anger at the misogyny rife in Parliament.

Perhaps Malcolm Fraser’s “Life is not meant to be easy” is the least music – so we extended it musically with the choir.

Stars Of The Show

Some of the highlights are Menzies declaring WW2, Gough waltzing his way through “Well may we say God save the Queen” at his 1975 Dismissal, and Kevin Rudd apologising to Australia’s indigenous people.

There’s Paul Keating and Tony Abbott both owning up to Australia’s failure towards Indigenous people, and, most striking of all, Julia Gillard pointing out the unacceptable misogyny in Parliament.

The one speaker we feature who is not a PM is Noel Pearson in his splendidly musical eulogy for Gough Whitlam. We chose them for their window in the person behind the politician. The speeches have been treated with an empathetic stance, rather than as parody or satire.


I’d like to have included Chifley, but we don’t want to make the concert too long.

Parting Words

Come and hear what you thought you knew. You’ll get a new perspective and realise we are all composers, making melodies all day long in our speech. We don’t edit or modify the speech, we simply sing and play along with it.

‘Unrepresentative Swill’ is happening on Wednesday, 29th July 2015 at Concert Hall, QPAC as part of the Queensland Music Festival. For more info and tickets, visit the official Queensland Music Festival website.