Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

August 11, 1999

Musicians respond to bombings with songs about war and peace

The bombing of Yugoslavia inspired a University of Guelph research technician to co-produce a new CD of songs about war and peace, recorded by more than 100 local musicians, including U of G professors, staff and students.

Lewis Melville, Department of Botany, said he felt a need to speak out against the NATO bombing campaign and what he saw as Canada's failure to explore alternatives to participating in the air war.

"I'm a scientist. When it was claimed that bombing was the only choice, my red flags went up. What were the other possibilities?" Melville said. The accomplished musician asked various songwriters, including U of G acquaintances, to write and record songs about alternatives to war.

Released last month, Music for Peace includes 34 tunes by area singer-songwriters.

The project was born partly out of a trip Melville took to Southeast Asia earlier this year. He recorded a cassette of conversations and songs by refugees in Thailand camps that is now being distributed covertly in Burma. Earlier, Melville had participated in a benefit album that raised about $2,500 for land-mine relief in Cambodia.

He plans to send proceeds of this new CD to Doctors without Borders.

Other U of G contributors on Music for Peace were Prof. Hank Davis, Department of Psychology; Prof. Alan Wildeman, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics; and several botany PhD students and technicians.

Wildeman's song, Maus, is a children's poem that evokes the German concentration camps of the Second World War. "Like everybody else on the album, I wrote the song quickly to capture the spirit of the moment," he said.

Davis said he initially did not want to take part in the project because he had never written, performed or even enjoyed political music. Upon learning he could write a peace song, Davis recorded Glass Bottom Boat, a song he'd written earlier. "It's about finding a safe, peaceful corner of the world. It was an oddity to me unlike most of my other music. Now it's found a home," he said.

"My ideal world is one in which there is nothing but peace. Whether this CD will singlehandedly produce that kind of existence is anybody's guess. Maybe the best we can hope for is that collectively we can continue to raise people's consciousness about the futility of war. It's hard to predict how efforts like this snowball or coalesce into political change. I lived through the '60s and I know that efforts like this led to an anti-war movement that got the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam."

Melville, who also recalls growing up during the turmoil over the Vietnam War, added the message of peace and love "may be a little bit tired, but maybe it's as simple as that."

Contact: Lewis Melville (519) 824-4120 Ext. 8302 or (519) 821-3551

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3338.

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