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An antinuclear “rock symphony” from Canada

April 14, 2011

As a musician who is also an activist, I’ve always appreciated the ways other musicians have blended their beliefs about peace and war, social justice, and the environment into their work.

One of the first songs I remember hearing that was overtly about nuclear war (a few years before Randy Newman’s caustic “Political Science”: “let’s drop the big one now”) was The Byrds eerie “I Come and Stand at Every Door,” the appeal of a Hiroshima victim for peace. Dylan had recorded “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” before that, but I discovered that one later. A list of topical songs, ranging from the relentlessly mainstream (“Blowin’ in the Wind”) to the truly obscure (ever heard Rod MacDonald’s “The Unearthly Fire?”) would fill many pages, and that’s not my purpose here.

Benefit concerts have been another big way in which musicians have put their values to work to support organizations and causes. George Harrison started it all with the Concert for Bangladesh. Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and Graham Nash organized the giant “No Nukes” concert right after the Three Mile Island disaster (highlights with explicit antinuclear lyrics were Gil Scott-Heron’s “We Almost Lost Detroit” and Browne’s “Before the Deluge”).

I was an unabashed fan when James Taylor played at a fundraiser for Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1980s, and several years later when Crosby, Stills and Nash, Bruce Cockburn and others did the same for IPPNW at the 1988 World Congress in Montreal. I believe in that same year IPPNW-Germany started a long-standing series of classical concerts for peace, with a four-city performance of Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis.” I jumped into the act in a small way during the scary Reagan years, playing at local peace rallies as part of a duo called “New Clear Music.” (I’d be relieved to find out we did not invent that contrived play on words, but I have the sinking feeling we did. Anyone who can document a usage before the summer of 1982 is up for a serious reward.)

Diatessaron's antinuclear rock symphony is called "Monument"

In any case, I didn’t start this piece as an exercise in nostalgia, so if you’ve followed along this far, I’m here to report that a new band has embraced the cause of nuclear abolition, has composed an antinuclear “rock symphony,” and has come to IPPNW with offers of support. The band is called Diatessaron, they hail from Canada, their album is called “Monument,” and you can learn more about it and listen to part of it here.

Diatessaron singer Si Tj told us that “Monument” “is dedicated to the victims of the nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  We are firmly committed to this cause and would like to share our message through our music with as wide an audience as possible.  We hope to create a lasting impression, especially with younger audiences, that will raise awareness about the dangers of atomic weapon stockpiling, testing and deployment.”

It’s a proud tradition with a long bloodline, Simon. Welcome to the family.

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