11 May 2015

In memory of Jack Body, towering figure in Asia Pacific music

The Asian music community has lost a towering figure in the passing of veteran New Zealand composer Jack Body. He passed away on 10 May in Wellington.

News of his succumbing to his long fight with cancer was received with great sadness for many of us who knew and was inspired and touched by this warm, generous spirit. Body was instrumental in embracing Malaysia back into the ACL fold and in encouraging MCC to join as member in 2007-2009.

His absence will surely be sorely felt and will leave a big hole in our community.

The news was delivered by CANZ, and below is the citation penned by composer Prof John Elmsly in 2011 for Body's ACL honorary status:

"Both within the League and in his regular activities as professor of composition at Victoria University, Jack has tirelessly furthered the objectives of the League. He is a distinguished composer in his own right, and much of his internationally performed and known music has strong personal or musical connections with the music and life of Asian and Pacific countries.


He has given numerous provocative and inspiring seminars on intercultural musical ideas and their relationship with composing and the teaching of composition, and constantly fostered the work of young Asian composers.

His contact specifically with the ACL dates at least as far back as his attendance at an ACL Festival in Bangkok in January 1978 where he began developing contacts and connections specifically resulting in the confirmation of New Zealand's membership soon after that. Since that time he has worked tirelessly to make sure that New Zealand has been a full and active participant in all ACL activities.

Three highly successful ACL Festivals have happened in Wellington since 1984 (1984, 1992, 2007) and none of these would have happened without Jack’s energy and persuasion, even to the extent of personal financial risk. Nobody in New Zealand has done more than Jack in promoting the activities of the ACL and keeping the organisation alive in a wider Asia-Pacific context. In this way he has helped maintain a high international profile for the activities of the League, which through the careful expansion of the organisation has achieved significant international recognition of its festivals and the young composers competition. This has been particularly valuable for the members from countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and now Malaysia. Jack has been a constant defender of maintaining connections with and interest in the traditional music of the region, another strong contributor to the international success of the festivals. He fostered an ACL Korea-NZ exchange programme in 2006 and had meetings in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in 2006 to encourage renewed membership of these countries.

I can think of no single person who has done more to promote Asian music in the widest sense than Jack Body”
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