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Article: Scored in black and white

  • by Gordon Kalton Williams — © News Limited
  • Source: Source: The Australian, 14 April 2005, pp.14
  • Only 10% of this article's text is displayed below for reference purposes.
    Please contact the copyright holder/source publication to obtain the full article.

Composers schooled in the Western tradition are beginning to collaborate with indigenous musicians -- but not nearly enough, writes Gordon Kalton Williams

SINCE European settlement, Australian composers have engaged with Aboriginal music mainly as a way of identifying with this country. The first pieces of art music to incorporate Aboriginal materials, written in the mid 19th century, presented them as curiosities. Even well into the 20th century, as musicologist Roger Covell has pointed out, composers tried to fit the rhythms and melodies of Aboriginal music into 19th-century moulds. They missed its real values.

What might a musician of wider breadth have done? Percy Grainger heard recordings of Arrernte music that anthropologist Baldwin Spencer had made on Edison cylinders in 1909.

"The ...