… singing up Australia …

Copyright ©️ Elizabeth Sheppard 2023. All Rights Reserved.

The proper judges of “Australian-ness” in music are the skilled Songmen and Songwomen of the Country, people and languages that have, since time immemorial, made the unique music of this Great Southern land we now call Australia. Acultural sonic “new music” concatenations, unless composed in close consultation with an Australian First Peoples community, authorised by accredited First Peoples Elders, and tested in a performance attended by the Elders who consulted on and authorised the music (and consequently have shared rights in it), cannot possess the integrated cultural power and raw presence that an accredited Australian First Peoples song possesses. A song that has no personal or communal connection to any Australian Indigenous Country, can’t communicate the unique sovereign character and nationhood of Australia to its listeners.

Yet Western music notation, althougb deemed unnecessary, and even corrupting, by some Indigenous Australian musicians, can be used ethically in assimilative scenarios, to support and promote Australian Indigenous music. To be sure, Western music notation is a blunt and irredeemably colonial instrument, but a necessary one, if intercultural communication and musical peacemaking is to thrive in Australia. However, Australian First Peoples are regularly plagued with barriers to writing and publishing the songs we own. Commercial agents and cabal monopolies have profited hugely from recording, producing and selling digital files, CDs and published scores of our music, while promoting the outrageous lie that all First Peoples are condemned to musical illiteracy forever. However, Indigenous Australian composers of many traditions are currently learning to use AI technology for fast music transcription and editing, so these self-paced learning systems may disempower the overpriced music products and services of the cabals. But right now, restrictive cabal practices are blocking widespread distribution and teaching of a large repertoire of high quality Indigenous Australian music.

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