Random Borrowing #5: Native Title

Today’s random library item, to be related to music composition, turned out to be a book about the Aboriginals of Australia.


I selected a random page (63). It was about native title was treated in law for most of Australia’s history. Essentially, the law considered Australia to be unpopulated before the English arrived, in contradiction of reality.

You could consider that much of the literature about the history of music has a similarly insular view, focusing on the history of Western music. Most of it completely ignores the musical traditions of other cultures. At least this was my personal musical education. It seems to be less insular nowadays with a google search for “History of Music” showing several sites that are quite inclusive of ancient music from non-western cultures.

Today, my primary exposure to non-western musical traditions are in film soundtracks.

I should read up a little to reduce my level of ignorance about traditional Aboriginal music. At this point, all that I (think I) know involves chanting, telling stories in dance, didgeridoos  and hitting sticks together in the desert.

(reading montage….)

After some research, it turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark. Indigenous Australian music has an important role in maintain the cultural traditions and knowledge of Aboriginal clans in an oral form. This is quite similar in function to early western music.

The didgeridoo is the iconic Aboriginal musical instrument and musically seems to have a similar musical effect to a drone or pedal point. Interestingly, a didgeridoo with a termite hollowed bore has it’s first resonance at about an 11th above the fundamental. Also, vocal sounds are used as part of the playing to simulate animal noises.