Mapping Central Australian Song

Mapping the diversity of Aboriginal song: social and ecological significances for Australia

Myfany Turpin

Song, dance and design were once the principal means by which knowledge was transferred in Australian Aboriginal societies. Some songs were traded, prized for their knowledge, artistic merit and power. Today, traditional song genres remain vital to Indigenous identity, yet many are highly endangered. As records of history, law and religion, songs abound with social and ecological information. As poetry and music, they expose the rhythm of language and reveal different ways that people organise sound. And as items of trade, they leave clues to the interactions that occurred between different linguistic groups.

This project, funded by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, will work with Aboriginal people in the inland region of Australia to document their traditional songs. The project will seek to address three broad questions:

  • What are the forms and meanings of songs from inland Australia?
  • Are there regional musical-poetic styles across the region?
  • Does the mapping of musical-poetic styles inform understandings of cultural diffusion across Australia?

The project is led by Australian Research Council Future Fellow Dr Myfany Turpin at the University of Sydney, who is also an honorary in linguistics at the University of Queensland.

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