Researching Music Podcast

Welcome to the MSA Podcast Researching Music, a series where we meet music researchers from around Australia to hear about the kinds of projects that they are working on, and to get a backstage glimpse of the mechanics of the research that sits behind the glossy final publication!

Hosted by Assoc. Prof. Sarah Collins (University of Western Australia)

Podcast music composed by Dr. Tracy Redhead (University of Western Australia)


Episode 1: Representing Australian Aboriginal Music and Dance 1930–1970

Guests
Dr. Amanda Harris (University of Sydney) and Mr Tiriki Onus (University of Melbourne)

Summary
At the very moment when Australian art music composers were incorporating Aboriginal culture into their music as a way of fashioning a distinctive national identity on the world stage, the performance of culture by First Nations people in Australia was being actively suppressed through policies of assimilation.

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In her recently-published book Representing Australian Aboriginal Music and Dance 1930-1970 (Bloomsbury, 2020), Amanda Harris traces the parallel history of non-indigenous representations of Aboriginal culture with the simultaneous assertion of presence by Aboriginal performers appearing on stages around Australia.

In this conversation, Amanda describes her findings and shares stories of her research, describing her process of trawling through archives chasing traces of familiar names of Aboriginal performers here and there, and supplementing the patchy documentation with oral history accounts provided by relatives of these performers. Tiriki Onus, who provides one of the first-person accounts in the book, describes the activities of his grandfather William ‘Bill’ Onus, first Indigenous president of the Aborigines Advancement League in 1967, who joined showmanship with film-making and political activism. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the ways and which we can incorporate Aboriginal music, culture, and knowledges into our teaching and research in culturally appropriate ways, taking these stories forward in classrooms and conversations into the future.

Want to know more?

  • Amanda Harris, Representing Australian Aboriginal music and dance 1930-1970 (Bloomsbury, 2020). doi: 10.5040/9781501362965
  • Amanda Harris, ‘Representing Australia to the Commonwealth in 1965: Aboriginal and Indigenous Performance’ Twentieth-Century Music 17.1 (2019): 3-22. doi: 10.1017/S1478572219000331
  • Trailer for Ablaze (2021), a documentary by Tiriki Onus about the film-making activities of his grandfather: https://youtu.be/wHD4Ji5WuDM

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Episode 2: Rocking in a Free World: Popular Music and the Politics of Freedom in Postwar America

Guest
Dr. Nicholas Tochka (University of Melbourne)

Summary
This conversation traverses topics such as rock ’n’ roll’s association with notions of freedom, self-expression and individualism in post-War America; how performers and listeners became subjects through rock in both liberal and socialist contexts; the shifting political significance of the notion of ‘the youth’ in the 1950s and 60s; the association between rock and the post-war emergence of the civil rights movement; the inter-meshing of racial and anti-communist sentiment—black, white, and red; and the move from ‘rock ’n’ roll’ to ‘rock’, and what political values were left behind (and what remained) with this change.

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The conversation concludes with a chat about the recent attempts to diversify Rolling Stone’s ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ list, as well as a discussion of how ethnographic processes applied in the process of researching rock ’n’ roll culture for Nick’s forthcoming book Rocking in a Free World: Popular Music and the Politics of Freedom in Postwar America.

Want to know more?

  • Nicholas Tochka, ‘John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band as ‘first-person music’: notes on the politics of self-expression in rock music since 1970’, Popular Music 39.3-4 (2020:. 504-522. Doi: 10.1017/S0261143019000485
  • Nicholas Tochka, Audible States: Socialist Politics and Popular Music in Albania (Oxford University Press, 2017). doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190467814.001.0001

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Episode 3: The Art and Science of Canon

Guest
Assoc. Prof. Denis Collins (University of Queensland)

Summary
In their project, ‘The Art and Science of Canon in the Music of Early 17th-Century Rome’ (ARC DP180100680, 2018-2021), Denis Collins and Jason Stoessel explore the use of computational methods—involving optical music recognition software and machine learning—to identify, classify, and trace compositional devices associated with canon from print manuscripts of the early 17th century.

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In the process, they discover links between experimental thought in scientific and musical arenas, respectively, as discussed by Denis in this podcast conversation. We also discuss the work of Sergi Taneyev, founder of the Russian school of music theory and music composition pedagogy, a contemporary of Schenker but largely unknown in the West. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the project’s new findings about the work of Jan Dismas Zelenka, and its new insights into Josquin des Prez in this the year of the 500th anniversary of this death.

Want to know more?

  • The Canons Database: https://canons.org.au/catalog
  • The Art of Canon Blog: https://art-of-canon.blog/
  • Denis Collins, ‘Approaching Renaissance Music Using Taneyev’s Theories of Movable Counterpoint’ Acta Musicologica 90.2 (2018): 178-201.
  • Denis Collins, ‘Zelenka and the Combinative Impulse: Contrapuntal Techniques in the Miserere in D Minor, ZWV 56’ Musicology Australia 41:2 (2019): 199-225. DOI: 10.1080/08145857.2019.1703488
  • J. Stoessel and D. Collins, ‘“Sonorous Number-Objects”: Canonic Techniques, Combinatorics and Early Scientific Thought in 17th-Century Rome,’ in Music and Science from Leonardo to Galileo, edited by Victor Coelho and Rudolf Rasch. Music, Science, and Technology (Turnhout: Brepols, 2022).
  • J. Stoessel, D. Collins, and S. Bolland, ‘Using Optical Music Recognition to Encode 17th-Century Music Prints: The Canonic Works of Paolo Agostini (C.1583–1629) as a Test Case.’ 7th International Conference on Digital Libraries for Musicology, Montréal, QC, Canada, Association for Computing Machinery, 2020.

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