The songmen
: a comparative study of the relations between song style, society and the social role of performers in Aboriginal Australia

  • Robin Ruth Hodgson

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU


    This thesis is concerned with the use of a study of the musical life of a culture as a means of understanding the social forces at work in that culture. In Aboriginal culture it is the songman who is at the nexus of musical forms and cultural effects, so I have chosen to concentrate upon his role in ceremony and social -life to reveal these forces.

    A comparative approach is used to show how different musical styles accommodate different social configurations. They are considered to be able to do this on the basis of the premise that music embodies the characteristics of the culture in which it evolves. It is able to do this as it is the product of a two-way process. The music provides a mode of communication which enables communicative requirements to be satisfied; conversely, it also limits the types of messages able to be imparted, because of the restrictions inherent in its style. New stylistic features will be devised, or old ones be used in different ways, in order to maintain relevance to changing conditions. It is this search for relevance in the context of performance, through the agency of performers, which enables music to act as a key to understanding societies and the forces at work within them.

    The particular stylistic feature explored is the scope for creativity permitted by a song style in performance. The effect of this feature is then related to the social role of the songmen. The societies compared are the Agharringa sub-group of the Alyawarra language group of Central Australia, and the Anbarra sub-group of the Gidjingali language group of North Central Arnhem Land.
    Date of Award1990
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPatrick McConvell (Supervisor)

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