Mobilising recordings of western Arnhem Land song to revitalise exchange

Reuben Brown, University of Melbourne Early Career Researcher Grant, 2019

This project aims to generate knowledge about how public ceremonies of exchange and diplomacy are enacted, performed and practiced between individuals, groups, and cultures in differing and complex social, cultural and political contexts in contemporary Australian society; and how emerging digital platforms might support the diversity of the song traditions that underpin such ceremonies. The project mobilises legacy and contemporary song recordings of kun-borrk/manyardi (a public dance-accompanied song tradition of western Arnhem Land) and wrangles accompanying song metadata held in institutions and drawn from the researcher’s own collection, in order to build a pilot song database for the region. The database will be used by multiple generations of Bininj/Arrarrkpi ceremony leaders and singer apprentices on country at outstations and communities in western Arnhem Land, both to aid intergenerational transmission of endangered songsets, and as a tool to generate knowledge about ceremonial exchange and markers of musical diversity within the region. Development of the western Arnhem Land database for the project is supported by the ARC Future Fellowship Singing the Future (Sally Treloyn) and a Digital Studio Internship with Dr Henry Reese.

Rupert Manmurulu, Reuben Brown, Jamie Milpurr and Solomon Nangamu (didjeridu) perform and record manyardi at Twin Hill Station, 2016. Photo: Nicole Thompson, not for reproduction

A sample of an event linked to people and recordings in the western Arnhem Land song database.