viernes, 5 de octubre de 2012

AUSTRALIA: History, art & music

Being Australia a country with a lot of aborigines, we will approach our work in its history mainly based on its first inhabitants. Through the understanding of the past we begin to understand the present and possibly the future. One of the oldest and longest surviving cultures is Australian Aboriginal culture which dates from 40.000 years ago approximately, when Australia began to be inhabited by Aborigines, who were from Southeast Asia and migrated there. In Australia there have existed over 250 Aboriginal languages with many dialects spoken. It is important to say the aborigines were semi-nomads who lived in large groups within their own territories, often called to as ‘traditional lands’. These lands were defined by the surrounding environmental boundaries, such as rivers or mountains. They lived with the land, because their lives were distinctly related to the land and were one with the environment. To them, the land was not just trees, rocks, rivers and animals but rather the land is part of the people spiritually and should be used in harmony and sustainably. The land had its own stories of creation. To continue with the history, by the 17th century, this territory began to be settled by Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish people but were the Dutch who settled down there. In the beginning this place was called by the Dutch New Holland; however, later in 1688 British arrived and claimed possession of the island, calling it New South Wales. Where now is located Sydney was set up a British penal colony and were transported there about 160,000 English convicts who were there for about 50 years. New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia were the six colonies which were established by free settlers and former prisoners. Afterward, many people attracted by the gold rush arrived to this place. The six colonies federated and the Commonwealth of Australia was born in 1901. This country began to be known for its liberal legislation where women could suffrage, pensions for sickness and old-age people, free compulsory education, etc. The period between 1900 and 2000 was called the post federation period and it was marked by the two world wars.
“While science advanced the way we lived through the industrialization of manufacturing, so too it was seen in its devasting form through never before seen weapons used in the wars. The warring periods were interspersed with the Great Depression and further armed conflicts that Australia was involved in, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. While the wars eventuated, Australia was becoming more involved with their outdoor lifestyles and the passion for sports was great.” (AUSTRALIANHISTORY.ORG, 2012)
Regarding Australian art we can say that various forms of arts are practiced in this country especially for Aboriginal people, who told their history from generation to generation through stone paintings which represented, for instance, legends like the “Rainbow serpent”. Some anthropologists think that there are still paintings from this date which would be underground now due to the passage of time. Some of these paintings were made by blowing ink with the mouth, it is said that the ink was blown into the hands of the dead children, over rocks with the aim to perpetuate their passage on earth. Due to the Aborigines had no written language in that time, this was the only way to pass on the knowledge from one generation to the next. Even today those legends and stories are passed to young adulthood, when they are responsible to pass those stories and culture subsequent. Nowadays, some places with those paintings are open to the public and tourists, but some can only be used with permission of the Aboriginal tribe that owns the land. Others are sacred and can not be seen. Paintings on stones such as the Carnarvon National Park are open for public visits free. Is there any relationship between the Australian location and its music? The music in Australia is particularly original due to its special environment where Australian people have lived for centuries. It is well know that music and environment have always put together like a constant relationship. Furthermore, Dunn says:
The "music" is thus the tracings and expression of the composite mind immanent in a particular connective instance. In other words, the music results from the implicit needs of said interaction such that, not only description of an observed phenomenon results but also description of the changes induced in both the observer and the observed. (Dunn, 1984, pp. 7-8)
According with that definition, music is not only a simple description of what people can observe but also is a genuine way to express how they feel in a certain environment. No doubt, feelings move the life and music is not the exception. As a matter of fact, Jung (1973) himself said that “music expresses, in some way, the movement of the feelings that cling to the unconscious processes” (as cited in Kobialka, 2010) Therefore, music has important meaning if somebody tries to describe correctly people culture; now that, music has in implicit way all the things that surround to the human being including in this the specific features of Geography where civilizations have settled down. To talk about Australian music, it is necessary to mention a little bit Indigenous Australians and Australia’s Geography. Australia is one of the driest islands in the world, surrounded by water and little islands where the weather is sometimes cold, sometimes hot and sometimes especially rainy. (Australian Government) All this features make Australia a little particular. Australia was discovered and colonized in 1770, but several years ago, original inhabitants played their music (in rituals or dances) in total isolation making unique and unusual kind of traditional music. (Asiado, 2009) Then, it is not weird that the traditional instrument be a long flute made of wood called Didgeridoo. Didgeridoo is also described as the world's oldest musical instrument. But this instrument is just a result of Indigenous spirituality and mind, obviously, because of the geographic region. Lawlor says:
As with image making, Aboriginal music also unites consciousness with the invisible laws and energy patterns of nature […] traditionally; an Aborigine would go into nature and listen intensely to animal sounds, not just voices but also the flapping of wings or the thump of feet on the ground. The Aborigine would also listen to the sounds of wind, thunder, trees creaking, and water running. The essences of all these sounds were played with as much accuracy as possible. (Lawlor, 1991)
Australian people were isolated and they found in nature some kind of company in their loneliness and Didgeridoo was the instrument created to express their feelings about what they see and feel, it was just the only instrument that they played almost like a reflection of their own way of life: solitude and spiritually. And we must remember that Australia is an island.


  • Asiado, T. (2009, Marzo 17). Bukisa. Retrieved Septiembre 27, 2012, from
  • Australian Government. (n.d.). Retrieved Septiembre 27, 2012, from
  • Dunn, D. (1984). Retrieved Septiembre 27, 2012, from
  • Lawlor, R. (1991). Voices of The First Day, Awakening In The Aboriginal Dreamtime. Inner Traditions.
  • Kobialka, D. (2010, September 14). Music and the Development of the Humanistic Conscience. Retrieved September 27, 2012, from­and-­the-­Development-­of-­the-­Humanistic-­Conscience&id=5034798
  • (2002). From

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