JONES, Anthony Linden

PhD University of Sydney In progress (2008) Pages:

Themes of Signification: Representing Aboriginality in Australian Film Music, 1930 to 1970

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Updated Oct 2015
Cultural theorist and ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin has reflected that “every film is ethnographic, and every soundtrack acts like an ethnomusicologist.” Facilitated through a focus on the music of films that feature Australian Aboriginal people and culture, this study reveals the changing relationship between the Aboriginal people of mainland Australia and the wider Australian community over the period of the study.

The period from 1930 to 1970 was a troublesome time for the production of film in Australia. With the perfect storm of the Great Depression, the Second World War, the financial and technical demands of sound technology for film and aggressive block booking by Hollywood distributors, the once buoyant industry suffered a dramatic downturn in production from the heady days of the silent era.

The Australian Government undertook engagement with filmmaking as part of the war effort in the 1940s, leading to the growth of documentary film production, even as feature film production fell to its lowest ebb. The production of feature films would remain at a nadir until Government measures put in place to revive local production at the end of the 1960s began to take effect. The year 1970 marks the end of the early era of sound filmmaking and the beginning of a new flowering of film production in Australia.

Analysing feature and documentary films within the period, the survey highlights commonalities and differences of approach, evidence of the influence of international practices, and the extent to which actual Aboriginal materials have been incorporated into the musical underscore of these films.

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