MUSIC - MUSIC AND DANCE COMPANION - REVIEW
Companion to Music and Dance in Australia
seventeenth century, the trumpet was in the process of being turned into
a musical instrument”, wrote Australian musicologist John Manifold in
his 1956 study, The Music in
English Drama. Although Manifold is mentioned four times in the Currency
Companion, that pinnacle of his scholarship is absent, as are the
grace notes of his Augustan prose.
tone is flat, with little dissonance from, still less about, university
Music Departments. The documentary film about Sydney’s – Face
the Music - is not to be seen. Equally, the turmoil in the
Australian Ballet in 1981 and again in 1996 is glided over. Discussion
of ‘strikes’ and ‘unions’ is concealed under ‘Industrial
Relations’, just as the homo-erotic lurks under the rubric
‘Gender’. The index mentions ‘hoofer’ but not ‘poofter’,
which is what every Australian boy studying ballet is called.
The entry on
criticism is equally po-faced. None its samples has the zest of the 1910
Daily Telegraph’s account of
the second movement of the Ravel string quartet as “a tone picture
illustrating an acrimonious debate in a Mongolian legislature under weak
presidency”. Elsewhere, the identification of Silverchair as
“Nirvana in Pyjamas” has been immortalised. The biggest joke,
however, is the claim that disco music can be enjoyed without drugs.
covers music “in” and not just “of” Australia. The cringer’s
whine that there is no Australian culture, only High European Culture in
exile, is put to rest. All genres receive equal respect. Currency has
provided another companion, not a dictionary or an encyclopedia. The
user will need to supplement this indispensable tome with the Oxford
Companions to Australian Music, Jazz and Aboriginal art, along with the
guides to Rock, Pop and Country.
Post-Modern aversion to genius, perhaps even to creativity, the editors
have eschewed individuals, though most, but not all (Roland Foster, for
instance), can be tracked in the extensive index. The result is that
subject entries sag into lists of names, often duplicated, with snap
essays on Aboriginal music and dance relax the prohibition on
individuals. Bob Randall is allowed a column to explain his writing of
‘My brown skin baby’ from 1964, presumably because it foreshadowed
the Stolen Generations. Complaints abound about whites using indigenous
sounds but the Companion says not a word against blacks’ appropriation of the
guitar. Europeans appropriate: Aborigines adapt.
pairing music with dance, and including a disquisition on food, music
and drink, the editors have not cast their net widely enough. Although
there are entries on sound sculpture and sound poetry, there is not one
for poets, such as Peter Porter or Gwen Harwood, for whom music has been
the point of stimulus. Nor is there an entry for our musically literate
novelists, notably Henry Handel Richardson.
such lacunae, between entries for Advertising jingles and the Zither,
readers will enjoy the turkophone as an ethnically corrected saxophone
and Rolf Harris’s audiences in Britain supposing that his wobble-board
was a didge.