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07 NOVEMBER 2014

Songlines: How Indigenous Australians Use Music to Mark Geography

"There are many different methods of pre–literate navigation that have been documented around the world. One of the most unique, a fusion of navigation and oral mythological storytelling, originated among the indigenous peoples of Australia, who navigated their way across the land using paths called songlines or dreaming tracks. In Aboriginal mythology, a songline is a myth based around localised 'creator–beings' during the Dreaming, the indigenous Australian embodiment of the creation of the Earth. Each songline explains the route followed by the creator–being during the course of the myth. The path of each creator–being is marked in sung lyrics. One navigates across the land by repeating the words of the song or re–enacting the story through dance, which in the course of telling the story also describe the location of various landmarks on the landscape (e.g. rock formations, watering holes, rivers, trees). In some cases, the paths of the creator–beings are said to be evident from their marks on the land (petrosomatoglyphs), such as large depressions in the land which are said to be their footprints (parallels can certainly be seen in some North American First Nation creation stories).

Songlines often came in sequences, much like a symphony or album today. By singing a song cycle in the appropriate order could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior (a fact which amazed early anthropologists who were stunned by Aborigines that frequently walked across hundreds of kilometres of desert picking out tiny features along the way without error). Each group had its own set of songlines that were passed from generation to generation so that future generations would know how to navigate when in neighbouring tribes' territories. The extensive system of songlines in Australia varied in length from a few kilometres to hundreds of kilometres in length crossing through lands of many different Indigenous peoples. Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of some songlines were in different languages corresponding to the region the songline was navigating through at the time, and thus could only be fully understood by a person speaking all of the languages in the song."

(The Basement Geographer, 21 October 2010)

Fig.1 "What are song lines?" Colin Jones, lecturer in Aboriginal History, talks about his culture, his history and his art. Queensland Rural Medical Education.

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TAGS

Aboriginal mythologyancestral beings • ancestral heroes • animist belief systemAustralia • Colin Jones • creation narrative • creation spirits • Creator Beingscultural memory • cultural webs of memory • dreaming (spirituality) • dreaming tracks • earth motherFirst AustraliansFirst Nations • genii loci • geographical point • Indigenous Australians • kin-grouping system • kinship • landmarkslandscapelocationmappingmarkers • mythological storytelling • navigation systemnavigational methodsoral historiesorientationorigin myth • paths • petrosomatoglyph • place • point-to-point • pre-literate navigation • pre-literate societiessequences and spatial practisessmooth space • song cycle • songlinesspatial literacyspatial narrativespiritualitysymbolic placeterritorytimeless timetopology • totemic ancestors • voice map • watering holewayfinding

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
02 AUGUST 2013

Making Documentaries for Radio

"Prepared by veteran producer Jack Perkins, this series of tutorials is for anyone interested in making audio documentaries. They include guidance in the technical, practical and philosophical approaches to working with audio, including field recording, scripting, interviewing techniques and the marriage of sound and word."

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TAGS

audio capture • audio documentaries • audio recorderdocumentary • documentary making • field recordinghow toindividual interviewsindividual perspectives • interviewing techniques • intimate lives • Jack Perkins • oral historiesoral historypersonal interviewspersonal narrativespersonal story • radio documentary • Radio New Zealand • Radio New Zealand National • social reality • sound portrait • sound recording • working with audio

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
06 JANUARY 2009

Digital Songlines project

"Launched by the Australasian CRC [Cooperative Research Centre] for Interaction Design (ACID), Digital Songlines is a project to develop protocols, methodologies, and toolkits to facilitate the collection and sharing of Indigenous cultural heritage knowledge in Australia. The title of Digital Songlines represents the blend of new media technology, simulation technology, and high–end computer visualisation systems to depict Aboriginal culture and heritage. Through the virtual sharing of oral histories, herbarium data, dreamtime myths, legends, and stories, organisers hope to protect, preserve and promote Indigenous cultural practices and their survival techniques in accessible, interactive, creative ways."

(Ethnos Project Resources Database)

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TAGS

20063DAboriginal culture • Aboriginal heritage • Aboriginal mythologyancient heritageartworksAustralasian CRC for Interaction DesignAustralia • Brendan Ledwich • Brett Leavy • Craig Gibbons • cultural heritage • culturally sensitive • culture preservation • dancedigital environmentDigital Songlines (2006)digital storytelling • Ethnos Project Resources Database • flora and faunafood gathering activitiesIndigenous AustraliansIndigenous communitiesIndigenous cultural knowledge • Indigenous custodians • Indigenous heritage • Indigenous knowledge • Indigenous leaders • Indigenous people • Indigenous practices and languages • Indigenous traditional • interactive immersive simulation experienceinteractive visualisation • James Hills • Joti Carroll • multilayered stories • nonlinearoral historiesoral tradition • platform-independent software • ritualsonglinesstories • storytellers • Theodor Wyeld • toolkitvirtual environmentvirtual reality

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
04 JUNE 2006

Growing up with the legacy of the Jewish Holocaust: audio stories of Jewish children

The Jewish Museum in Berlin makes good use of audiovisual technologies to engage its visitors. One of these involves the presentation of audio stories of Jewish children growing up with the legacy of the Jewish Holocaust. The stories are accessed through individual sets of headphones that are spread around a large (AstroTurf–like covered) green room. Each of the children's stories has an accompanying light–box that displays personal information about their subject and a seating area for visitors to sit in while they listen to the stories. The arrangement is both visually dramatic through the function of the light–boxes as visual accents and calming through the general ambience of the exhibition space. The use and arrangement of audiovisual technologies in this way helps to promote visitor engagement with both the individual exhibition displays and more generally with the exhibition experience.

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TAGS

AstroTurf • audio storiesaudiovisualBerlinexhibitionGermanyJewJewish Holocaust • Jewish Museum Berlin • light-boxmuseumoral historiesSimon Perkins
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