Nation, Authenticity and Social Difference in Australian Popular Music: Folk, Country, Multicultural

By Smith, Graeme; Brett, Judith | Journal of Australian Studies, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Nation, Authenticity and Social Difference in Australian Popular Music: Folk, Country, Multicultural


Smith, Graeme, Brett, Judith, Journal of Australian Studies


Since the 1980s Australia has been engaged in a long running and many sided debate about the basis of the Australian political community. Immigration and multiculturalism, relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and the meaning of Australia's historic ties to Britain have all focused political attention on questions of the contemporary cultural and political basis of the Australian nation state and its relations to past national understandings.

Debates about the basis of Australia's shared national community do not just take place in parliament and newspapers, in the speeches and writings of politicians, journalists and academics. They occur in the multi-layered meanings of popular commemorative events such as the 1988 bi-centennial celebrations, in advertising imagery, in media discussions and talkback radio, in local historical societies and they are acted out in every day life in the cultural choices people make -- about what to wear, what to eat, what films to see, what music they like.

This article is about three genres of Australian popular music: public Australian folk music, multicultural music and Australian country music and the claims each makes to be distinctively and representatively Australian. These claims are made not just through the musics' differing images of Australia and representations of the relationship between the Australian present and past but in the way each musical genre enacts a distinctive desired relationship between individual, community, state and nation.

The reading of social attitudes in popular music forms is a commonplace of popular culture studies, often focusing on song lyrics, the interpretation of which are easily amenable to the techniques used on other language texts, or on the economic and social conditions of musical production.(1) Such approaches can yield much of value, however they generally ignore both the performative and the specifically musical elements of the musics, as well as being unable to talk about the diverse ways in which the interaction between performers and their audience can be understood. This latter is particularly important for our analysis, for it is in the ideas and practices which shape notions of a musical community that we find idealised notions of the imagined national community. As well, the three genres are partly overlapping in musical style. Analysis of the musical material alone would thus fail to capture the very different ways in which closely similar musical items are interpreted in different musical contexts: for example a Slim Dusty song in a folk venue compared with a country music venue. Our object of analysis is best captured through the concept of a social musical genre as it is used by the Italian musicologist, Franco Fabbri. A social musical genre encompasses musical codes, rules of behaviour, social relationships, ideological meanings and shared understandings.(2)

Folk, country and multicultural music are not mass popular musics but nor are they small subcultural taste groups. To judge the significance of these musics solely in terms of the music industry's benchmarks of record sales and air time would be to underestimate their cultural significance. Surveys find that about 17% of Australians give country music as their favourite music, despite its relatively low record sales.(3) The high-rating, nationally-networked, ABC Sunday morning program, Australia All Over, which espouses a homey rural nationalism, draws its music almost entirely from the folk and country repertoire and claims to be the most popular radio program in Australia ever, with 1.6 million listeners.(4) Items of multicultural music are regularly presented at official government functions as emblematic of contemporary Australia's rich cultural diversity, as well as being played regularly on the ABC.

These three social musical genres all share a distance from the mass music industry. This distance is chosen and self-conscious, a sign of the authenticity of the music and in particular of the authenticity of the music's relationship to its audience. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Nation, Authenticity and Social Difference in Australian Popular Music: Folk, Country, Multicultural
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.