ELAR Occasional Seminar Series

The first talk in this series was by Dr Linda Barwick (University of Sydney) on 12th November 2012. Linda, a musicologist, linguist, and archivist, discussed archiving with ELAR of her innovative ELDP-funded project recording Western Arnhem Land (Australia) songs (abstract). This documentary corpus is recorded with extraordinary clarity, detailed methodology, and in the context of a rich collaborative history in the Western Arnhem land communities.

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An Introduction to the Western Arnhem Land Song Project collection (ELAR)

Linda Barwick

University of Sydney

Our research team (Barwick, Allan Marett, Nick Evans and Murray Garde, with assistance from BruceBirch, Ruth Singer and Isabel O’Keeffe) is now in the final stages of depositing with ELAR the results of the Western Arnhem Land Song Project (ELDP MDP0139) “Classical song traditions of contemporary Western Arnhem Land in their multilingual context”.
This project recorded and/or documented over fifty different repertories, mostly of the public dance-songs (called in Kunwinjku kunborrk) that are publicly performed in both ceremonial and non-ceremonial contexts in the Western Arnhem Landregion of Australia’s Northern Territory. Each repertory (“songset”) consists of a number of discrete song texts inherited or received in dream by known composers.

The fifty repertories we have documented are associated with many different languages, including some that are no longer spoken. Languages represented in the collection include most of the Gunwingguan and Iwaidjan languages as well as languages from the neighbouring Daly, Rembargic and Yuulngu language families, English and Kriol, together with untranslatable 'spirit languages' used extensively in songs throughout the project area. Where songs are translatable, we have worked with singers and their families to transcribe, gloss and translate the song texts, providing a rich documentation of these highly valued cultural forms for future generations of singers and researchers. We have also recorded (and where necessary, translated) a large body of discussions about the songs, as well as recording complete ceremonies.

We have made our research recordings accessible within the communities of origin via distribution of edited audio and video on appropriate media as well as working with communities to establish suitable locally sustainable access points in art centres, libraries, museums and schools.

This presentation will provide a brief overview of the collection and its significance, using recordings of a 2012 mamurrng diplomacy ceremony to illustrate some of the rich diversity of language and music in the project area, and the ways in which songs can be used to mediate interactions between different social groups, including our research team.


Further information

Barwick, L. et al (2006-2012). Songs of Western Arnhem Land, Australia. Video, audio, photographs and text. Collection deposited with the Endangered Language Archive, SOAS, University of London, available online at http://elar.soas.ac.uk/deposit/arnhemland-135103.

Gunwingguan family: Bininj Gun-wok (Bininj Kunwok) (dialects Kunwinjku, Kuninjku, Kune, Kundedjnjenghmi and Mayali); Kun-barlang; Dalabon; Iwaidjan family: Amurdak; Garig-Ilgar; Iwaidja; Mawng (Maung); Wurrugu; Manangkardi; Marrgu. Yuulngu family: Dhangu; Djambarrpuyngu (Djambarbwingu, Jambapuing, Jambapuingo); Djinang; Galpu; Gumatj;Jawoyn; Daly family: Batjamalh (Wogait, Wagatj, Worgait, Wadjiginy); Emmi (Ami); Marri Tjevin (Marritjevin, Marri Tjabin, Maridjabin); Mendhe (Manda, Menhdhe); Murrinhpatha, (Murrinh-patha, Murriny Patha, Murinbata, Gariman); Rembargic family: Burarra (Burada); Ndjébbana; Rembarrnga; Tiwi.

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