Corroboree Song

Yorta Yorta Dja Dja Wurrung Dr Lou Bennett AM, is a song writer/composer and lecturer in Indigenous Studies and Research Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne. She has created the central musical experience of the exhibition Multivocal, three versions of William Barak’s Corroboree Song.

Lou Bennett writes:

“In 1885, anthropologist Reverend G. W. Torrance scribed an eight-bar passage ‘from the lips of the singer’ (Howitt, p. 330, 1887) ngurungeata (esteemed elder) and ‘native bard’, William Barak titled ‘Corroboree Song’. It was part of a selection of songs recorded in literature in the ‘The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 16’ called ‘MUSIC of the AUSTRALIA ABORIGINE by Rev. G. W. Torrance, M.A., Mus.D. [An Appendix to Mr. Howitt’s “Notes on Songs and Songmakers of some Australian Tribes.”]’ (Howitt, pg 335 1887).

Jump forward to the present day, in 2017, I was invited by members of the Wurundjeri community to rearrange and record ‘Corroboree Song’ for the 2017 annual Tanderrum performance for the Melbourne International Arts Festival. The song was used for the finale dance where all five tribes of the Kulin Nation (Woi Wurrung, Boonwurrung, Wathaurong, Dja Dja Wurrung and Taunurong) join each other on the dance mound to complete the performance ceremony. I rearranged the song extending it to represent the five tribes of the Kulin with a sixth cycle at the end for all tribes to come together at the very end of the piece in celebration of what the Tanderrum represents; a ritual of diplomacy.

For the purposes of this exhibition I have created three versions: Pelican, Black Swan and Duck. All three birds are represented within the song cycle, all having an integral relationship with the wetland songlines.”

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