The Music Diversity Lab is made up of four unique strands:
Understanding music diversity: All known human societies create music: why is this so, and what implications does this observation have for understanding the nature of music and for current practice in music research and for allied fields such as linguistics, history and anthropology?
Innovation through music: What role do composers and performers play in generating musical diversity, and how is creativity enabled or constrained by current society?
History of Australian music diversity: How is music-making affected by Australian society’s diverse histories, cultural communities, institutions and landscapes?
Sustaining music diversity: Cross-disciplinary collaboration with domain experts and industry to develop applied research projects addressing current issues (eg. role of music in language revitalisation; arts and cultural policy development; etc.).
The Music Diversity Lab is supported by the award-winning PARADISEC (Pacific and Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures). Research data services and other infrastructural requirements of researchers affiliated with the Musiic Diversity Lab are met through the PARADISEC Sydney Unit.
Kun-barlang is a highly endangered language spoken in northwestern Arnhem Land, Northern Australia. Most of the remaining speakers are elderly, so there is an urgent need to annotate the existing Kun-barlang archival materials and to expand the corpus with new materials. We will do this by working in intergenerational teams, training younger people to use mobile technologies to assist in the annotation of existing materials and the creation of new audiovisual recordings. We aim to record all remaining Kun-barlang varieties and registers, with particular emphases on the domains of kinship, ethnobiology, music and public ceremony.
This project documents and explores the Wanji-wanji, a travelling ceremony known widely across central and Western Australia. Myfany Turpin recorded this ceremony in northwest Northern Territory in 2015 and has since found archival recordings and references to it being performed across a huge area from Papunya NT (1975), Esperance and Norseman (1970), Marble Bar (1967) and Eucla WA (1908). The cross institutional project team aims to bring the hsitory of the Wanji-wanji, and Aboriginal people's memory of this ceremony to broader public attention by reconnecting senior people from across Australia who sing and recall the ceremony wtih the archival recordings.
Musical resilience within marginal groups in culturally diverse societies. This project aims to examine and compare the music of minorities in one Western and one non-Western culturally diverse society to better understand how certain musics thrive. This project will improve understanding of the musical and social lives of minority communities in culturally diverse societies. By exploring how communities perceive and handle challenges to musical practices, it will expand knowledge of the ways that music can enhance the lives of minority peoples and our society. The outcomes will include practical guidance that can inform community activities and policy at a range of levels, and benefit society through positive social change.
This project aims to reframe a period of Australian history, the Assimilation era (1935-1975), to demonstrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders' active intervention in public affairs through performances of music and dance. Collaborating with present-day communities, our interdisciplinary team will recuperate and evaluate dispersed records and testimonies of performances, aiming to construct an alternative history of cultural resilience and agency. Outcomes directed at academic, community and public audiences aim to better inform current debates on Australian identity, support the work of contemporary practitioners, build international networks and validate so far hidden histories at the heart of Australian nationhood.
This project aims to investigate relationships between place, people and endangered performance traditions in the south coast region of Western Australia. For the first time, it will bring together work on archival song and language material, ecological readings of landscape and Indigenous community expertise to extend and enhance knowledge of critically endangered Nyungar songlines. Expected outcomes include increased community capacity to develop, maintain and share a place-based performance repertoire and the potential to nourish social cohesion, strengthen connection to Country and aid re-interpretation of the landscape. This should provide benefits to Indigenous wellbeing, environmental understanding and processes of reconciliation.
This project will determine the dynamic ways in which Warlpiri people forge and negotiate connections to place in performance of ceremonial songs. Through collaborative research with Warlpiri people this project innovatively implements Indigenous methodological approaches which emphasise that Warlpiri singing traditions are multimodal and embodied in their practice. This project will undertake the first systematic study of Warlpiri place-based songs in performance contexts incorporating past and contemporary instances to determine the dynamic interconnections between people and places. In validating the contemporary value of Warlpiri performance of ceremonial songs, this project will support the continuing vitality of these traditions.
This project explores the interconnection between Tiwi song culture, death and mourning in the context of artistic creativity, cultural maintenance and community health. In the context of the relatively high mortality rate suffered by the Tiwi community, this research will report on Tiwi-lead discussion on the role of song in the maintenance of Tiwi culture and spirituality and in facilitating funerals and mortuary rituals that are essential to social well-being. Central to the project is the collation of a series of endangered songs and song words to enable ongoing practice of funerals and associated mortuary rituals. Led by senior Tiwi song men and song women, strategies for maintaining the oral transmission of cultural knowledge will be explored in the context of the interconnectivity of cultural and social resilience. An important goal of this project is the creation of a new body of work using archival records, visual imagery and traditional design alongside new vocal work by Elders and emerging Tiwi song custodians.
This project is funded by the UK Leverhulme Trust, in partnership with the British Library, Institute for Papua New Guinea Studies and museums and cultural centres in the Pacific, Australia and the UK. The project uses participatory research to find new ways to understand the earliest sound recordings in the British Library’s collection (including the 1898 Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits wax cylinders and recordings made over the subsequent two decades in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Australia). These rare recordings document oral traditions from Oceanic communities, where cultural rituals and histories are primarily recorded in music and song.
This project seeks to understand the reasons behind a reported decline in knowledge of songs amongst younger generations at Yuendumu (Northern Territory) over the past 40-50 years, even though languages are still strong. Using extensive records of past music activity held in the Yuendumu-based archive of PAW Media and Communications, selected song repertories will be analysed over time, with insights and advice from today's senior custodians. Building on this research, the project team will design strategies for Warlpiri people to re-engage with this important body of Warlpiri-initiated research in their own country, and thus reinvigorate inter-generational transfer of highly significant cultural knowledge and practices, as well as building capacity in the partner organisations.