THIS PAGE LAST MODIFIED Thursday 28 March 2024 13:42

Kurry Jong, quadrille, by William Joseph Cavendish, Sydney-Parramatta, April 1833; from the earliest extant manuscript of a settler Australian musical composition; Castell family papers, State Library of New South Wales


An online resource toward the early history of music in colonial Australia

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are respectfully advised that this site and links contain names, images, and voices of dead persons


Australharmony acknowledges and pays respect to the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. It is upon their ancestral lands, and in respectful emulation of their careful stewardship of country and history, that this site has been built and is maintained.

Site directory - see left sidebar

To navigate the site and links use the left sidebar

Pulldown menus for the Biographical register and Chronological checklist

Site history

Graeme Skinner is the author and curator of this online resource on music and musicians in early colonial Australia.

He is currently an Honorary Associate, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney.

Australharmony was first launched online in January 2012, and regularly updated thereafter.

Since 1 July 2014, it is published online though PARADISEC, at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney.

Australharmony is regularly updated as an open source report on ongoing research, work-in-progress toward the history of music, musicians, and audiences - Indigenous, settler, and visitor - in early colonial Australia.

It contains records of music from the earliest documented contacts between Indigenous Australians and outsiders, especially between British colonisation in 1788 and the 1860s, but also continues to document the later careers of key musicians, and covers later documentation of early colonial music and musicians in late 19th, 20th, and 21st century sources.

By providing links to a mass of online content, Australharmony is also a virtual anthology of Australian colonial music and documentation.

The alphabetical Biographical register currently includes focussed biographical entries on close to 3,000 professional and amateur musicians first active between 1788 and 1860.

Why "Australharmony"?

The colonist, judge, natural philosopher, and wit Barron Field was the first person to go into print attaching the epithet "Australian" to a piece of music.

Click here for his 1823 transcription of an Australian national melody.

Barron Field also believed he was the first Australian poet to issue a printed collection of his own work, First fruits of Australian poetry, the first edition of which appeared in Sydney in 1819.

The collection is best remembered now for its second poem, The kangaroo.

But also of interest, Field clearly intended the epigraph on his titlepage as a challenge to posterity:

I first adventure. Follow me who list;
And be the second Austral Harmonist.

Australharmony in TROVE

Under the TROVE username Australharmony, Graeme also curates a large and growing set of tagged resources inside TROVE.

Clicking here or selecting the Australian colonial music tag inside Trove gives instant access to over a curated selection of over 22,000 items, including:

A virtual anthology of over 2,500 Australian colonial musical compositions, arrangements, and editions under Music, audio & video

Almost 17,000 relevant newspaper articles and advertisements under Newspapers and gazettes

Around 800 books and 300 journal articles on Australian colonial music under Books & libraries

Grouped resources on over 350 musicians and composers under People & organisations

Almost 600 images of colonial composers, musicians, and instruments under Images, maps & artefacts

You can then use Trove's powerful search functions to locate materials on specific subjects within the Australian colonial music virtual archive.

Shareable links to TROVE tagged items on specific individual musical personnel, groups, venues, and many musical works, also appear in relevant entries inside this site.

Exemplifying use of [TROVE], musicologist Graeme Skinner has written a definitive history of Australian colonial music, cross-checking all known holdings with citations and advertisements of Australian compositions in colonial newspapers and other sources. He has identified a comprehensive and accurately-dated list of 410 known Australian works composed between 1788 and 1860, of which Australian libraries hold 73% or 297 works. Of these, 204 are held at the National Library. His index is enabling the Library to update both catalogue records and authority records, as well as to add or modify biographical records of Australian composers or performers in Music Australia/Trove (each with a unique people or 'party' identifier that links the people to the works they created). The Library also now has an improved desiderata list that may yet elicit rare surviving copies from around the world.

Robyn Holmes, "Music at the National Library of Australia", Fontes artis musicae 58/3 (July-September 2011), 218


This is a not-for-profit non-commercial site, and it contains transcriptions of much printed material and many digitised images and soundbytes of originals that are out of copyright.

Australharmony acknowledges in each case the source of the material or image by providing a live URL to the original source of web publication, or other citation in the usual way.

Fair use excerpts from copyright materials are also occasionally reproduced here, and otherwise wherever necessary explicit permissions have been sought.

Australharmony claims copyright over the editorial content and compilation. No one may, under any circumstances, reproduce for republication the whole of any component part of this site.

However, this is an open resoursce, and subject to fair use, Australharmony actively encourages you to constructively reuse material from these pages in your own research and writing. Nevertheless, it is your responsibility to cite Australharmony as a source, in exactly the same way as you would cite a printed published work.

Australharmony's Pandora day . . .

Many users will come first to Australharmony via search results in Trove's Archived websites tab. What you should be seeing there are results not from the live site, but from the most recently harvested version in the NLA's Pandora Archive. Australharmony is scheduled to be harvested/archived annually by Pandora on 22 December. Its Pandora address is: 

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2024