No tree-no leaf: Applying resilience theory to eucalypt-derived musical traditions
Place of Publication
Third Avenue, New York
Allen, A.S. & Dawe, K.
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
A close and creative relationship between Eucalyptus and the indigenous peoples of Australia is etched onto the island-continent's cultural and physical history. To the modern botanist, eucalypts are plants in three closely related genera - Eucalyptus, Corymbia, and Angophora - all of which are studded with oil glands, but to the average Australian they are simply "gum trees" (Wrigley and Fagg 2010, vi). The musicalization of eucalypts - via the aerophones made from termite-hollowed trunks (didjeridus/didjeridoos) and carefully chosen gumleaves - sets up a unique sonic arena contingent upon an audience's capacity to invest nature with meaning. Performances in situ can evoke a sense of proportion: the sights and sounds of didjeridus (end-blown drone-pipes) and fragile leaf matter related to vast ecological systems that are subject to long-term climate change and short-term vicissitudes. The supply of eucalypts for gumleaf playing and didjeridu production has always been subject to the richness or harshness of local habitats, and - since European contact - to anthropogenic (human-induced) damage to the fabric of the landsape.