University of NSW
Faculty of Education and Arts
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
In privileging music as a focus for applied ecology, the goal of this essay is to deepen perspectives on the musical representation of land in an age of complex environmental challenge. As the metaphor driving public narration of environmental crises, the notion of Earth as our home—signified by the prefix “eco”—brings with it a critical expectation for the musical academy to retreat from bland talk about a “sense of place.” Based on the premise that damaged ecologies are a matter of concern to many people, Indigenous and Settler; and building on the late Val Plumwood’s theory of “shadow” or “denied” places (Australian Humanities Review 44, 2008), the author introduces Within Our Reach: A Symphony of the Port River Soundscapes by anti-elitist South Australian composer Chester Schultz (b. 1945). Inspired by the tradition of R. Murray Schafer’s performances for outdoor sites, Schultz predicated this niche symphony on the noise-polluting defoliation of Adelaide’s “wetland wonder,” the Old Port Reach. Presented as a series of narrative soundscapes, the symphony harnesses the power of music, including popular genres, to engender a sense of local “belonging” to the Port. In an ecological subtext an Indigenous Elder sings in the re-awakening language of the Kaurna people who, in 1890, were evicted from their “nourishing terrain” (terminology after Rose, 1996) by the CSR Sugar Refinery. Schultz’s ethical musical representation of local oral, natural and industrial history generates a benchmark opus for what shadow place composition might sound like in the modern global city.