Saturday, November 28, 2009


Today was the second day of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music conference (Australia/New Zealand) in Auckland NZ.

Liz Giuffre - Trivial Music: a preliminary study of the resurgence and value of music quiz programs on Australian television.
I attended a number of presentations today which were fantastic including Liz’ Giuffre’s paper on the resurgence and value of music quiz programs on Australian television (Spicks and Specs; and Rockwiz). Liz noted in particular the lack of research of these programs compared with the extensive coverage of Australian Idol and questioned both why it is that these programs have not been explored in detail as well as their emergence on public broadcasters rather than commercial television. Both shows enjoy continued success with Spics and Specs in particular being a very high rating show.

Katelyn Barney - Songs of Hope, Healing and Forgiveness: musical responses to the National apology to the Stolen Generation.
I also attended an excellent presentation by Katelyn Barney on the ‘Songs of Hope, Healing and Forgiveness: musical responses to the National apology to the Stolen Generation’. She started by showing the ‘It’s Time’ clip which is a collaborative effort between Russell James and Will i am along the lines of the ‘Yes We Can’ Obama clip. The song/video uses aspects of the apology to the Stolen Generation by Kevin Rudd (13 February 2008) as well as singing by Clifton Bieundurry (an Indigenous man from the Walmajarri people of the North West Kimberley). The clip is available here and is well worth watching.

Katelyn also spoke at length about songs by indigenous artists: Les Collins – Great Moments and Emma Donovan – Ngarranga. She also spoke about musical responses from non indigenous Australians including the new verse to Kerry Fletcher’s - Sorry Song and Susie Keynes – Sorry Song.

This was a very interesting presentation which I enjoyed a lot.

There audience questioned the accessibility and effect of these songs on both indigenous and non indigenous people. In particular there was a suggestion of a co-ordinated effort to increase the number of YouTube hits of these songs and how to spread the word (viral marketing seems like too crude a term here) through other indigenous communities to ensure that these songs reach a wider audience. I asked Katelyn why she hadn’t mentioned the new version of Paul Kelly’s ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ - she indicated that while this was one of the most well known musical responses to the Stolen Generation apology, that she had spoken about it on an earlier occasion and was simply exploring other artists responses for the purposes of this paper.

Sally Hawkins - Contemporary Australian Political Musicians: authenticity and the integration of culture and activism.

Naturally I also attended my own presentation today... I spoke about the comparative authenticity of four contemporary Australian artists: John Butler Trio, Blue King Brown, The Herd and the Hilltop Hoods and in particular the suitability of the term ‘political artists’ with respect to these bands. I considered authenticity of genre, use and ethos by examining recent political songs released by these artists, the frequency of political releases over time, the percentage of political songs on an album by album basis as well as the use of the internet – the artists websites, Facebook and MySpace profiles - to demonstrate a personal commitment and involvement in current political issues. Particular points worth noting include the very high percentage of political releases by Blue King Brown, the increase of political releases by The Herd over the course of their career and the drop off in the frequency of political releases by the John Butler Trio in recent years (does not include the single ‘One Way Road’ due out early December 2009 or the new album April Uprising). Furthermore the very effective use of Blue King Brown’s website and MySpace profile and the John Butler Trio’s use of their website, Facebook and MySpace profiles for political activism, was an important part of this paper. I was really pleased with the way my presentation went and was given very positive feedback afterwards.

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