Research Stream


Helen English
The University of Newcastle

Jane Davidson
The University of Melbourne

Music and World-Building: From Past to Present

A collaboration between Jane W. Davidson, The University of Melbourne and Helen English, The University of Newcastle, with Sarah Monk, The University of Newcastle.

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This research project brings together research into colonial music communities and music communities today, looking for connections across time. Drawing on research into ways in which music was a resource for world-building in the Newcastle and Maitland regions, 1840-1880, we investigate six music communities operating in the same regions. The research is focused on uncovering perceived benefits of membership of a music group and takes its lead form the work of Tia DeNora, enquiring how music is used in everyday life in ways of feeling, being and doing.

The six music communities, chosen for their geographical relationship with the historical communities, are based in Cessnock, Teralba, Blackall’s Park and Newcastle. Groups were also chosen for their diversity in musical styles, instrumentation, approach and membership. These groups comprise a community choir, barbershop harmony chorus, two ukulele groups, a brass band and a swing band. The research approach in this pilot study involves attending rehearsals and holding focus groups. These latter are directed at uncovering the perceived benefits of membership and also look for changes over time and their effect on members.

The initial findings for this research will be presented in Newcastle, NSW, at the Newcastle Conservatorium on November 2, 2017.

Image: Kurri Kurri Mandolin Orchestra, 1920s. Open source.