One Night the Moon: Musical signifiers

One Night the Moon: Musical signifiers
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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A lyrical launch into the tale of the lost girl and the story of Albert Riley (known as Tracker Riley), a successful tracker who is denied the chance to find the girl. The use of song in One Night the Moon journeys the audience from beginning to end with an expediency that only song or poetry can achieve in terms of the economy of film language and screen time. Intoxicating from the very beginning, One Night the Moon has the feel of an old campfire yarn.

Notes by Romaine Moreton


Additional notes on musical score

This clip from the musical short feature One Night the Moon (Rachel Perkins, 2001) shows how soundtracks can be used to effectively explore and negotiate different perspectives on Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations.

It utilises musical signifiers of Aboriginal culture and white Australian culture to explore two musical perspectives on land ownership (an Aboriginal perspective and a white perspective).

These perspectives are signified both through instrumentation – including the use of Aboriginal instruments (such as the didgeridoo) and instruments that have come to signify colonialism (such as the violin) – and through the words of the songs.

'This Land is Mine' (written by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody) is sung by the two protagonists, the farmer Jim Ryan (Paul Kelly) and the Aboriginal tracker Albert Yang (Kelton Pell).

The farmer’s lyrics evoke the experience of arduous work on a piece of mortgaged land to earn a living. The words also suggest an understanding of land ownership defined by a clear geographic demarcation as well as written legal documentation.

By contrast, the Aboriginal tracker’s words communicate the sense of being part of the land, and belonging to it rather than owning it.

Notes by Johnny Milner