Ten sound recordings with cultural, historical and aesthetic significance have been added to Sounds of Australia for 2019.
They include wax cylinder recordings of Aboriginal languages from 120 years ago; global smash hits from Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, John Farnham and Savage Garden; and the first commercially available disc released by Indigenous recording artists.
Established in 2007, the Sounds of Australia is the NFSA’s selection of sound recordings which inform or reflect life in Australia. Each year, the Australian public nominates new sounds to be added with final selections determined by a panel of industry experts.
There are now more than 140 sounds in the complete Sounds of Australia list.
In 1901-02, Baldwin Spencer and Frances James (FJ) Gillen undertook an anthropological research expedition to Central Australia. They traversed the continent from Oodnadatta to Powell Creek and then eastwards to Borroloola on the Gulf of Carpentaria, publishing their experiences as The Northern Tribes of Central Australia in 1904. On the way they recorded many wax cylinders, working with the Arrernte, Anmatyerr, Kaytetye, Warumungu, Luritja and Arabana peoples.
Their recordings are now part of the British Library, Royal Geographical Society of South Australia and Museum Victoria. The pioneering use of wax cylinders in their expedition captured the distribution of song and dance traditions across the Australian inland. Their work was subsequently expanded on by successive researchers, including anthropologist Ted Strehlow, and Aboriginal community members. Selected recordings are available online via the Spencer and Gillen project website.
The ‘Song of Tjitjingalla Corroboree’ (heard here) was recorded at Stevenson Creek in South Australia on 22 March 1901. Spencer’s introduction notes that this corroboree had first been described in north-central Queensland and was subsequently performed by Arrernte people at Alice Springs.
Cover image: Arrernte men performing dances from the Tjitjingalla corroboree, Alice Springs, 27-30 April 1901. Photographers: Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer and Frank Gillen. Source: Museums Victoria
Find more significant Indigenous recordings in our Indigenous Sounds of Australia curated collection. And you can also hear more recordings on wax cylinder at our Wax Cylinder Recordings curated collection.
‘You're the One That I Want’ was written by Australian John Farrar for the 1978 film adaptation of the stage musical Grease. It was performed by lead actors Olivia Newton-John (1948–2022) and John Travolta and become a huge international hit, topping the US charts and spending nine weeks at No. 1 on each of the UK and Australian charts. It became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with estimates of more than 15 million copies sold overall.
The Grease soundtrack album spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 in Australia and yielded three Top 5 singles for Newton-John. ‘You're the One That I Want’ was one of two singles, along with ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’, written by Farrar for Newton-John's character in the film that had not been in the original stage musical.
Cover image: detail from autographed photo of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease, 1978. NFSA: 780091
‘Truly Madly Deeply’ was the third single from Savage Garden’s self-titled debut album; both were released in March 1997. The song reached number one in Australia, Canada and the United States, where it spent a year inside the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It won ARIA Awards in 1997 for Single of the Year and Highest Selling Single, and was nominated for Song of the Year.
The song was written by bandmates Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones, reworking an earlier composition of theirs called ‘Magical Kisses’. It was used as the main theme from the soundtrack of the 1998 film Music from Another Room, starring Jude Law and Gretchen Mol.
Cover image: Savage Garden (Daniel Jones and Darren Hayes), 1997. NFSA: 498572
An unofficial anthem of Australian Rules football, ‘Up There Cazaly’ was written by Mike Brady to promote Channel Seven's coverage of the Victorian Football League. It was performed by the Two-Man Band, a duo consisting of Brady and Peter Sullivan.
The title references Roy Cazaly, an early 20th century South Melbourne and St Kilda footballer who was known for his high-flying marks. Cazaly’s South Melbourne teammate, ruck rover Fred ‘Skeeter’ Fleiter, was the first to call ‘Up there, Cazaly!’ when Cazaly flew for the ball. The call was adopted by South Melbourne supporters, later used as a battle cry by Australian forces in the Second World War and became a common Australian phrase of encouragement.
The recording was released independently on Fable Records, and quickly became the largest-selling Australian single released at the time, selling over 250,000 copies.
Cover image: Mike Brady. NFSA: 476474
‘You're the Voice’ was released by John Farnham as a single in September 1986, in advance of his album Whispering Jack. The song was one of the biggest hits of 1986 in Australia, topping the singles chart for seven weeks. The associated album held the No.1 position for a total of 25 weeks, and is still the 2nd-highest-selling album in Australian history.
Both the single and the album had top ten success internationally, including reaching No. 1 in Germany and Sweden. The song has been covered by numerous artists from Estonian Marju Länik in 1987 to US rock band Heart in 1991.
Cover image: John Farnham. NFSA: 359376
Cousins Olive McGuiness and Eva Bell were a harmony duo known as Olive and Eva, active in the 1950s. Over the span of their career they had two releases on Australia’s Prestophone label, becoming the first Indigenous recording artists to release a commercially available disc.
As cousins, they spent their childhood in Cowra then Sydney amongst the Wiradjuri people of NSW. It was here they met the composer of their music, Grace O’Clerkin. Their first release in 1955 featured four songs written by O’Clerkin.
Two of them – 'Old Rugged Hills' and 'Rhythm of Corroboree' (heard here) – drew inspiration from Australia’s bushland and its First Peoples. These songs paint a romantic picture of an idyllic land of ancient river gums and mystic legends.
This Prestophone mastertape is a rare survivor from the early vinyl era in Australia and includes the master recordings for all four songs recorded by the duo – the additional tracks were ‘Maranoa Moon’ and ‘Homeland Calling’.
Image: Olive McGuiness (aged 18) and Eva Bell (aged 16). Source: The Australian Women’s Weekly, 7 December 1955, p.15 retrieved from Trove.
This ballet, based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, was commissioned by the Australian Ballet and the Sydney Opera House and composed by Elena Kats-Chernin. The score was completed in 2002 in collaboration with choreographer Meryl Tankard, who also worked with Kats-Chernin on part of the opening ceremony for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The Australian Ballet premiered Wild Swans at the Sydney Opera House on 29 April 2003.
Kats-Chernin arranged a 12-movement concert suite from the ballet score. This was recorded by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra under Ola Rudner, with soprano Jane Sheldon, in 2004 and released on the ABC Classics label along with the composer's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Mythic. The piece extracted here is 'Green Leaf', the prelude to the Wild Swans concert suite. In 2017 the work was re-released by the ABC as part of a 10CD box set of composer Kats-Chernin’s greatest works.
Chad Morgan is an Australian country music singer and guitarist, known for his comedic-styled country and western songs. He was discovered on Australia's Amateur Hour, a radio talent contest, where he sang his original song ‘The Sheik of Scrubby Creek’ and was a finalist. He subsequently released ‘The Sheik of Scrubby Creek’, with the B Side ‘You Can Have Your Women, I’ll Stick to My Booze’, through Regal Zonophone Records (a subsidiary of EMI) in 1952. ‘The Sheik’ was a hit and became his signature song.
Morgan toured Australia in the 1950s with the Slim Dusty Show and the All Star Western Show before creating his own travelling ‘Chad Morgan Show’. He has since released more than 20 albums and, at the age of 86, is still performing and touring around Australia. Chad was inducted into the Tamworth Hands of Fame in 1979, the Roll of Renown in 1987 and received the Kempsey Living Legend Award in 2002, the Order of Australia Medal in 2004 and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Country Music Association of Australia Awards in 2010.
Cover image: Chad Morgan. NFSA: 798115
In this recording from Act 1 of Twilight of the Gods (Die Götterdämmerung), Australian operatic soprano Florence Austral (1892-1968) is performing as Brünnhilde. She refuses a request from her Valkyrie sister Waltraute, on behalf of Wotan, that the ring Brünnhilde holds should be returned to the Rhinemaidens, in order to lift the curse over the gods; thus she seals the fate of the gods. The recording features the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Albert Coates. Twilight of the Gods is the last of four operas in Richard Wagner’s The Ring cycle (also known as Der Ring des Nibelungen or The Ring of the Nibelung), that first premiered in 1876.
Austral was renowned internationally for her interpretation of the most demanding of Wagner’s female roles. She made her Covent Garden debut on 16 May 1922 as Brünnhilde in Wagner's Die Walküre, and later played the same role in Siegfried. During the mid-1920s she made the first of more than 100 recordings for HMV, and she also recorded for Victor. In addition to engagements with the British National Opera Company and Berlin State Opera, Austral made successful tours to Australia, North America, and Holland, before returning to Australia in 1946.
Cover image: Florence Austral as opera character Brünnhilde, c1924. NFSA: 355118
Discover more from Australia's Women of Song in our curated collection.
Leonard Teale AO (1922–1994), born Leonard George Thiele, was a Logie-winning Australian TV, film and radio actor. He was popularly known for playing David (Mac) Mackay in the long-running Australian police drama Homicide but with his resonant baritone voice, he recorded narration for the ABC and also became known for his recitations of poetry by Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, Dorothea Mackellar and others.
He released a series of three recordings on the Pacific label, the first of which was his rendition of Paterson’s The Man From Snowy River. He continued the popular spoken-word tradition of Australian poetry though his one-man shows 'While the Billy Boils' and 'The Quiet Achievers'.
Cover image: Leonard Teale. NFSA: 467828
Follow this link to explore our curated collection on the 1982 feature film The Man From Snowy River.