I come to the position of SAR research fellow with the NFSA from a background as a performing musician, a composer of film and concert music, and an engineer. I am currently completing a PhD in Musicology at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and I teach music at both the Sydney Con and the Eora Centre for Aboriginal Studies in Chippendale.
For my research fellowship, I am looking at the representation of Indigeneity in Australian film music, and particularly focusing on films made before about 1960. In conversation with Vincent Plush and James McCarthy, we identified a need to look especially at original scores written for documentaries made by Film Australia (and its predecessors). Vincent is a composer and broadcaster, as well as Manager of Research Programs at the NFSA. James draws from his experience as the Music Editor at Film Australia for some 20 years, and then manager of the Sydney office of the NFSA up to the time of his retirement. James was directly responsible for coordinating and commissioning some of Australia’s finest composers to work on the Film Australia documentaries.
Narrowing the field even further, I am looking at three documentaries made by Charles P Mountford, resulting from the 1948 National Geographic Society American-Australian Expedition to Arnhem Land. The three films, Birds and Billabongs (1951), Arnhem Land Expedition 1948 (1950), and Aborigines of the Sea Coast (1950), were scored by Alfred Hill and his wife Mirrie Hill. For inspiration, Mountford gave Mirrie recordings he had made of traditional song. She drew from these in composing the score to Aborigines of the Sea Coast (1950) and also a number of concert works afterwards.