Tropical sounds: a cultural history of music education in Cairns and Yarrabah: 1930 to 1970

Cole, Malcolm Alastair (2014) Tropical sounds: a cultural history of music education in Cairns and Yarrabah: 1930 to 1970. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

PDF (Thesis)
Download (19MB) | Preview
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 1a: Cloud Covered Mountain) - Supplemental Material
Download (1MB)
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 1b: Two Sisters "Island Style") - Supplemental Material
Download (1MB)
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 2: Thoughts) - Supplemental Material
Download (4MB)
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 3: Stars in a Velvety Sky) - Supplemental Material
Download (2MB)
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 4: Yarra River Blues) - Supplemental Material
Download (2MB)
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 5: Baba Waiar) - Supplemental Material
Download (3MB)
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 6: Sweet Gypsy Rose) - Supplemental Material
Download (559kB)
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 7: St. Luke’s Church Palm Sunday Service 2011) - Supplemental Material
Download (3MB)
[img] Audio (MP3) (Audio Appendix 8: Hula Concert 2005) - Supplemental Material
Download (1MB)
View at Publisher Website:


The city of Cairns and the Aboriginal township of Yarrabah in North Queensland, Australia, comprise multicultural populations that have rich musical histories. The music education histories of the Aboriginal, Anglo/Celtic and Torres Strait Islander communities of these two locations between 1930 and 1970 were researched to determine how music was learned and taught between generations within cultures, and if any intercultural music transmission took place.

The study presents a hitherto non-existent music education history of the two locations as, currently, there is no comprehensive history of music education or indeed, of music in Cairns and Yarrabah. Interviews, newspapers, annual reports of Government departments, recordings, films and other ephemera were researched using a combination of historical ethno-musicological, historical and oral history methodologies.

The music learning, teaching and performing processes that included rehearsals, training, music technologies, oral/aural and notation methods, and local and outside experts to raise standards were divided into three contextual fields, namely:

• formal music education that occurred in schools and institutions, initiated by government policy

• non-formal music education as found in the activities of community music and traditional Indigenous groups

• informal music education that occurred in family and social settings.

The work of private music teachers using formal examination syllabuses indicated both formal and non-formal contexts and is presented separately.

The documented intergenerational music education processes were then analysed using a "communities of practice" theory proposed by Wenger, and a "universals of music teaching" concept by Sheehan-Campbell. Any cross-cultural learning, teaching and performing that occurred was analysed in accordance with cultural theories of change and development proposed by Kartomi and Nettl. Schippers' Twelve Continuum Transmission Framework then assisted in identifying specific issues of context, modes of transmission, dimensions of interaction and approaches to cultural diversity.

The study reveals how each culture's own music was practised and maintained to differing degrees in Cairns and Yarrabah as multicultural communities. Multicultural is described as different cultures co-existing alongside one another rather than interacting with one another, with each being largely self-dependent and relatively narrow in its activities, confirming the ideas of Kartomi and Nettl. Each culture's music also developed and diversified through varying degrees of intercultural contact, either with one of the others or outside cultures such as that of visiting troops during WWII; and through exposure to developing technologies at a time of rapid technological change in the recording and transmission of music, as predicted by Folkestad and Green. While much education occurred in the formal contexts of schools and private music teachers, a significant amount of music education was transmitted both intergenerationally and interculturally through non-formal and informal processes as indicated in Wenger, Sheehan Campbell and Folkestad.

The study assists in comprehending the complex multicultural histories of Cairns and Yarrabah and shows that continuous music education practices in schools, churches, cultural and community groups and among families have produced a rich musical heritage in both locations.

The study found that the music education histories of Cairns and Yarrabah effected the creation of some new forms of music unique to the district, a process conforming with Schippers' theories, and the development of musicians and ensembles that became prominent in local, national and international spheres. This study also gives historical elucidation to the present day comprehensive musical life of multicultural Cairns and Yarrabah.

Item ID: 41105
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Aboriginal; Anglo-Celtic; Cairns Aboriginal; Cairns; community music; history; instruction and study; intercultural music processes; multicultural music; music education history; music education; music learning and teaching; music; North Queensland; Queensland; teaching music; Torres Strait Islander; Tropics; Yarrabah Aboriginal; Yarrabah
Related URLs:
Sensitivity Note: Some of the content in this thesis may be considered culturally sensitive to Indigenous people. WARNING: People of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent are advised that images, names and voices of people now deceased are included in this thesis.
Additional Information:

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Cole, Malcolm (2013) Tropical sounds: music learning and teaching within cultures in Cairns and Yarrabah: 1930 to 1970. E-Journal of Studies in Music Education, 9 (2). pp. 44-63.

Cole, Malcolm (2011) Aspects of Indigenous Music Education in Yarrabah and Cairns: 1907 to 1966. In: Williams, Greg, (ed.) Talking Back, Talking Forward: journeys in transforming Indigenous eductional practice. Charles Darwin University Press, Darwin, Australia, pp. 178-185.

Cole, Malcolm (2011) Community music education in Cairns: 1920 to 1950. In: Magnetic Resonance and Research Conversations: Proceedings of the 2010 XXXVIInd and 2011 XXXIIIrd Annual Conferences, pp. 82-100. From: 2010 ANZARME conference: magnetic resonance, 3 - 6 July 2010, Townsville, QLD, Australia.

Cole, Malcolm (2011) Location, culture and technology: the uniform, random, inequitable music education system in Queensland schools, 1930 to 1940. In: Proceedings of XVIII National Conference, pp. 122-127. From: XVIII National Conference: making sound waves: diversity, unity, equity, 2-5 July 2011, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.

Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2015 04:05
FoR Codes: 22 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 2202 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields > 220202 History and Philosophy of Education @ 34%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 33%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 33%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 2811
Last 12 Months: 104
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page