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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Australia Day

Russel Drysdale - Desert Children

To me, no one has ever really expressed the cultural landscape of mid-20th Century Australian Identity so starkly and so accurately as Russell Drysdale.  His images express the endless expanse and space of the literal landscape with a sense of isolation in the placement of his figures in such environments.  
Russell Drysdale - Ruins

His paintings of Aboriginal Australians were sensitive, poignant and a stark reminder of how the original inhabitants were seen and treated by white Australia mid century.

Often with features blurred, these portraits exude such a sense of sadness and desolation without the need for much facial detail.

Musically at the same time there too seemed a need to establish a sound that was deemed uniquely Australian in style.

Composers such as Eugene Goossens, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Margaret Sutherland, John Antill and later Peter Sculthorpe, championed what was initially heavily influenced by a cross between the stark qualities of Stravinsky with a more folk-like sound (however bare boned in sound) reminiscent of Percy Grainger.  

Possibly the best example is John Antill's Corroborree.  It's like a glorious mix of Stravinsky-esque ballet music and musical elements of Australian Aboriginal culture.  The ending is particularly spectacular, with Bull-roarer's tearing loudly across the top of the orchestra.


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