According to musicologist Philip Tagg popular music is “conceived for mass distribution to large and often socioculturally heterogeneous groups of listeners, stored and distributed in non-written form, only possible in an industrial monetary economy where it becomes a commodity and in capitalist societies, subject to the laws of ‘free’ enterprise, according to which it should ideally sell as much as possible of as little as possible to as many as possible” (Tagg Ph. 1982, 41). This definition can be applied to any exposure of this notion regardless of its origin and peculiarities. Australian music is no exclusion possessing its own specialities due to specific circumstances under which the country was created and developed.
To begin with, it is necessary to mention that the impact of commercial background on the popular music development is evident in Australia considering its rising in popularity with people because of opening of new public dance halls where some catchy and exciting music was required. Therefore, in the Australian music fields a few comic songs were produced. However, ballads still remained preferable among the new industrial middle class, which was in favour of more traditional Europe-oriented pieces.
Here we can observe the second feature of the Australian popular music given its geopolitical situation. By this it is meant, that many examples of new Australian music, especially early ones, are of fusion nature. Firstly, the country was an English colony. Thus, British motives influenced greatly on the evolution of the music of that time. Consequently pianos gained extreme popularity, since it had become a sign of intelligence and prosperity. Meanwhile, the American influence became notable. The so called ‘Negro melodies’ turned out to be rather topical in the society. Their simplicity was accepted with enthusiasm, especially in the taverns.
The second reason for the popular music in Australia was its entertaining side, which could be offered by minstrel troupes. As Waterhouse states, it was such troupes as
the New York Serenaders, Rainer’s Original Ethiopian Serenaders and the Backus Minstrels (Waterhouse, R. 1990, 34). These groups was greeted by audience, as the shortage of own works of such kind was really visible. In this way their performance was a good example and inspiration for locals to create Australian popular music.
On the other hand, the music could not develop steadily because of the lack of the stable audience. The problem was that a great majority of Australians belonged to bush service class, which was constantly shifting from one place to another.
However, newspapers and magazines were developing their popularity. And in each issue there was at least one sheet music which was suitable either for playing the piano or just becoming acquainted with new trends in music. Furthermore, the later way of recording music made popular music more fruitful and widespread. Another means of popular music spreading were vaudevilles. Hill and Whiteoak explain the reason for this perfectly well: “An ever-increasing public demand for successive new vogues in song and dance music, which originated in American musical theatre, vaudeville” (Hill J. …
Posted by: Una Freese