Mobilising Recordings of Western Arnhem Land song to Revitalise Exchange

Rupert Manmurulu, Reuben Brown, Jamie Milburru and Solomon Nangamu (didjeridu) perform and record manyardi at Twin Hill Station, 2016. Photo: Nicole Thompson

Project description

In collaboration with a team of linguists, musicologists and community technologists who have developed a Beta database for Indigenous public song, this project will bring together legacy and contemporary song recordings of the kun-borrk/manyardi song traditions to create a western Arnhem Land instance of this song library for community testing and feedback. The internship will work with 20 hours of field recordings, field notes, and associated research and song metadata, alongside 300 legacy recordings from archival collections, helping to merge and interrelate these diverse datasets. The resulting song library aims to link songs by repertoire name, language, person and place so that they can be searched and discovered by singers in western Arnhem Land communities, and aid intergenerational transmission of endangered repertories of song. Project outcomes will contribute to Brown's Early Career Researcher Grant awarded for 2019.

Project outcome

This project was about migrating ethnomusicological data relating to West Arnhem land into a relational database developed by an interdisciplinary team. We prepared a large dataset for importation into the Discovery Song Database, which displays data according to a variety of perspectives, including person, place, language and event. The goal was to preserve the rich links that exist within the dataset, encouraging deeper querying as opposed to displaying a list of recordings and events. In the Discovery database, we linked each recording ‘event’ to database entries for the people, places and languages associated therewith. We then imported other metadata associated with Reuben's audiovisual archive. We linked each recording to its associated event. This pilot project demonstrated the viability of the model as it is scaled up across locations, institutions and as part of different song and language traditions. Further work is needed enriching the links, and testing in community.

2019 Internship project


Dr Reuben Brown
Postdoctoral Fellow, Research Unit for Indigenous Arts and Cultures


Dr Henry Reese
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies