Seeking to counter this familiar criticism, the official Chinese media went on the front foot; and, in sharp contrast to its handling of last year's unrest in Tibet, immediately reported the Urumqi violence in graphic detail, hoping to define rather than suppress the message both domestically and internationally. Yet, its coverage provided no fresh explanations, reverting instead to familiar clichés and slogans.
The Chinese media was quick to stress how unidentified “rioters” and “outlaws,” “controlled and instigated from abroad” by “the “Uighur Dalai Lama” Rebiya Kadeer, unleashed “the most inhumane atrocities too horrible to look at.” Behind headlines like “Recalling the nightmare: witnesses’ account of Xinjiang riot,” and “Ravaged by riot, Xinjiang’s capital in horror,” the Chinese media sought to expose those “evil” and “external” forces that left Urumqi “blood tainted,” while stressing the “heroic deeds” of all ethnic groups in China to uphold “national unity and social stability” in the face of international criticism and outside meddling.
While details remain sketchy, eyewitness accounts tell a different story: the outbreak of spontaneous communal violence between China’s Han ethnic majority and the increasingly marginalized Uighur inhabitants of Xinjiang. On the evening of July 5th, several hundred Uighur youths went on a bloody rampage following a peaceful demonstration over a separate incident of ethnic violence at a Guangdong toy factory. The results, according to Chinese government figures, was the destruction of thousands of dollars worth of property, the death of nearly two hundred innocent civilians and another thousand injured.
In the days that followed, bands of roving Han vigilantes armed with kitchen knives, hammers, metal pipes and other improvised weapons sought to mete out revenge in the Uighur suburbs of the city. Both this incident and last year’s unrest in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and other Tibetan areas represent a worrying new wave of ethnic violence (not only physical violence on the streets of cities like Lhasa and Urumqi, but also virtual violence on the numerous ethnically-based blogging sites on the Chinese Internet). And here the well-worn paradigms of state repression and foreign incitement conceal more than they reveal.
The root causes behind this spike in communal tension are far more complex and multidimensional than the media would have us believe. It is true that state-sponsored Han migration has culturally and economically marginalized the once majority Uighur population of Xinjiang—a situation that has been made worse by the recent global economic downturn.
But many Han migrants are themselves unhappy, and they are increasingly pointing a finger at the state’s extensive affirmative action policies (youhui zhengce) that provides special economic, cultural and educational benefits to the minorities. These policies, they claim, only serve to mollycoddle the “backward” and “simple” minorities, while rendering the naturally superior Han second-class citizens. Caught in-between these increasingly polarized and agitated ethnic communities is the Chinese state, which, rather than orchestrating the brutal oppression of the non-Han minorities, finds itself increasingly powerless to stop the spiralling circle of ethnic hatred which its policies helped to foster in the first place.
In a recent online report on the violence in the Tibetan region last year, the progressive, Beijing-based Gongmeng (Open Constitution Initiative) think tank explored some of the major social causes behind this wellspring of violent discontent. The report claimed that the rapid (almost dizzying) pace of state-directed change in frontier regions like Tibet and Xinjiang has failed to bring any real benefit to the vast majority of the minority inhabitants in these regions, instead resulting in growing income disparity, high education dropout rates, growing unemployment and underemployment, cultural dislocation and a growing sense of powerlessness. While asserting that “the state’s major preferential policies and support have not been of any effective benefit to the main body of Tibetan people,” the report also speaks of the rise of a new Tibetan “aristocracy,” whose legitimacy rests on central government affiliation rather than traditional clan or religious ties, making it easier for this new elite to turn a blind eye to the negative social consequences of imposed modernization.
In seeking to understand this troubling rise in ethnic-based violence in China, we need to look beyond the usual bogeymen at the increasingly torn fabric of Reform Era Chinese society. In the end, the over twenty years of rapid economic growth has unleashed as many demons as it has benefits—evident in the increasing number of ordinary citizens who are turning to ethnic profiling and violence to vent their shared frustrations. The result is a burgeoning level of internal racism that should concern us all.
Dr James Leibold is a Senior Lecturer in Politics and Asian Studies at La Trobe University and author of Reconfiguring Chinese Nationalism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). His current research focuses on contemporary expressions of Han racial nationalism on the Internet and recent developments in the PRC’s minority policy and the broader discourse of multiculturalism in Reform Era China.
In privileging music as a focus for applied ecology, the goal of this essay is to deepen perspectives on the musical representation of land in an age of complex environmental challenge. As the metaphor driving public narration of environmental crises, the notion of Earth as our home—signified by the prefix “eco”—brings with it a critical expectation for the musical academy to retreat from bland talk about a “sense of place.” Based on the premise that damaged ecologies are a matter of concern to many people, Indigenous and Settler; and building on the late Val Plumwood's theory of “shadow” or “denied” places (Plumwood, 2008), the author introduces Within Our Reach: A Symphony of the Port River Soundscapes by anti-elitist South Australian composer Chester Schultz (b. 1945). Inspired by the tradition of R. Murray Schafer's performances for outdoor sites, Schultz predicated this niche symphony on the noise-polluting defoliation of Adelaide's “wetland wonder,” the Old Port Reach. Presented as a series of narrative soundscapes, the symphony harnesses the power of music, including popular genres, to engender a sense of local “belonging” to the Port. In an ecological subtext an Indigenous Elder sings in the re-awakening language of the Kaurna people who, in 1890, were evicted from their “nourishing terrain” (terminology after Rose, 1996) by the CSR Sugar Refinery. Schultz's ethical musical representation of local oral, natural and industrial history generates a benchmark opus for what shadow place composition might sound like in the modern global city.
Islands of Quietness ...
Islands of quietness in the ever-rising sea of noise are becoming priceless antiques: places where you can hear your friend breathe, or a bird half a kilometre away. They don't appear on maps, and are smaller and more fragile than the mappable islands of clear space. They are assets that are rarely included in the equations of urban developers, and are constantly and irreversibly being destroyed without compensation.1
The pitches and rhythms of industry are everywhere, underscoring a diminished relationship of humanity to the more-than-human world in an era of environmental change that is real, various, and complex. Rose et al. describe how, since the 1960s, interest in environmental issues has gradually gained pace to produce strong ecocritical research agendas across the disciplines.2 One nascent interdisciplinary field, “ecomusicology,” offers what Allen describes as “new social critiques about the intersections of music, culture, and nature—and, in general, about the world around us.”3
The “greening” of music—the adoption by composers and musicians of caring and respectful environmental values—works to circumvent aspects of commodity culture that marginalise nature and place. Ecomusicological studies thus contribute to Rose et al.'s vision of various approaches to environmental scholarship coming “into conversation with each other in numerous and diverse ways,”4 not least to address what Allen describes as “a failure of holistic problem solving, interpersonal relations, ethics, imagination, and creativity.”5
Soundscape Ecology and the Ecological Self
R. Murray Schafer (b. 1933) founded the World Soundscape Project (WSP) in 1971 as an initiative for understanding and managing sonic environments. He single-mindedly expanded on the view that society at large is an organism responsible for the physical degradation of the soundscapes we inhabit, and to which we listen.6 The sustainable ethos of “sound ecology” continues to inform our critical sense of place.
Ingram—in his seminal work The Jukebox in the Garden (2010)—observed how “the psychic and social structures in which we live” have become “profoundly antiecological, unhealthy and destructive.”7 Ingram thus promoted a notion of the “ecological self” that privileges music as a vital art form for exploring human relationships with natural and built environments.8 As Pedelty has noted, different anthropogenic ecosystems produce dramatically different soundscapes due to the complex, reciprocal, and systemic relationships among social, cultural, and material factors.9 Allen lists noise pollution amongst a list of the concerns represented by acoustic ecologists, sound artists, and soundscape artists who take both artistic and activist approaches to increase awareness about such issues.10
In opening up a conversation about music's potential for depicting damaged ecologies, it is clear from Allen's explorations of both “idyllic” and “grotesque” elements in the works of Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Knecht, and Mahler that the symphonic genre is a fertile text for ecocritical musicological interpretation.11 Might a rhapsodically inspired work such as Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral, Opus 68 (1808), yet possess some agency and power—as a historic reference point—to promote environmental awareness? Like a classic painting by Beethoven's contemporary, the romantic landscape artist Caspar David Friedrich, this masterpiece arguably “walked before the fact” of serious anthropogenic land degradation in Germany.12
Watkins has observed the “oft-noted tendency of pastoral writing to devolve into a willful escapism fixated on the image of a tension-free nature, a strategy that fails to do justice to the complexity of human interactions with the natural environment.”13 Guy points out that music scholars still largely ignore environmental degradation.14 Many an opus is context-sensitive to the hues of iconic scenery, yet few have portrayed damaged environments. Accordingly, I take up an interest in music that engenders awareness of the unruly, changing nature of industrial landscapes. To deepen perspective on the relationship between composer, community, and diminished local Australian space, I will foreground the opus Within Our Reach: A Symphony of the Port River Soundscapes by South Australian composer-historian Chester Schultz.
A strong sense of human and non-human presence in the landscape will emerge in this work as Schultz energises a port community (i.e. an industrial service zone) to engage ecologically and musically with the specifics of land management, past and present, on their home turf. I venture that the symphony—at once aesthetic, ecological, ethical, political and spiritual—profiles a sense of what “shadow place”15 composition might sound like. To my knowledge the only symphonic antecedent for this emerging musical paradigm was Symphony on a City by John Antill (1959; commissioned by the port city of Newcastle, NSW in 1958).16
Indigenous Voices in Australian Composition
Australia was colonised during the Industrial Revolution when, as Newton points out, Europeans not only had technological superiority (over the Aboriginal peoples), but interest in blatant exploitation of the land.17 Kelly, in addressing the role of nature-writing vis-à-vis the tension of colonial history, suggests that
While works in the nature-writing genre cannot and need not address such complex issues directly or in every circumstance, some stance towards settler relationship to land and to its Aboriginal custodians needs to be taken, at least implicitly, within the text.18
This injunction holds equally for music, for “sounds,” in the words of Feld, “emerge from and are perceptually centred in place, not to mention sung with, to, and about places.”19 A few colonial and post-colonial Australian composers (e.g. Nathan, Antill, Sutherland, Douglas, and Penberthy) attempted to reflect the human history of Australian landscape by “borrowing” indigenous content. However it became evident that the spirit of so ancient a musical culture could not successfully be couched in the excesses of European musical apparatus.20
Noting that the Australian landscape is often used as an icon for ecological theorising and activism,21 Richards documented a serious interest in Aboriginality reflected in the compositions of several contemporary Australian composers. Peter Sculthorpe incorporated Aboriginal notions of place and spirituality into works such as Port Essington (1977), Djilile (1977), Manganinnie (1980), Earth Cry (1986), and Kakadu (1988). Sculthorpe confesses to being political in his work, which, he claims, “has always been about the preservation of the environment, and, more recently, climate change.” His Song of the Yarra (2009) embraces these issues and also speaks of Reconciliation with Aboriginal Australia.22
Sculthorpe's shift from a physical/literal sense of nature and place towards environmental place is significant, for as Rose et al. remark, radical reworkings matter for all branches of the humanities insofar as they struggle to explore the implications of new narratives that are calibrated to the realities of our changing world.23 To develop understanding of music's potential for shaping a nature-endorsing political outlook, the following section examines some definitions and tropes that might advance musical conceptions of ecologically compromised landscapes.
Nourishing Terrains and Shadow Places
Standing in welcome relief to Seed's definition of economics as “the housekeeping of various societies” [who must soon] “learn to stop taking out more than they put back”24 is a notion of “caring for country” that is quintessentially Aboriginal (after Rose, 1996). Rose notes that a “healthy” or “good” country is one in which all the elements nourish each other because there is no site, no position, from which the interest of one can be disengaged from the interests of the other in the long term.25 “Nourishing terrains” actually signify diverse forms of nourishment because country consists, multi-dimensionally, of people, animals, plants, Dreamings, underground, earth, soils, minerals and waters, surface water, and air.26 Because of this richness, “country is home, and peace; nourishment for body, mind, and spirit; heart's ease.”27
The soundscape CDs produced by ethnomusicologist Steven Feld during his explorations of the intimate relationships between the Kaluli peoples of Papua New Guinea and their ambient environments demonstrate how a sense of value of the beauty and fragility of a balanced Indigenous ecosystem (nourishing terrain) might provide a barometer for environmental health (or otherwise).28
Here, I concur with the view of the late Australian ecophilosopher Val Plumwood that it is unrealistic for Westerners to aim for such an integrated style of relationship because our relationships with “place” are usually multi-sited (discussed further below).29 Ellul in fact discerned that the older environment sometimes serves as an ideological reference for those who have been plunged into the new one.30 The recent commercial demand for dulcet-toned New Age recordings that foster the illusion of healthy ecosystems only goes to show that many of us live in ways that are distanced from immediate and intimate contact with the more-than-human cycles of life and death and the turning of the seasons. We are forced to accept technically produced substitutes.
Numerous cultural readings emphasise the instability of the concept of “nature” in Western parlance. One approach, remarked by Soper, advocates locating the destruction of nature at the level of specific relations of production and consumption in order for us to develop a stronger sense of our involvement in, and reliance upon, the industrial processes and means of communication whose effects we so deplore.31
Plumwood's ecological conception of dwelling recognises “shadow places of the consumer self” as being “all those places that produce or are affected by the commodities [one] consume[s], places consumers don't know about, don't want to know about, and in a community regime don't ever need to know about.” Shadow places, then, are the places delineated by one's “ecological footprint,” or that carry the ecological impacts of supporting one's life while at the same time eluding knowledge and responsibility.32 Plumwood thus looked to the kinds of adaptations we would all need to make to engage ethically with contemporary globalised earth systems. Her approach, in the words of Rose,
avoids all those abstract questions of who or what is morally considerable, and what may be meant by that. Rather than querying others, it asks the human to query herself, and it seeks to open the human to the experience of others in the contexts of their own communicative and expressive lives.33
To deal with our fractured place relationships, Plumwood left us with an injunction to cherish and care for (our) places, but without in the process destroying any other places. This accountability practice requires a mindful “multiple place consciousness,” “an ethics of place, and a politics of place,” given that one form of denial is to be able—as privileged nations—to ignore, neglect or deny our energy use and pollution trail that is “picked up after” by the biosphere.34
If nourishing terrains so easily deteriorate into shadow places, how should we define an ecologically progressive work of art? For Buell such a work will be one in which “human accountability to the environment is part of the text's ethical orientation,”35 while Ingram recognises that “real ecosystems may be too complex to act as coherent wholes, and are better characterised by patchiness.”36 In the following section I introduce the environmentally based oeuvre of Chester Schultz as a context for advancing the notion that we may be able to push forward the process of understanding damaged ecologies by positioning ourselves within them.
Introducing Chester Schultz: Early Works and Influences
Chester Schultz (b. 1945) was raised in the small cove of Ngartong at Encounter Bay, Victor Harbour, where he began composing “under his own steam” at the age of twelve. Following an honours degree in history (1967), Schultz studied ethnomusicology with Cath Ellis at the University of Adelaide and composition with (Jindrich) Feld, Tahourdin, Meale, and Dudley (B.Mus; 1975). He became a disciple of Schafer, who “always said that acoustics and musical aesthetics have been main factors missing from both urban design and ecological thinking.”37 Schultz's radiophonic cassette Sounds Like Work (1976-8) described the urban workplace as “a thinking point about what we do and have done to us when we work.”
In a strange historical quirk the Aboriginal rock band No Fixed Address took their name from a dramatic musical Schultz wrote in 1979 to depict the isolation, mass consumerism, and breakdown of community life in urban Australia. Loathe to languish in tired musical epistemologies, or even to pursue the usual conformities of the global success machine, the composer brings individual vision to works featuring the found and natural sounds of local environment: “Sometimes I make musical pieces from recordings of it, or use recordings with live performers, or imitate it blatantly. Port Adelaide, where I live, is as usable as the bush.”38
Schultz's musical conversation about the devastation of run-away modernity with its damage to ecosystems and individuals of many species, including humans, became apparent in Songs Further Out (1987), a dramatic cantata featuring seven solo voices and a large chamber group. Schultz conceived Vision, the final movement, at Outer Harbour, Port Adelaide, where live sheep were being exported to the Middle East.39 A quarter of a century on from the cantata's première, Vision's ecology remains contested in Australia—evidencing just one area in which musically focused research might contribute to the wider field of political ecology. The composer is quick to promote direct listening to various environments as a way to value and relate to the land:
Sound architecture, whether as composition in its own right or as part of other kinds of music, is one excellent and powerful way of opening ears to this—much better than photos, because sound takes time and therefore requires a time of quiet attention which we can easily avoid with photos.40
Likewise, Schultz's position regarding the use of Aboriginal musical materials is clear: “We hold some importance to copyright in our own culture. Well, we ought to hold the same importance to copyright in other people's culture too.”41
Schultz has been barely recognised for his national worth in projecting the deepest and most extensive knowledge of Australian traditional Aboriginal and contact music of any Australian composer. His 1984 settings of poetry and prose by Indigenous Australians in English and Pitjantjatjara (Tjamuku ngura; The Land of the Grandfathers) were followed by the seascape composition Ngartong: Encounter Bay Jubilee Music for 12 Cellos (1986). This significant artistic response to the intelligent, social and graceful life of whales and the relentless pursuit of these placid beasts for profit commemorates the disruption to Ramindjeri tribal life following the establishment of two whaling stations near Victor Harbour in 1837.
Schultz's authorship of Our Place Our Music represented the first continent-wide survey of contemporary Aboriginal music;42 moreover his longstanding association with Nunga language revival has contributed to the successful revitalisation of the “sleeping” Kaurna language of the Adelaide Plains and a new and extensive understanding of the Aboriginal place names of the region.43 Evans advances the view, in support of such work, that loss of the rich fund of ecological knowledge encoded in language diversity diminishes the adaptational strength of our species because it lowers the pool of knowledge from which we can draw.44
Schultz arranged Five Torres Strait Songs,45 and contributed to Narrunga, Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri Songs (National Aboriginal Languages Project, 1990). His contributions to the songbook Kaurna Paltinna46 have provided the Kaurna people with a new way of musically expressing their stories. The verses Schultz added to Yarna Tappa (“The Bald Track”) interpret the degradation since settlement of this native track from Adelaide to the bald scarps at Sellick's Hill.47 The destruction of the environment—added to the diminishment of culture and language—is obviously a matter of concern to many people, Indigenous and Settler, the genius of music surely being to work outside these concerns.
Feld argued that peculiar modes of knowing may be enabled by acoustic experience. These sonic ways of knowing (“acoustemologies”) evolved from Schafer's observation that the sonic composition of our natural and created environments can be listened to perceptually and cognitively as well as musically. On re-reading Schafer's suggestion that people echo the soundscape in language and music, Feld transformed himself from an ethnomusicologist to an “echo-muse-ecologist”: “Ethno” always implies otherness, but “echo” is about presence, about reverberant pasts in the present, presents in the past.48
Schultz is South Australia's echo-muse-ecologist. The following section describes how, in challenging the public to drink in the ambient sounds of real life, he became the first composer to value the acoustic heritage of the city of Adelaide. Even as far back as 1979, an Adelaide critic described his music as being “eclectic more so than Britten.”49 Schultz writes from and back into the Australian experience with a background of global awareness of environment, and of how people are battling to live well in it. He compares his experiences of life in suburbs with different demographics:
It's much easier for the comfortable to be “balanced,” and much harder for them to notice when there is inequality ... there has been (and despite gentrification, still is) a different set of local facilities and opportunities, in [Adelaide's] west, from the “leafy” east and south. What you see depends on where you stand.50
Within Our Reach: A Symphony of the Port River Soundscapes
With a broad love of sound, and as part of a continuum of manifest research and compositional activity in, and for, the Port Adelaide community, Schultz completed the opus Within Our Reach: A Symphony of the Port River Soundscapes (henceforth Within Our Reach) in 1995. The symphony's title is a pun: “within our reach/grasp” (near us where we live) is a “reach” of the river (technical term for a topographically identifiable stretch of a stream). The reach in question was called the Old Port Reach in the nineteenth century and still is by historians because it had included South Australia's “old port” (1836-40): now part of the built-up West Lakes Shore.
In illuminating anthropogenic impact on the Port environment and, in turn, the (altered) environment's impact on the city, the genre-bending work bears no resemblance to a “symphony” in the tradition of an orchestral piece written for the concert hall. It includes performances live on-site, some on objects found there, some on “real” instruments—most using local people of all grades of musical experience, from the totally untrained to professionals, and from all age groups. Here, the broadening of symphonic form that began with Beethoven's establishment of its character as an “individual” rather than as an “example of a type,”51 undergoes democratisation. It was in fact Schafer who declared that
The Western notion of music is exploding in our faces, breaking out all around us, hemorrhaging into new environments. Certainly the power centers in society are shifting, multiplying, so that the authority once accorded to the concert as the nodal point for musical stimulation has withered.52
Based on Schultz's view that landscape music can be trivial or exploitative or thought-provoking,53 I argue that the facilitation of the entry of Indigenous voices into a symphony predicated on a degraded environmental site moves us towards a new paradigm for the musical representation of place. Recorded between 1989 and 1994, the opus comprises 13 movements depicting the unique acoustic nature of a shadow place of home support that is not an absent referent: suburb and shadow place are one. The fact that Schultz dedicated the symphony to the sociologist-theologian Jacques Ellul (1912—1994), to the composers Olivier Messiaen (1908—1992) and R. Murray Schafer, and to all the inhabitants of Port Adelaide, bears testimony to the larger human concerns embedded in the work. It is the only Australian work singled out by Cuadras in his commentary on soundscape compositions in the class of Oliveros, Westerkamp, Dunn, and Lockwood.54
As a musical commentary on how industrialisation has led to an exploitative view of land as a commodity, Within Our Reach illustrates the view of Schafer's colleague Barry Truax that “the real goal of the soundscape composition is the re-integration of the listener with the environment in a balanced ecological relationship;”55 and the observation of Meinig that landscape will yield to diligence and inference a great deal more than meets the casual eye. Meinig counted ten different lenses for perceiving the same scene, namely landscape as nature, habitat, artifact, system, problem, wealth, ideology, history, place, and aesthetic.56 Landscape as history, for instance, conceptualises all that lies before the eyes to be a complex cumulative record of the work of nature and man in a particular place. The landscape that Schultz depicts in Within Our Reach is starkly defined by pollution, land reclamation, and insidious building encroachment. It is, clearly, an “exhibit of consequences.”57
Documenting the Sounds of the Old Port Reach
Schultz walked, listened, recorded (on analog cassette, using a variety of condenser microphones and recorders), catalogued, and edited the hourly, daily, and seasonal tempi of the Reach. He then sculpted together the different sonorities of water, wind, birdlife, hooting ships, singing, chanting, instrumental performance, the industrial sounds of demolition machines, and the various means of transport that have come to form part of a contemporary social scene.
Having immersed himself in the oral history of local people of both European and Aboriginal origin, Schultz synthesised the human narratives that illuminate the social contexts and vice versa. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company (Australia's largest sugar company, established 1855; changed to CSR Ltd in 1974) plays a pivotal role in the story as we hear, for instance, footsteps crunching the shells of molluscs that died when a fire in the refinery caused molten sugar to pour into the river in 1926. Yet ultimately, in the course of its 77 minutes, the symphony evokes an intimate sense of home that “flies in the face” of degeneration. The composer-historian conceptualised the run-down Port as heritage that is alive and evolving through time, and in squeezing the residues of aesthetic meaning from the emasculated waterfront, he restored some public respect for the local environment:
This is “our place” to us who live around it ... thus it is not a source of “sound-objects” which I could happily postmodernise out of relationship with their own context and meaning (though ... sometimes I may carefully graft new meanings onto the old). Rather, I have tried to clarify the context and meaning, to make “music of place,” but with wider implications.58
Schultz laments the elimination of natural far and near sounds by machinery with his concern that, by shutting out the din, we may be shutting out other sound as well. The composer's finely tuned ears detect, for instance, that the sugar refinery engine plays “a misty B.” Deep listening, in Schultz's experience, slows us down so that we hear
... voices we might have ignored: the children, the homeless, Aboriginal people with long associations here, little sounds from worlds of nature and humanity seldom recognised in the plans of the planners ... The sound of original dirt and growth in a tiny, polluted, but still active remnant of the ecosystem which once covered West Lakes with mangroves and mudflats ... A plea for development which enhances our lives rather than pushing people around in a cityscape of increasingly hellish din and speed.59
Track 1 (“Riverside”) depicts the singer (Schultz) escaping from oppressive noise to the solace of a more spacious environment (Figure 1).
The squealing of hungry young terns and the wild staccato croak of adult terns in Track 2 (“The Old Port Reach”) segues into the fluvial-shaped dynamics of “Wind, Water, Castle of Wizardry” (Track 3). The silt and rubbish that forms the east and west banks of the Port Reach blatantly signifies the existence of a culturally altered landscape which, while necessarily involving human violence and destruction, also holds on to the agency of the more-than-human world. Schultz draws out this point in his CD description of the drips and river ripples on the Glanville embankment:
Air bubbles up after being trapped under the barge by a rising tide. Water responds to wind, plopping staccato on a piece of timber near the barge hulk ... Swallows are heard, along with the distant CSR work-horn and engine noise ... water drips and trickles, its tempo and pitch changing as the tide rises. And the warm foggy, treacly roar of the Sugar Refinery dominates all, playing elusive notes of its own, lit up at night like an ogre's or wizard's castle with unknown captives in its high, inaccessible towers ...
The unedited performance of “Hulks” (Track 5) featured seven local musicians beating out layered rhythms on vestigial remnants of industrial junk: broken hulks and rusty bolts of sailing vessels, bits of train line, abandoned pipe, and derelict wharves. The voluntary overlays of banging, scraping, singing and speaking were embedded in the natural ambience: “acoustically and in spirit,” they were “part of it.”60
The whimsical “Dance of the Mudflats” (Track 7) offers an embodied “place resounding” between non-human seagull and humanly produced guitar timbres and rhythms. “Voices” (Track 8) features the chatter of environment group members planting trees and a man with his dog enjoying the plovers and talking to dolphins. The sound of wind-guitar, sax and thumb piano precedes a snippet of the a capella “River Chant” which is to reappear in Track 13. In “East Bank - Not Really a Life” (Track 9), the composer narrates the tragic true story of the shooting of a pregnant Pitjantjatjara woman against the ambient background of a cricket on the train line, passing cars, a jet and light plane, a distant freight train, sirens, crows and magpies (these birds being the adopted names of the Adelaide and Port Adelaide football teams respectively). The soundscape thus projects anthropomorphic as well as natural representation.
Restoring the Indigenous Voice of the Port River
Rose et al. note that the whole world, at all scales, can now be understood as a “contact zone” in which interdisciplinary work emphasises the importance of Indigenous and local knowledges for vitalising traditional concepts of ethics, care and virtue.61
For Ingram, part of art's importance lies in the provision of a space for imaginative and speculative play. Music is obviously not a solution to environmental problems in and of itself, yet Ingram sees the idea that it prefigures a better society—including a better relationship between human beings and the natural world—as “an attempt to account for the profound effect that music has on its listeners.”62 Part of this power, as understood by Rothenberg, is that “We can hear sounds whose meanings are not intended for us as if they were music and soon call them beautiful.”63
At the same time music carries with it the symbolic power to re-imagine shards of the past. Schultz's symphony is neither oral history nor anthropology, though it relates to both. He used storytelling as an inclusive tapestry, and ethnographic recording as a vehicle for getting the stories “out there,” yet he remains convinced that too much conversation and interpretation of this type would have changed the nature of the work as (primarily) music.64
To provide a sense of historical context, 200 years ago the local Kaurna people would have heard the sea from an estuary set among extensive reedbeds. The late Ngarrindjeri/Kaurna Elder Veronica Brodie (d. 2007) described the scene thus:
The whole area was filled with traditional wurlies [shelters], with Kaurna people moving up and down. It would have been a wonderful sight in those days to stand on the hill and see all the campfires lit up all the way to the Outer Harbour. It would have been like fairyland.65
A description by the English maritime surgeon W.H. Leigh of the “Port creek” in July 1837 is equally entrancing:
At the entrance of the creek, are found sandbanks covered with black swans, seagulls, ducks, and multitudes of pelicans ... It was the cream of the voyage to sail up this creek, bounded as it is on either side by beautiful mangrove trees, upon which cockatoos, and many beautiful birds of their tribe, were assembled. Here and there, a pretty little inlet, or a noble branch of water striking out into the interior, gave us a view of the beauties behind.66
Schultz realises that we cannot return to this dream of Eden with its primal fullness of sound, nor disown our heritage of urban dreams turned to rubbish, but “if we can bear to slow down, and learn to value assets which do not have we made this blazoned over them, then the little patient things may speak to us, and we may find hints of the City of God within our reach.”67
The Kaurna people occupied and managed the coastal lands of Yerta-bulti for an unknown period of time up until contact, when strangers changed its name, look, feel and sound. Veronica Brodie's grandmother (Laura Glanville Spender) and great-grandmother (Lartelare, the “keeper of the black swans”) were born on the west bank of the river in wurlies. In 1890, while Laura was still living in Glanville, CSR Ltd evicted the Indigenous residents and proceeded to occupy the site for the following 100 years. The 14 year-old Laura and her kinsfolk were denied the freedom to move on their own terms. In a psychological state of “placelessness,” they walked to Adelaide's East Parklands, only to be arrested by police for begging.68
Track 10 (“When the Owl Comes A-Looking”) underlines the ecosystem as an archive of social experience and cultural and political meaning, as Brodie (Schultz's oral history consultant) narrates the story above the sounding riverscape. Brodie authorised Schultz to make geopolitical use of “Three Little Mice,” a favourite bedtime song that Laura had taught her grandchildren in Kaurna and English. Translated into Kaurna by Amery and Schultz in 1995 and sung by Brodie, its origin is unknown.
Plumwood asked the pointed question: “Is the ability to maintain access (unproblematically) to a special homeplace and to protect it not at least partly a function of one's privilege/power in the world?”69 As remarked above, the linking of Indigenous experience to environmental debate is a common valorising strategy. The CSR eviction narrative fits the template neatly—the struggle of powerful against powerless, Aboriginal against non-Aboriginal, and “greenie” against developer, notwithstanding the tendency of clichéd binary contestations to engender categorical imperatives that constrain interpretation. Henry, amongst others, looks to the discursive fields and practices that produce binaries, arguing that political identities are produced situationally, as the result of practice. The relationship between sameness and difference is therefore produced and articulated performatively.70
Feld promotes a role for acoustic ecology and soundscape studies in adequately and evocatively representing people's experiential worlds, their voices, and their humanity:
... deep down we hope that by writing and circulating other peoples' histories, by giving their voices places to speak and shout and sing from, we in some measure combat and counter the longstanding arrogance of colonial and imperial authority, of history written in one language, in one voice, as one narrative.