Australian folk song: Sources, singers and styles

Graeme Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Australian folk song and music have been created as unified genres by activists, enthusiasts and performers. Various commentators have discussed ways in which the genre is the product of unacknowledged selectiveness, conflations and exclusions of historically-situated genres. While acknowledging the strategic selection by which folk collectors created the genre, this article describes the vernacular musics from which Australian folk was assembled. It is argued that behind processes of genre construction was a body of songs created and performed in an objectively identifiable musical style. The melodic structures and performance styles of these songs are discussed, with reference to typical melodic families, the adaptation of popular tunes and the singing styles of the most prolific informants. While this song style is now little practiced by singers in domestic vernacular social contexts, its adoption by performers in folk movement contexts is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-233
Number of pages16
JournalMusicology Australia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015

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