ISSUE 12 - MARCH 2004
Australian Folklore Network
Australian Folklore Research Unit
Curtin University of Technology
- From the Convenor
- AFN Forum 2004
- Verandah Music
- Tasmanian Apple Shed Tunes
- Folklore Sites on the Web
- Who Owns Folklore?
- AFN Affiliates
FROM THE CONVENOR
Welcome back to our existing members and to those who have joined since 2004.
In our first issue for this year we include an update on the Australian Folklore Network's Verandah Music project and details of the 2004 AFN Forum held in conjunction with the National Library and the National Folk Festival. There is also news of a published collection of Tasmanian tunes and a selection of the ever-increasing number of websites related to folklore.
This issue includes a discussion paper on the ownership of folklore, a topic likely to be of increasing prominence and controversy. We will be happy to publish responses in the next, or subsequent, issues of Transmissions.
I hope to catch up with some of you at the AFN Forum in Canberra this Easter.
AFN ANNUAL FORUM
As in 2003, this year's Forum will be on Tuesday April13 at the National Library of Australia, 10am-12, Conference Room, 4th floor. This is immediately after the National Folk Festival, so if you're in Canberra please come along and give us the benefit of your views. As well as providing a meeting place, the NLA is kindly providing morning tea for Forum attendees.
In 2003, among other things, we discussed the idea of a national folklore/life centre, following on from the discussion paper on that topic published in Transmissions 3. We also discussed the possibility of running a one-day conference on Australian folklore in conjunction with the NLA and the NFF. This edition of Transmissions includes a brief look at a controversial but important topic - who owns folklore? - a topic that is sure to generate lively discussion.
At the moment the agenda is as follows:
Who Owns Folklore?
AFN folklore conference
If any AFN memers would like to suggest an agenda item(s), please email Graham Seal at firstname.lastname@example.org
The AFN's most recent project, Verandah Music: Roots of Australian Tradition is selling well and has received a good deal of favourable publicity and notice.
There will be a second launch and concert at the National Library on the afternoon of Feb 29. Hopefully this will be a big media event and it looks as though ABC Radio will record it and - hopefully - broadcast it. Some of you may be able to make it, if so you will be very welcome.
There have been a number of reviews, notices and adverts for the book in various mainstream media, including the 7.30 report on ABCTV, the West Australian and in some more specialised magazines and journals such as Trad&Now and the Bulletin is reprinted below.
The book seems to have stimulated ongoing interest in Australian traditional music and other forms of folklore and a number of media projects are being canvassed. Whether these come to anything or not, we are at least raising the profile of Australian folklore, a key aim of the Australian Folklore Network.
There will also be a Verandah Music session at the National Folk Festival in Canberra this Easter. Hope to see you there.
Have a look at the Verandah Music website, where you can also order the book direct from the publisher at www.verandahmusic.com
A REVIEW OF THE BOOK from the West Australian newspaper by Ken Ferguson.
Verandah Music, by Graham Seal and Rob Wills (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, $49.95)
Review: Ken Ferguson
THIS fascinating and beautifully-produced publication, subtitled Roots of Australian Music, has been put together for a new imprint, Curtin University Press.
A handsome volume it is, too, with a bold cover photograph taken in Darwin in 1929, when times were tough for mixed-race workers in that town.
It shows Poncie Cubillo and his accordion, his handsome face staring direct to the camera, surrounded by a large group of his fellow Filipino workers -out of work, but defiant and making music.
It illustrates one of many stories of people who came to this country, in various circumstances, struggled and survived to become part of our collective culture.
The book celebrates those people, their stories and most importantly their music. Immigrants came from the British Isles of course, but also from many other cultures -European, Asian, African, and more. People who brought their own folk music and adapted it, and themselves, to their new home and/ or refuge.
Seal, a Curtin University academic, and Willis, from the National Library, are both fascinated by the stories and this music, which is now becoming a vital part of Australia's musical heritage. And the book comes with two CDs of performances, collected by the National Library, from the memories and music of those whose stories are told.
What is so engaging about this book is that the reader is led into the variety of the yarns through interviews about the lives lived, the music made -and then can listen to the performances themselves.
It is also full of unexpected and delightful oddities. You get to hear gumleaf playing of exceptional skill from Wendy Eva, of Tatura, in Victoria, who learnt the art from her father, Fred, who, in turn, learnt from an Aboriginal football coach called Shaggy James, apparently the first of his people to play league footy.
One of the standout tracks is from Bey Moore, a Warnambool accordionist. She learned to play from her grandfather. He lived so far away that when he was able to visit she was allowed to stay up much later than usual to hear him play all his magnificent tunes.
Her skills certainly match that description.
In fact, much of the great appeal of this book is in the many anecdotes from the old timers about simpler times, unruled by the now almost ubiquitous media.
Fiddler Tom Walsh describes the differences between the classical and "folk" fiddling styles, the give and take and invention that result in a traditional fiddler never playing the same tune identically. Variety and freshness are always there.
That is certainly clear in the recorded tracks, too. There is no assumption that the piece of music is some sacred artifice that may not be tampered with. Adornments and "feel" are all part of the process, indeed they are absolutely necessary for the music to live and evolve.
They can be heard to great effect in the weird and wondrous saltwater songs of the Torres Straits islands by Seaman Dan.
Western Australia has not been forgotten in this account. The music of accordionist Sid Parish, for example, whose family came from the Manjimup area, and whose band was in great demand through to the late 1960s, is given an affectionate cheerio by Perth squeeze-boxer Bob Rummery, who shared many a stage with Sid.
This selection also celebrates those who were farsighted and motivated enough to document a music that was fragile, potentially ephemeral and easily lost, in part because of its quirkiness.
Some of it became lost as the generations passed, particularly in times when it was thought by some to be "old fashioned", not original, not sophisticated.
Of course, homemade music was usually family music, and many of the old tunes and songs have been preserved and are still played by contemporary families. They play in the home, at weddings, parties, clubs, pubs, and, yes, folk clubs and festivals.
In fact, many festivals make the effort to bring this real, still-living music, to younger, more urban ears -to pass it on, to make whatever they might of it.
This wonderful book with its fascinating people, stories, music and songs, will surely inspire and stimulate the process further so that these musical riches are neither misunderstood nor squandered.
Ken Ferguson is a Perth folk musician who occasionally writes on the topic for The West Australian.
THE TASMANIAN HERITAGE APPLE SHED TUNE BOOK
Published and compiled by Steve and Marjorie Gadd.
The Second Edition of this major collection was released in January 2004. The First Edition contained 180 tunes the new edition contains 254 Tunes. Of these around 230 are traditional collected tunes while the remainder are contemporary pieces composed by the authors and played by The Tasmanian Heritage Fiddle Ensemble and other Tasmanian musicians. There are arrangements of tunes played by musicians from all around Tasmania with a strong emphasis on the music of the Dawsons of the Huon Valley, The Brown Boys of Cape Barren Island, and from the North of the state tunes sourced from Eileen Mcoy, The Donahues and many others. The National Library collections made by John Meredith and Rob Willis along with Steve Gadd's personal collections of field recordings, family tapes and old sheet music form the basis of much of the material.
A great effort has been made to emphasise material that was common across regions in Tasmania from 1840-1950. Some tunes well known to contemporary Australian folk musicians have been omitted in favour of more obscure and unusual tunes or those with a definite regional peculiarity. The authors Steve and Marjorie Gadd have also included some duet and multi part arrangements of traditional mazurkas, hornpipes and jigs etc.
The Book sells for $40.00 and can be purchased directly by phone 03 62663446 or email email@example.com
FOLKLORE SITES ON THE WEB
WHO OWNS FOLKLORE?
A Discussion Paper by Graham Seal
National folk cultures have usually been collected, preserved, celebrated and studied as aspects of culture and society. In Australia we think of, for example, the extensive bush ballad tradition as an element of a large and diffuse, but definitely identifiable part of our history, national consciousness and cultural expression. There is a considerable body of scholarly, literary, artistic and other treatment of such traditions as aspects of national cultural expression and identity.
But this body of frequently intangible but definite expressions, artistic and material has rarely been thought of as a national resource with an economic as well as a cultural value.
Is it possible - and desirable - to establish a basis for valorising, conserving and developing Australian folklore of place in the same way that environmental, built and moveable heritages are valued, conserved and developed for the national benefit?
Many of the legal and conceptual problems associated with indigenous culture as intellectual property also apply to non-indigenous, informally transmitted heritage. While these matters have received some attention, there has been little discussion of the situation regarding the broader field of folklore as cultural property.
This paper raises a number of issues related to such concerns with the aim of stimulating discussion among those with an interest in folklore. It covers the need to record folklore, folklore as an economic resource, the question of 'public domain' and 'community right' and some of the issues involved. Needles to say, these matters are addressed from the perpective of a folklorist rather than a legal expert. Nevertheless, the matters broached are relevant culturally as well as economically and legally.
The Need to Identify, Collate and Preserve Folklore
Because it is fundamental to many forms of human practice and expression, folklore provides an insight into the most powerful motivators of social groups. Its close relationship to sense of identity and belonging imparts shared meaning to the lives of individuals and projects an otherwise intangible sense of the uniqueness of the experiences, practices and expressions of the social groups to which individuals belong.
The collection, preservation, study and uses of folklore has many benefits. These include:
- Cultural - giving us all a better sense of who we are and how we relate to each other. This is especially valuable in a multicultural society, where conflicts between groups are frequently based on folkloric notions and assumptions.
- Closely related to the above point is the role of folklore in establishing, expressing and reinforcing a sense of identity and of belonging. In the case of Australia it is the knowledge of those often-intangible elements of lore, legend and language that contributes our sense of 'Australian-ness', an intangible but definite facet of everyday life.
- Educational - Folklore can - and is - used in various ways in education. These include promoting a better understanding of ourselves and our relations with each other, especially those of 'other' cultural, ethnic or religious groups, the relationship between folklore and the past, family folklore, local lore and legend
- Artistic - Many folk traditions, while fading or perhaps obsolete, have an ongoing appeal in the modern era when groups of enthusiasts frequently revive them, creating often substantial organisations, networks and other means of practising or observing them, including folk festivals, folk clubs, etc.
- Related to many of the activities noted as 'artistic' is the more intangible satisfaction that many in the community drive from taking part in revival and associated activities. There is a manifest need for many individuals and groups to feel that they are maintaining, reviving or otherwise preserving expressions and practices that are felt to be 'old' and meaningful. While this is often scorned, especially by academics, as 'antiquarianism', 'romanticism', 'folklorism'' and 'fakelore', the long history of folk revivalism in the western world and the considerable number of people involved in it demonstrates a powerful, if often untutored, popular need to take part in activities labelled 'folk'. It is, in many ways, akin to the 'heritage' and family history movements and represents a popular need to possess and preserve aspects and elements of the real or imagined past.
- Economic value. Some aspects of folklore, including customs, arts, crafts, costume etc. have a graphic visual appeal that projects the distinctiveness of local experience, in this case WA, and which have valuable potential for sensitive and appropriate commercial development.
- Because folklore often changes so rapidly, it is important to document it while the opportunity exists
Folklore as an Economic Resource
As noted above, folklore has not usually been treated as an economic resource. When and where it has been recognised, preserved, studied or taught it has generally been as an aspect of heritage, cultural and/or artistic expression. However, there are increasingly compelling reasons to begin considering folklore as an economic resource. These include:
Taken together these actualities and potentials suggest that folklore, far from being a subject only of studious or specialist interest, is a large and important cultural resource that has many possibilities for the betterment of peoples' lives and also has considerable economic value. How can these resources be developed for the common good before commercial interests monopolise them?
- Its role as a marker of cultural identity. This is especially relevant in indigenous and ethnic groups, where cultural maintenance (despite the problem of cultural lag in relation to the progress of the originating culture) is of great concern.
- the increasing interest of the commercial world in utilising folklore and traditional materials. In the Australian context we are perhaps most familiar with the situation regarding the appropriation and exploitation of traditional Aboriginal designs, but this is only the most publicised aspect of a widespread process that includes the use of folk customs and other lore for touristic purposes, the medical application of traditional remedies, recordings, publications and performances of traditional song, music, dance, story, verse and other forms of lore. The popular music phenomenon labelled 'world music', for instance, is essentially commodified traditional music.
- Closely related to the above are considerations of ownership and control of the knowledge and information contained in folklore. Who owns folklore? If, as folklorists generally assert, folklore is shared cultural property, how can ownership in a commercial sense be determined? Can it be determined? Are copyright and other intellectual or cultural property laws and precedents relevant? If so, how? These difficult questions are only beginning to be addressed but are rapidly becoming acute.
- Some aspects of folklore are the focus of 'folk festivals'. While these were once largely restricted to aficionados and revivalists, such festivals have grown in number and size and regularly attract large numbers of patrons from all walks of life. They are examples of folklore in use and being used as a cultural resource.
- The field usually called 'public folklore' in the United States involves trained folklorists collecting and/or utilising traditional materials in a variety of public ways for the betterment of communities. These include collecting projects, organising folk festivals and other performance and display-oriented activities, the passing on of traditional skills and knowledge, having folklore - usually of the local or regional type - taught in schools, etc. there are many opportunities for developing similar approaches in Australia, especially in conjunction with tourism, heritage and regional development.
- There are also possibilities for applied folklore in the amelioration or even eradication of community conflicts over customary observations, in relation to workplace conflict, racism, sexism, homophobia, community panics, human services. Collection, preservation and study of relevant folk expressions and practices can provide a basis for such applications.
One initial avenue of research involves the concepts of 'public domain' and 'community right'.
From Public Domain to Community Right
By its traditional nature, folklore, folklife, folk or 'intangible heritage' - whatever we wish to call it - belongs to everyone past, present and future (dead, alive, yet to be born). However, the legal status of folklore, such as it is, is very much at odds with this communal cultural resource. The notion that folklore is in the 'public domain' and so owned by no-one is a situation that allows anyone to use folklore without paying for it. Neither the creator, creators (if they could be found, which they almost never can be), nor the bearers of the traditions and, in many cases, not the collectors and preservers of these traditions shares in the often considerable financial rewards derived from those who exploit traditional music, song, dance, costume, designs, stories, techniques, etc.
Should these pre-existing links in the chain of tradition share in the profits derived from the cultural resource they have maintained? If so, how can a legal system geared to the notion of individual ownership and exploitation of intellectual property be amended to deal with the notion of communal ownership and appropriate community recompense?
One possible approach would be through the development of a 'community right' principle. This reverses the public domain status of folklore which is that no-one owns folklore therefore anyone can make use of it and says that everyone owns folklore and therefore no-one can make use of it without permission.
What other mechanisms exist to safeguard the use of intellectual property and allow its creators a share in the returns? Performance rights are one example. Copyright payments are another. What these things require to make them effective is a listing or register of items likely to be made use of and an appropriate monitoring arrangement for the subsequent re-uses of this material. Folklore is a broad, diverse and ever-changing form of cultural expression and activity, but with modern information and electronic technologies it is feasible to seriously consider such arrangements. The returns might fund the administrative costs of registering, monitoring and collecting and any residues could go into a perpetual fund that could be used for the benefit of the community(ies), perhaps on a grant-giving model such as many places employ with the proceeds of their lotteries. Appropriate exemptions could be given for education, research and charitable purposes.
What are the likely advantages of such an approach?
- It will allow the interested parties - the tradition-bearers - to have an input
- It will provide the opportunity for appropriate use of traditional materials
- It will ensure the distribution of any financial returns to the community from which the resource has been mined rather than solely to the pockets of individuals or corporations
- an appropriate proportion of the funds generated to be channelled back into the collection, preservation and study of the nation's folklore resources
The Need to Consider These Difficult Issues
If Australia does not move to protect its folk cultural resources others will exploit them. A number of such cases have already occurred in relation to aspects of indigenous traditions and there are ample opportunities for similar exploitation of non-indigenous traditions, whether in music, song, story, verse, craft, art, customary behaviour, costumes, designs, medicines, foods, etc. Such uses have long been occurring in publishing, the media, sound recording, visual arts, the internet and in many other domains. A recent example is the commodification of the Queensland and NSW coming of age rite of passage known as 'Schoolies Week' which by 2002 was a multi-million dollar business, with the folk name 'schoolies' trademarked by the company that now runs the custom.
Is it time to view a cultural resource in the same economic light as natural or environmental resources? If so, investigating folklore in this way would mean:
Methodologies needing to be developed might include:
- Identifying and locating it as a significant national cultural resource
- Collating it in the form of an electronic inventory that will also disseminate the materials broadly
- Developing principles for its statutory protection
- Suggesting administrative structures for the monitoring and possible licensing of folklore
Some work in this area in relation to indigenous culture has already been done, though there is a much broader range of expression and activity to be considered, even if only in the English language. The concerns about orally transmitted (therefore difficult to protect under intellectual property laws which revolve around print, etc) indigenous culture and its appropriation by others, also apply to non-indigenous orally transmitted materials - folklore.
- Registration of Australian folklore collections, forming a virtual distributed national database
- Development of the Australian Inventory of Folklore Resources which will be both a significant and growing collation of the resources and have extensive value and applications in education, libraries, scholarship, tourism and other commercial activities.
- Developing principles and procedures for protecting and developing folk cultural resources that can be applied nationally, including by state governments, and internationally.
These might be along lines similar to those by which copyright and other forms of intellectual property are protected, such as the Copyright Agency Ltd. and the Copyright Act. Specifically this might involve a:
- Definition of folklore that has both legal and ethical standing
- the desirability of a licensing regime to govern the uses made of folklore and levy a fee or royalty from these (which could support/subsidise the statutory entity)
- Potential legal frameworks for the protection of folk cultural resources
Australian Folklore (1987 -) The journal of Australian folklore studies, published by the Australian Folklore Association.
Blair, S. (ed.), People's Places: Identifying and Assessing Social Value for Communities, Australian Heritage Commission, Melbourne, 1994.
Committee of Inquiry into Folklife in Australia, Folklife our Living Heritage, AGPS, Canberra, 1987.
Commonwealth Department of Communications and the Arts, Mapping Culture: A Guide for Cultural and Economic Development in Communities, Canberra, 1995.
Davey, G. & Seal, G., (eds.) The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore, OUP, Melbourne, 1993.
Davey, G. Beed & Faine, S. (eds.), Traditions and Tourism: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Proceedings of the Sixth National Folklife Conference 1994, Clayton, Vic., 1996.
Davey, G. Beed, Presentation and Paradox: Folklore and Tourism, WA Folklore Archive, Curtin University, Applied Folklore Research Studies 2, 1992.
Davey, G., 'The Moe Folklife Project: A final report prepared for the Department of Communication and the Arts and the National Library of Australia, National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University', April 1996.
Department of Home Affairs and the Environment, Report of the Working Party on the Protection of Aboriginal Folklore, Canberra, 1981.
Edwards, R., Two Hundred Years of Australian Folk Song Index 1788-1988, Kuranda, 1988.
Hults, D., A Bibliography of Australian Folklore 1790-1990, Black Swan Press, 1995.
Hults, D., 'Appendix: A Bibliographic Guide to Australian Folklore' in Davey, G. & Seal, G., (eds.), The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore, OUP, Melbourne, 1993.
Ioannou, N., Barossa Journeys: Into a Valley of Tradition, Paringa Press, Kent Town, SA, 1997.
Jabbour, A., 'Folklore Protection and National Patrimony: Developments and Dilemmas in the Legal protection of Folklore', Copyright Bulletin, Vol. XVII, No 1, 1983.
Jones, I., 'Foothills Connection: A Shire of Kalamunda Multi-Arts Oral History Project', Australian Folklore 7, 1992. (First pub. Oral History Association Newsletter 11, 1989).
Puri, K., 'Preservation and Conservation of Expressions of Folklore', Copyright Bulletin vol. XXXII, no. 4, Oct--Dec 1998.
Saulwick, I., 'Documenting Tradition Through Survey Research Techniques: The Tenacity of Tradition' in Davey, G. Beed & Faine, S. (eds), Traditions and Tourism: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Proceedings of the Sixth National Folklife Conference 1994, Clayton, Vic., 1996.
Seal, G. (comp.), Australian Folk Resources: A Select Guide and Preliminary Bibliography, 2nd. rev. edn. with Edwards, R., 1988.
Seal, G., 'A Folk Cultural Heritage Register for Australia?', Australian Folklore 7, 1992.
Seal, G., FRECCOMS (Folklore Recording, Classifying and Comparison System): Explanation and Application, Centre for Australian Studies, Curtin University, 1992.
Seal, G., The Hidden Culture: Folklore in Australian Society, Oxford University Press, 1989. Rev. edn. Black Swan Press, 1998.
UNESCO 'Safeguarding of Works in the Public Domain', Copyright Bulletin, Vol XXIII, No 2, 1989.
UNESCO, 'Recommendation on the Safeguarding of Traditional Culture and Folklore: Adopted by the General Conference of Unesco at its twenty-fifth session', Copyright Bulletin Vol XXIV, No 1, 1990.
UNESCO Legal protection and heritage http://www.unesco.org/culture/legalprotection/
Weiner, J.G., 'Protection of Folklore: A Political and Legal Challenge', 11C (International Review of Industrial Property and Copyright Law), Vol 18, No 1, 1987.
WIPO General Assembly, September 25 to October 3, 2000, 'Matters Concerning Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore'.
-  Seal, G. The Hidden Culture: Folklore in Australian Society, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1989; 1992, chpt. 1.
-  Lowenthal, D., The Past is A Foreign Country and The Heritage Crusade
-  Mitchell, T., Popular Music and Local Identity: Rock, Pop and Rap in Europe and Oceania, Leicester university Press, London/New York, 1996; Taylor, T., Global Pop: World Music, World Markets, Routledge, New York/London, 1997.
-  Puri, K., 'Preservation and Conservation of Expressions of Folklore', (UNESCO)Copyright Bulletin vol. XXXII, no. 4, Oct--Dec 1998.
-  Preliminary research carried out by the Australian Folklore Research Unit at Curtin University (unpublished), suggest that c. 200 000 people take part in 'folk' and related festivals each year in Australia.
-  Puri, K., 'Cultural Ownership and Intellectual Property Rights Post-Mabo: Putting Ideas into Action', 9 IPJ 293; Report of the Working Party on the Protection of Aboriginal Folklore, Dept. of Home Affairs and the Environment, Canberra, 1981.
Alan Musgrove |
Australian Children's Folklore Collection,
Bill Wannan (dec.)
Bush Music Club
Chris Kempster (dec.)
David De Santi
Folk Alliance Australia
J D A Widdowson
J S Ryan
Luisa Del Giudice
Museum of Childhood, Edith Cowan University
Social Science Department, Aranmore Catholic College
Top End Folk Club
Victorian Folklife Association
Western Australian Folklore Archive
National Register of Folklore Collections
Folklore Australia - resource base
Australian Folklore Research Unit - Australia Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology
Simply Australia Online magazine of folklore and social history
National Library of Australia Oral History/Folklore Archive
Trad&Now - Australian Folk Music magazine
Play and Folklore- Australia's journal of children's folklore
Graduate Diploma in Australian Folklife
Moonlit road - traditional tales and associated lore.
Verandah Music: Roots of Australian Tradition A joint project between the AFN, Curtin University and the National Library of Australia.
Folklore Weather Forecasting - well worth a look. .
Weather Forecasting and Folklore
Australian Folklore Research Unit
Australia Research Institute
Curtin University of Technology