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Scoring Australia: film music and Australian identities in Young Einstein, Strictly Ballroom and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 18:06 authored by Rebecca Coyle
National identity discourses have been examined in film and cultural studies over many years and recently revised in light of global media changes. Locally, Australian film successes (particularly in the lucrative US market) have contributed to self-reflexive analysis. However, film music and its discursive contribution to national identity have attracted little sustained examination, particularly in Australia and in relation to Australian cinema. Scoring Australia addresses this paucity of research. This thesis centres on two problems: first, how to 'read' film scores, particularly those that incorporate a number of non-Australian, pre-composed or pre-recorded popular music songs; and second, how such music tracks can represent Australia. Using textual and production analysis methodologies, this thesis examines original music items and popular songs in film, and demonstrates the manner in which music tracks can reinforce, inform and extend narrative explorations of identity. -- This thesis analyses the music tracks for three Australian feature films of the late 1980s/early 1990s, namely, Young Einstein (directed by Yahoo Serious, 1988), Strictly Ballroom (directed by Baz Luhrmann, 1992), and The Adventures ofPriscilla, Queen of the Desert (directed by Stephan Elliott, 1994). These films are generically similar, using comedic elements and drawing upon film musical traditions in their incorporation of popular music and performance. The films achieved commercial success partly due to their incorporation of specific music and songs. The thesis examines the production processes for these film music tracks (and associated soundtrack albums), and their relation to aspects of narrative, theme and characterisation. Research sources include primary interviews with filmmaking personnel (especially the film composers and directors) in addition to critical and theoretical material. -- Each film study demonstrates how the music arises from and reflects the ideology of its social context and particular aspects of Australian culture. The Young Einstein analysis deals with the nature of 'national' musics; the Strictly Ballroom study examines appropriation, modification and adaptation of musical styles within a 'multicultural' society; and the Priscilla discussion focuses on musical interplay with drag and camp performance. The thesis acknowledges discourses of multiple national identities, concluding with observations on the relationship between music and geographical place. It has not been the concern of this thesis to identify singularly 'Australian' sounds but, rather, a range of approaches to musical representation. Ultimately, it is argued, popular songs used in film music tracks can be adopted as integral to Australian culture and effectively signify alongside other musics generated by Australians for Australian films. The examination of these elements enables a (hmited) study of Australian film music practices and production approaches, and an alternative perspective on Australian cinema.