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(Presented here is the text of the article which was published in Popular Music, vol 13, No 1, 1994, pp 297-312. It is given here for convenience of research. Copyright resides with the author and publisher, and use which exceeds fair dealing is prohibited. The original article also contains notated musical examples and pictorial illustrations not given here. Contact me by email if you are interested and have difficulty in finding the original publication) Of the seventy five tracks issued as a historical survey of Australian country performers from 1936 to 1960, sixty eight feature a yodelling interlude, and in many the yodelling forms the main part of the performance(1). The importance of this vocal technique in Australian country music, and its persistence till the present day is a striking feature of the genre. Prominent Australian performers such as Wayne Horsborough comment that yodelling before country audiences in the USA produces reactions of amazement, for the technique has been almost totally abandoned by current American performers(2). Yet because most historical commentary on Australian country music has stressed textual development, the presence of the yodel, a wordless interlude, is often merely noted, even if with an acknowledgment of the skill of performers in this technique. And for those in the present period wishing to promote Australian country music to a broader audience, the yodel tends to be a source of embarrassment. The country music industry today is preoccupied with `throwing off the hick image' and emphasising the
broad appeal of the genre, and to many current propagandists for Australian country music yodelling is an aspect of both the history and current state of the music which condemns them to commercial unacceptability. Yet it has remained popular with audiences and a significant number of performers, and recently a telemarketed album of yodelling songs by veteran country performer Mary Schneider sold at Australian platinum levels (Latta 1991 p 150). Country music clubs, which form a backbone of committed support for the genre, frequently organise local festivals where talent quests characteristically include yodelling competitions(3). A wide range of Country performers from America, from middle of the road Nashville stars to `new traditionalists' and `progressive country' performers have a following in Australia, but alongside of these is a local recording and live performance industry. The biggest names in Australian country locally outsell international recordings, the most prolific being the much renowned Slim Dusty, who at 65 in 1993 has made around 80 albums, been awarded 90 gold records and 20 platinum records by the Australian recording industry, amounting to 4 million Australian sales, more than twice that of Kylie Minogue (Lester 1991). Dusty and other singers in this genre use a style which defiantly defines itself as an authentic representation of the Australian experience and national identity. Its claim would be disputed by many Australians who take their cultural cues from more cosmopolitan models, for the nationalism of Australian country is often seen as politically conservative, its musical means slight, and its themes of address limited and
1985. national form of address before a mass. but a crucial and powerful part of the act of performance. Watson's commentary is almost entirely lyric centred. The story also relates the failures of this grand destiny. which has progressively freed itself from the influences of American models. a voice within which singers established the social meaning of the genre. that those aspects of style which could be described using Raymond Williams' term `structures of feeling' are likely to be found (Shepherd 1987. Historical commentary on country music in Australia has been dominated by perspectives of cultural nationalism. albeit a minority audience. vocal techniques are linked . for the sound of the genre lies beyond its nationalist terms of reference. and in the cosmopolitan commodification of country music (Watson 1983. The books of country music historian Eric Watson construct a story of the development of an independent and authentically national genre. Williams 1965 p34). the body of the singer made audible.1987). In particular I wish to show how the yodel in Australian country music was not a habitual and optional decoration to the main business of telling an Australian story. For it is in the use of the voice. Yet it is now beginning to be recognised as the first Australian commercial popular music genre to have attempted to use a localised. I will argue that a closer examination of the musical sound of Australian country music offers perspectives beyond those of national authenticity. in singers who ape foreign models and styles. Smith 1992.irrelevant. But as Leppert and Lipsitz demonstrate in their study of Hank Williams.
and in some cases to create their own songs in a similar style. As the popularity of this music grew. The audience which emerged was strongly rural. the Carter family. dialect and corporeal behaviour. The most influential performers in Australia in this period were Jimmy Rodgers. I The musical tradition of Australian country music begins when recordings of the most popular performers of hillbilly music became available in Australia in the late 1920s. But before the voice and the yodel in Australian hillbilly music is examined. It is not to be wondered that musicologists might retreat to the easily theorised grammars of pitch and rhythm. Carson Robison and Vernhan Dalhart. repertoire and musical style. we must look at the historical evolution of the genre. particularly in the east coast of Australia. . Through recordings Australian listeners became aware of an new approach to public performance. and to the relationship of all these to spoken language. and this process reached its first pinnacle of success in the career of Jimmy Rodgers. and so present a complex field of signs (Leppert and Lipsitz 1990).with the whole pragmatics of singing performance. Throughout the 1920s in America. a number of genres of vernacular performance were becoming consolidated into hillbilly music. and social historians into verbal texts. a number of local performers began to imitate it.
The hallmark of Jimmy Rodgers vocal style was an easy intimacy. such as legitimate singer and radio announcer Len Maurice recorded cover versions of Carter family and Jimmy Rodgers songs under his performing name of Art Leonard. in the 1930s became the major interpreter of this genre and a greater influence on many performers than American models. one local singer. and although on record he can diminish his projection from that appropriate to a concert hall. Though these performers apparently had sufficient sales to sustain a number of releases of such material. learning diverse . an emigrant from New Zealand. Tex Morton. One of the first.The first performers came from professional performers from established contexts of entertainment who tried their hand at imitating an apparently simple musical genre. Tex Morton. was to establish himself as the first performer to build a repertoire and career in this genre. Some of these. their vocal style lacked certain of the key characteristics which marked the new hillbilly singers.(4) Though the recordings of American performers introduced the style and repertoire to Australian listeners. in his late teens he came to Australia with some experience in public performance and recording in New Zealand. In 1932. By contrast performers like his Australian imitator Art Leonard continued to use a legitimate light tenor delivery. he still retains his over-precise consonants and straight jacket rhythmic sense. perhaps the first performer to effectively exploit the new technology of electric recording. He travelled with a circus. in his recordings Rodgers does not project his voice further than would be necessary in an average room.
This label was the sole outlet for recorded hillbilly music in Australia until the 1950s. whip cracking and rope tricks. seeking the same mythological resonance that American localisation evoked: hobos became bagmen. Williams projected a more personal tone than that of the confident and professional performer and showman Morton. and so on. Williams had come from a rural childhood marked . Buddy Williams. Australian place names appear. Increasingly. the itinerant unemployed of 1930s Australia. who recorded as `the Texas Drifter' in the late 1920s and early 1930s specialised in hobo and cowboy songs. the musical characteristics of which will be described below. Morton's career and his evolving style inspired the second central figure of Australian hillbilly music. In Sydney he performed on radio and eventually made a number of recordings for Australia's Columbia subsidiary. which was to evolve into a genre known as the bush ballad. cowboys became boundary riders. competition boxing. Gradually. Much of Morton's early repertoire derived from the recordings of Jimmy Rodgers and another now lesser known solo performer of the 1920s. Inspired also by Wilf Carter and Goebbel Reeves. this textual localisation. began to take a unified shape. Touring performances built for him a strong following. Goebbel Reeves. linked with Morton's characteristic musical style. Reeves. and by 1937 he was one of Australia's most popular recording artists. Morton began to write similar songs and to adapt the thematic formulae to Australian conditions. which were issued in the Regal Zonophone 20000 series.entertainment skills such as sharpshooting.
and between them they were to establish the patterns of indigenous Australian hillbilly performers. It is likely that a number of disagreements had arisen between Columbia and their one highly successful Australian hillbilly performer. cowboy songs were by far the most influential on Australian performers. Tex Morton. a few by Jimmy Rodgers. 129).by orphanhood and cruel fostering. The western films of Gene Autry provided substantial models for dress. the familiar image of the singing cowboy did not emerge until the rise of Gene Autry in 1934 (Malone 1975 p. Comber and Paris 1975 p. 141. Although some cowboy songs were recorded in the 1920s. and in 1939 was accepted for recording by the A&R director at Columbia. 55). Buddy Williams songs used mix of musical styles and lyrical themes similar to those of Morton. Arch Kerr. and in Australia in particular. and the engagement of a potential rival eventually resulted in a rift between Morton and Columbia (Smith 1990). enacting the same stylistic hegemonic process which Rodgers exemplified in American country music(5). By his late teens he was an itinerant labourer and street performer. deportment and performer attitude and gave Australian singers a . Of the loosely allied musical styles which were emerging in the USA in the 1930s to form the country music genre. the figure of the cowboy was well established in popular culture before Hollywood. the western novels of the US author Zane Grey (1875-1939) were extremely popular with Australian readers in the first thirty years of the twentieth century (Lyons and Taska 1992 p. However.
what they produced musically was less like the smooth Hollywood influenced songs of Gene Autry. However. Carter had come from a working background on cattle farms to become a tireless propagator of the cowboy image. Hank Snow. there is no question of the immense attractiveness of these images. centred in a mythologised west Carter being a Nova Scotian. Though many critics have scorned the Hollywood fabrications which were popularised in the 1930s. a hallmark of cowboy music. or translated to Australia. The influence of these singers gave cowboy music a characteristic slant in Australia. And although there was a great distance between the concrete reality of Australian rural work and the romantic image of the cowboy hero. almost all Australian performers based their persona on the singing cowboy. when it defined itself in contrast to metropolitan norms. Both of these singers were notable for their yodelling.model for performance. Like many of the Australian singers who were to follow this genre. and another Nova Scotian singer to embrace the cowboy image. than those of other cowboy singer models such as Goebell Reeves and Wilf Carter. . the bagman and itinerant rural worker. Carter was taken on as a producer of direct narrative songs. the new world pastorale of the cowboy song allowed an identification founded in something of its rural listeners' experience. with their arranged instrumental backings and velvety voice. Reeves gave Australian singers an interest in singing about the vagrant culture of the hobo.
Eric Watson. were in areas . Throughout the 1940s and 1950s these shows travelled through rural Australia. but all were trying to perform it.Both Morton and Williams established touring rodeo shows and these performance contexts became an accepted setting for the musical style.. Not only was their main interest the new hillbilly music. though the economic importance of the horse was declining in many areas. yet due to the perishable nature of dairy products. and it happened simultaneously all over the country' (Watson 1987 p 57) The appeal of this music certainly was widespread. casually in private or in public. The performances of singers such as Buddy Williams and Tex Morton were the model for a new form of musical expression for young rural Australians in the 1940s. Australian country music's most prolific historian. eloquently describes the impact of the music on himself and other young people of the dairying belt of northern New South Wales. and many were writing songs in the idiom. equestrian skills were still popularly cultivated and celebrated. but the emergence of many singers from this area of NSW and southern Queensland suggests that it was among the small farmers of the dairying industry that the music held its greatest appeal. For Watson it was `a spontaneous and quite inspiring flowering of what I consider to be a genuine folk movement. They were tied to endless work in relative isolation. they also presented the new local form of cowboy music to an audience as a genre for self expression and public performance. Just as the shows invited local riders to compete and perform. where. Young men from this rural industry were often on relatively unprofitable family farms.
Australian country music has had `no particular harmonic or melodic strength' (Brisbane 1991 p. The musical means of the bush ballad have usually been seen as little more than a vehicle for the text. the romanticised West had a special appeal to dairy farmers. but it is the most important style in the genre's self definition. which is also associated with narrative Australian popular verse of the late nineteenth century. . The bush ballad now occupies only a part of the stylistic range of country music in Australia. using different skills to those depicted in the cowboy songs. The use of the term bush ballad. a range of usually romanticised images of rural life are presented. Rarely is there a direct narrative beyond the placement of the singer within this social and geographical landscape. Reg Lindsay and the legendary Slim Dusty.which were fairly closely settled. and in contact with local towns with marketing and processing establishments. Within this movement a style developed which took firmer shape during the 1940s and 1950s through the work of such performers as Gordon Parsons. Furthermore. Though they were cowboys of a completely different sort. is a relatively recent coining. In the bush ballad. This local form of hillbilly music performance became known as the bush ballad. and even for a sympathetic commentary. These were the social and geographical prerequisites for the development of the musical form. they were still able to identify the mythologised west as part of the great outside world beyond the farm in which they had a privileged place.
Guitar accompaniment is conventionally bass-chord alternation. Yodelling came to take the role of the major ornamental feature of a relatively direct vocal presentation of simple melodies. a display of vocal virtuosity. Yodels are used within many musical styles and signalling systems in diverse cultures. Some performers executed all this with a thumb pick. In the absence of virtuosic instrumental performance or vocal display. this is not surprising.232) The bush ballad form uses symmetrical. diatonic melodies. the yodel provided a musical framing. and came to carry much of the symbolic weight of genre identification and definition. and short scalar runs may be used between the roots of changing chords. D and A. has been pointedly ignored by commentators. Bass notes alternate between root and the fifth. Given the unfashionability of this vocal style. in the standard open position keys of C. but greatly restricts melodic versatility. but the subjective and aural categories of voice production . which gives a clear strummed chord. G. But the bush ballad is only seen as musically self effacing because one of the key musical elements of the genre. the yodel. That a voice may use a number of registers produced by different physical techniques is universal recognised by singers and voice trainers. the key feature of the technique being a controlled alternation between two vocal timbres. usually to set a regular 4 line narrative ballad verse.
are difficult to relate to observable acoustical and physiological phenomena. Butenschn and Borchgrevink 1982 p 32). as well as others. However. Yodellers wishing to emphasise this stress the importance of accurate intervals. Distinct breaks. Through the leaps over intervals of at least a fifth. perhaps modifying the modes of vibration in the vocal folds. and fast alternations between the two registers can give the effect of a momentary overlap of the two pitches. and makes the `break' between the two registers a means of pitch articulation and attack. The resonating formants of the vocal tract associated with the vowel changes are linked to the voice break. the leaps and alternations do not usually allow sliding onto a note. suggests a more complex history. Coltman. particular with cowboy music of the 1930s. while the yodel aims to accentuate the contrast between the `head' and `chest' voice used. However. as there is little evidence that vernacular cowboy singers of the pre-recording era used yodelling. and he attributes . often associated with vowel changes.(6) The yodel became strongly associated with country music genres. the instantly recognised yodel-ay-ee. and it is often assumed that the musical technique was associated with such performances in their pre-commercial form. and so facilitating the change of register. resulting in an apparent harmonic effect. western bel canto and associated vocal styles aim to minimise the timbral contrast between ranges of the voice and stress the unification of registers. the singer emphasises the disjunction between two voices. (Sundberg 1977. Saunders 1977. yodels are almost always set to conventional meaningless syllables. Within the country music tradition.
Their yodelling became the model of many imitations and burlesques. They lead the stream of American family singing groups which remained popular through the nineteenth century (Nathan 1946). the Rainer family. around the 1840s and 1850s. (Coltman 1976) II The yodel which entered western urban popular music was a formalisation of the techniques used by Tyrolian and Swiss rural musicians. but Coltman suggests that he was borrowing a well recognised vocal style from the popular theatre and performance practice of the time. As in much of the historical impact of Rodgers. 421). his great achievement was to make his individual innovation seem established and natural. Audiences in the English speaking world were introduced to the yodel through the theatrical career of a Tyrolese singing group. often reinforced with non family members become the rage of British and American stages with their tight harmonies and bravura yodelling of their national-style melodies. and became absorbed into the minstrel show repertoire. This `family' group. particularly as was developed in the urbanised Swiss folkloristic genres which were created in the nineteenth century (Baumann 1980 p. delivered with relatively little operatic projection but within a polished ensemble performance. and by the 1850s a minstrel troupe styling themselves . Where Rodgers got his inspiration for the yodel in not clear.the place which the yodel took in the strophic narrative song of country music to the influence of Jimmy Rodgers.
illustrates a typical siting of the yodel(8). projected images of wholesomeness and natural beauty. with a yodel refrain in between lines of a symmetrically structured song.Rainer's Original Ethiopian Serenaders toured gold rush Australia as well as the rest of the world(7). This recording of a comic song in minstrel show style. In Australia. in the period immediately predating the access to hillbilly and cowboy music. A 1927 recording of Harry Cash. a theatrical performer singing `The Black Yodel'. From this cultural position the yodel was presented to broader audiences within minstrel shows. and yodellers were part of popular entertainment alongside other ethnically defined performers with a spectacular musical performance to present to audiences. though maintaining the cultural associations of its origins in the European alpine regions. and an accompanying association with an outdoor romanticism and rural nostalgia. performers and audiences were quite familiar with the yodel in a context of popular entertainment. it became a technical resource upon which other styles could draw. The alps were part of the rediscovered natural Europe of the nineteenth century English late romantic imagination. Frequently associated with comic grotesques of the popular stage. The musical and social correlates of the yodel were a strict diatonicism. vaudeville and music hall. and this cultural background provided the space within which the swiss yodel could develop its place. has the performer addressing imagined members of the audience in a bouncy music-hall 6/8. The yodel as an emblem of alpine life. and shows no evidence of the .
This became one of the key corporeal musical meanings of the country yodel. Though the earliest performers of Australian hillbilly music were centrally influenced by Jimmy Rodgers. This . they did not closely reproduce his style of vocal projection.influence of hillbilly models. Thus it was the swiss yodel rather than the blue yodel which inspired Australian performers. Alpine models gained new meanings when brought into proximity with the hollers. his yodel has been described as `a cry of pain and anguish' and Rodgers was able to imply a degree of emotional tension within the voice where the threat of a break is always present (Green 1977). nor emphasise these aspects of his performance. It may be that the absence of afro-american performance models in Australia led to a different reception for Rodgers music. this is an example of the well established place that the yodel had in popular entertainment. Recordings. whoops and howls of vernacular vocal techniques used by both white and black American singers. Rather. particularly of ethnic. `race' and `hillbilly' music had brought into public prominence a variety of vocal styles. Rodgers and the American yodellers of the hillbilly era both adopted and reinterpreted the yodel. nor use the yodel in this way. but his links with the blues had no apparent impact on Australian imitators. and his sentimental and celebratory songs were most influential. Jimmy Rodgers recorded as `the Blue Yodeller'. and one that underwrote the development of country vocal styles despite their abandonment of the overt yodel in following decades.
and it was a place to give a virtuosic display of vocal ability. In performance. Morton breaks into his next song with a most extravagant yodel. the Australian outback and the Swiss alps. clearly using this to signal his right to occupy the . complete with trills and gargles. and thus to be granted the right to articulate aspects of the lives of the audience members in ways which they would not themselves do. It could be outlandish where the rest of the song was restrained by a narrative directness. Australian textual localisation added another complexity to this cultural project. and some early songs mixed apparently incongruous images of the American wild west. and in doing so framed the performer away from the audience.meant they used faster alternations of pitches within an athletic and lively vocal presence. It framed the performance. But to focus merely on the connotative associations of the yodel. providing with introduction and conclusion. On one of his wartime radio shows Tex Morton banters with an imagined listener who has sent him `something for his throat' . establishing the separation which gives the performer the right to behave in a way different from the audience. the primary role of the yodel stemmed from its powerful contrast with the other stylistic features of hillbilly performance. This was in great contrast to the relatively underdeveloped simplicity of the instrumental accompaniments used by these singers. along with the lyrics and settings of the songs masks the more important aspect of the yodel in the genre. and it took the place of instrumental interludes.which turns out to be a cut-throat razor. To thumb his nose at his supposed enemy.
Figure 1: Rodgers sequential sixths yodel Rodger's yodelling was relatively simple and direct. By contrast. particularly in his blue yodels.role of performer(9). Occasionally he ventures his falsetto higher than a above middle c. such as the simple cadential form much used by Rodgers. he did not emphasise a separation between his yodel and various other of his vocal techniques. III Yodels were generally used as interludes between verses or as introductions. such as a series of intervals outlining a harmonic cadence. and usually bore no specific melodic relationship to the verse melody. The break is not generally accentuated. The simpler forms used sequential series of consonant intervals. As such they were assembled from constituent modules. but more often the upper notes of his yodel are scarcely above the singing range of his standard voice. and other lightenings and breaks in his voice are frequent within his performance. Also. Often featured as the introduction to a song. the yodel contained much more than a few plaintive or laconic . They almost always consisted of a number of relatively stereotypic melodic movements. Tex Morton had an exhibitionist and virtuosic approach to his yodelling. shown in Figure 1 below.
. recorded in 1936. Uvular and tongued trills were used to create unusual effects. William's work established ways in which vocal effects similar to those of the American `hard country' voice could be meaningfully used. Figure 2 Yodel from Tex Morton from `The Yodelling Bagman' (Tex Morton) (c) 1937 EMI Music reproduced with permission Buddy Williams used a much less confident and flexible voice than that of Morton. American honky-tonk styles was restrained. say. At the fast and bouncy tempo his sequential pattern at bars 9 and 10 is effortless and accurate. In the verses of this song Morton swings easily between the central melody played on a mouth organ and a number of melodic variations. William's early songs are replete with slides and slurs. Figure 2 shows one of his yodels from his song `The Yodelling Bagman'. Swiss stylings such as rapid alternations between the two pitches are often used. Williams eloquently established how his yodel should be read in his Australian Bushman's Yodel. By doing so he could project a personal directness which Morton's authoritative style did not display. and he intersperses yodelling interludes such as this between verses.syllables. the first verse and yodel of which are shown in Figure 3. Though the emotional range of the bush ballad compared with. with liberal use of anticipatory vocal breaks in his attack on individual words. His tongue trilled r's are heard in bars 2 and 6.
and executed with a pitch slide. But. its emotional significance is intensified. as the tune moves stepwise over its range of less than one octave. particularly on the final interval. where it is easy to recognise the evocation of resignation.Figure 3 The Australian Bushman's Yodel Verse 1 and Yodel Buddy Williams (C) 1940 Allans Music Australia. The claim that the simple pleasures of this life compensate for the emotional costs of isolation is somewhat called into question by the vocal style and technique used by Williams. Behind the praising of the natural world is a plaintive acceptance of social isolation. Here Williams substitutes the Australian bush signal call of `cooee' for the conventional yodel syllables. The two points of emotional focus in the basic melody are the falling thirds. The falling interval here also echoes the effect of William's vocal break. whether a small freeholder or an isolated employee. came in the nineteenth century to be a well established symbol . He has few melodic flourishes. Reproduced with permission. The yodel. these effects are fairly subtly acheived. on the other hand. is more musically ambitious. The cooee. delivered in a voice not far removed from speech. apparently first taken by European from New South Wales aborigines in the first years of white invasion of the continent. but it is implied that the voice of the song leads a hermetic life of unspecified rural labour.an indistinct social role. The lyrics of this song set forth a nostalgic idealised image of the life of the bushman .
or on idyllic evocations of a local landscape. but were trying to establish a language of naturalistic song projection which hitherto had not been available. it is not . The linking of the yodel. In the 1940s and 1950s yodelling was inseparable from hillbilly music. Two young women singers from southern Queensland. and he adds that they carry the escapist theme to its limit (Watson 1987 p 60). Shirley Thoms and June Holms.of a naturalistic nationalism. the bush. This stream of the Australian hillbilly yodel cannot be easily fitted into the narrative of the development of a realist descriptive bush ballad. produced a number of particularly popular recordings. These are described by Watson as `impossibly naive and over romanticised'. the exploitation of the cooee is of greater significance than in the nineteenth century attempts to incorporate national symbols into a musical work. In Buddy William's song. still in their teens. 69). the roles of performer and audience were particularly labile. for vocal agility and for the direct power of these voices. Performers such as Morton and Williams were not only attempting to create material which could resonate with the experiences of their audiences and themselves. For in this period of the development of Australian country music. listened to for clarity of singing. the performer and the audience was one of the key tasks to be undertaken in the establishment of the social meanings of the new genre of the bush ballad. mainly based on yodelling cowgirl themes popularised by American singer Patsy Montana. Its musical possibilities were exploited by at least one composer in the nineteenth century (Covell 1967 p. though. However.
000 copes of her 1941 recordings in that year. Touring singers were outside the social groups to which they performed. yet had to emphasise their authority to act as musical voices for a constituency. Once this was accepted. The American hillbilly singer has been seen as an organic intellectual of a poor white constituency. but had to construct it. and define both the nature of their affinity and the boundary between them. and a traditionbased genre which is unproblematically understood as speaking for its audience (Patterson 1975). Watson's description of their impact cited above illustrates that they were particularly effective in this. Thoms sold over 12. for comparison Bing Crosbie sold about 10.hard to see why these singers were popular. the singer's interpretation and construction of `ordinary' experience could be taken seriously.000 copies of White Christmas in Australia in 1943(10). but this analysis assumes a well defined role for the singer. Australian hillbilly performers could not assume this role or such a genre. primarily of small farmers and rural workers. But. as the most technically significant part of the performance asserted the authority of the singer. under the influence of the post-war Nashville . Each song and each performance were part of establishing a right to perform in a particular way. Yodelling. But the same struggles to create an effective voice are also closely allied to the need to establish the status of performer and audience. Most interpretations of Australian country music have followed Watson in emphasising the progressive independence from American models of performance.
who drew from several other songwriters.B.re-packaging of the genre. In contrast to this the yodel in the hillbilly song was part of another ideological construction of the countryside. A radical intelligentsia of the period nurtured a left populist reading of the outback and its historical nineteenth century labour force. From the late 1950s. The social placement of the yodel is more closely linked to the ideology identified by Aitkin as `countrymindedness'. and the core elements . Many of these songwriters saw themselves as continuing the narrative verse tradition established by the popular poets of the 1890s Henry Lawson and A. a vision most influentially represented by the publication of Russel Ward's The Australian Legend (Ward 1966). a new historicisation of Australian rurality was being constructed in this period. Paterson. in 1956 recording companies renamed yodelling and hillbilly songs country and western. These shifts reflect a penetration of new approaches to the relationships between national identity and the rural experience which emerged in the 1950s. While the radical implications `the Australian legend' were not necessarily accepted by country music songwriters or by many other Australians of the 1950s and 1960s. dominated more by an urban romanticisation of a time and place which is imagined as the source of the Australian national character and culture. under the influence of American models. particularly in the recordings of Slim Dusty. as shown in recording catalogues of the period (see Figure 4). The bush ballad form gained greater narrative confidence. songs without yodels became more common. linked to a defensive redefinition of current rural experience. where `the characteristic Australian is a countryman.
This may be seen as an example of the conservativeness of country music fans in Australia. Yet yodellers persist in Australian country music. Curiously. who produce songs of a kind of intense down-homey ruralist nationalism. But the number of young active yodelling performers would suggest that it is not mere generational nostalgia at work here. in . and in fundamental contradiction to the yodeller's vision. It is little wonder that cosmopolitan taste should find it the least acceptable part of country music. which on the face of it would appear to be the current form closest to the hillbilly bush ballad tradition. For in espousing a plein-air celebration of nature. 51) . the yodel's outback was a landscape containing a solitary figure. and the continuing hold of formations of popular taste relatively impervious to precepts of the music industry and unconcerned with an educated aesthetic. the figures which currently define themselves most strongly against the yodelling hillbillies of the 1940s are singers of a sub-genre known as Australiana. July 1956 and August 1957(11). yodelling remains a technique against which other singers position themselves. Australian retail recording catalogue covers. even when documenting its climatic harshnesses. Yet.of national character come from the struggles of country people to tame the environment and make it productive' (Aitken 1988 p. Further. Figure 4. The outback of the Australian legend was essentially a landscape of social relations.
where ideologies of rurality. Performers such as bush balladeers. such as Colin Buchanan and John Williamson aim at an extremely understated vocalisation. bush bands. David Crisp. The significance of their differences is known by fans and listeners as they feel it in the voice and the sound of the music. sometimes barely above a pitched speech. Marcus Breen and John Whiteoak for information and material used in preparing this article. and to strip country of all its American-identified trappings leave no space for the extravagance of the yodel or the sentimental theatricality of the country voice (Glover 1993 p 16). . countrymindedness and radical nostalgia. This historical study of the yodel might provide a starting point for investigations into the sound of Australian country music to move analytic interpretations closer to some of the felt experiences of the genre. This is merely one manifestation of the tensions within Australian country music. Even though these singers have moved far from the yodel. contemporary Australiana singers. yodellers and urban progressives seek to outline a cultural place for themselves in ways which are often contradictory. defensive rural chauvinism and cosmopolitan populism are in continual conflict. its phantom still haunts them. but is little understood. Acknowledgements The author wishes to thank Peter Burgis. These attempts to sing the Australian accent and dialect.general.
L. 1977 `The Grain of the Voice' in ImageMusic-Text (Glasgow) Baumann. `Switzerland. The Age 17/4/93 pp 1017. R. R 1967 Australia's Music (Melbourne) Glover.Goldberg and F. Katherine 1991 Entertaining Australia. Goertzen. R 1976 `Roots of the Country Yodel: Notes Towards a Life History' John Edwards Foundation Quarterly 42 pp. Comber. Barthes. 5057.Bibliography Aitken. M. ed Stanley Sadie vol 18 pp. Folk Music.B. Smith (Cambridge) pp. Chris 1988 `Popular Music Transfer and Transformation: The Case of American Country Music in Vienna' Ethnomusicology 32. II. . An illustrated history (Sydney) Butenschn. 417-23. S and H Borchgrevink 1982 Voice and Song (Cambridge) Coltman.The spread of an idea' in Australian Cultural History eds S. Chris and Mike Paris 1975 `Jimmy Rodgers' in Malone and McCulloh 1975. 91-94. Covell.(London) Brisbane.' The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. R 1993 `Col of the Wild' [on Colin Buchanan] Good Weekend.1:1-21.P. Don `"Countrymindedness" .
Bill 1975 Country Music USA (Austin) . and the Vogue of Singing Mountain-Troupes in Europe and America' Musical Quarterly Vol 32. Class and Hegemony' Dialectical Anthropology 10 pp 119-130. Hans 1946 `The Tyrolese Family Rainer. R and G.1 pp 63-79. Lester. Lipsitz 1990 `"Everybody's Lonesome for Somebody": age.' Science and Society 39 pp. J 1987 `Music and Male Hegemony' in Music and Society: The Politics of Composition.and Judith McCulloh 1975 Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez (Urbana) Nathan. 257-91. Recorded Anthology of American Music. 1975 `Notes on the Historical Application of Marxist Cultural Theory. Martyn and Lucy Taska 1992 Australian Readers Remember. David Australian Country Music (Sydney) Leppert. Shepherd. Lyons. C 1985 `People's Music Comparatively: Style and Stereotype. New World Records Keil. (Melbourne) Malone. Libby `The King of Country Music' Sunday Age `Agenda' 21/1/91 pp 1-2. Patterson.Green. 259-274. Latta. the body and experience in the music of Hank Williams' Popular Music Vol 9/3 pp. T. D 1977 notes to Country Music South and West. An oral history of reading 1890-1930. .
McClary (Cambridge) Smith.1987 `Country Music. The Regal- . W 1958 `Jodeln' in Die Musik in Geshichte und Gegenwart vol 7 73-79 (Basel) Discography Country Music in Australia (various artists) Produced by Eric Watson and Warren Fahey.1983 Country Music in Australia Volume 2 (Sydney) Williams. Breen (Kensington). Raymond 1965 The Long Revolution (Harmondsworth) Wiora. 1977 `Physics and Music' in The Physics of Music ed Carleen Maley Hutchins (San Francisco) Watson. Smith. . Frederick A. Leppert and S. G 1992 `The Country Voice' Arena Magazine 1 pp 38-40. Saunders. Sundberg. Andrew 1990 `Buddy Williams' in Capital News Vol 15 No 11:18-19. Eric 1975 Country Music in Australia (Kensington) .Performance and Reception eds R. Selection Records PRD 003 1977 Country Music in Australia 1936-1959. the voice of rural Australia' in Missing in Action ed M. Johan 1977 `The Acoustics of the Singing Voice' in The Physics of Music. ed Carleen Maley Hutchins (San Francisco).
Though this is unlikely to be physically accurate it suggests something of the feel of the voice in the throat (Coltman 1976 p 91). Kingfisher Cassettes KF AUS-12 1. 6. Morton. Country Music in Australia 1936-1959. 7. For examples of these perspectives and attitudes. The Regal Rodeo Collection EMI 8140902. See review and advertisements in The Argus (Melbourne) May 27 1853. Phone interview with Wayne Horsborough 7 April 1993. See for example his performance of "The Big Rock Candy Mountains" reissued on Australian Hillbilly Music: 1926-1933 5. see Keil 1985. see any recent issues of the semi-official country music monthly Capital News (Tamworth) 4. 2. . Tex Showtime Radio Kingfisher AUS-7. For the idea of the historical creation of a hegemonic style in popular music genres. 1993 Australian Hillbilly Music:1926-1933.Rodeo Collection EMI 8140902 1993. Coltman quotes a yodeller's suggestion that in the falsetto voice the vocal folds vibrate to produce the first harmonic partial. especially p. 3. Another useful source is Country Music in Australia Selection Records PRD 003. 126-7. This 3 CD compilation is the most easily accessible source of the range of music discussed in this article.
National Film and Sound Archive. 9. item 1(c). Tex Morton Showtime Radio Kingfisher Cassettes AUS-7. From the collection of David Crisp. These sales figures come from the EMI archive. 11. .8. This recording is of compiled from extracts from surviving radio discs of 1939-1945. Kingfisher Cassettes KF AUS-12. Side A. Canberra. Reissued on Australian Hillbilly Music: 19261933. I am indebted to Marcus Breen for them. 10.
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