The Collection of Popular Music Culture in Southern Tasmania 1950-85, Peter Macfie, IAML Conference, Hobart 2008
“Popular Music Culture in Southern Tasmania 1950-85”. The State Library of Tasmania Special Collection Project 2007, Peter Macfie, 2008 as part of a SLT fellowship. It was initiated by Tony Marshall and application endorsed by Dr Stefan Petrov and Malcolm Brooks. The images are of some of the memorabilia donated or loaned as part of this popular culture collection of rock and folk music. It is now housed in the State Archives.
The formal collection of popular music cultural material in Tasmania has barely begun. While Mainland collections and musicologists –including John Meredith – have recorded local music, little has been done until recently to add memorabilia to the Tasmanian State’s archives. At present there is no institution in southern Tasmania that systematically collects Rock or Folk music memorabilia, nor has the facilities to allow enthusiasts or researchers to access music in sound booths. Images of the material collected during the 3 month project in late 2007 gives an indication of Tasmania’s popular music culture from the 1950s to the 1980s, the need for more active field workers in this area, and raises the question about public access to this and similar material.
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The formal collection of popular music cultural material in Tasmania – by Tasmanian institutions – has barely begun. While Mainland collections and musicologists including John Meredith – have recorded local Tasmania music, little has been done until recently to add to the archives.
With the recent deaths of local musicians Ian Young, Ray Woodruff and Mark Pickering- and this week (November 2010) that of his brother, Roger Pickering – the need to collect memorabilia has become urgent. At present there is no institution that systematically collects music or memorabilia, nor has the facilities to allow enthusiasts or researchers to access music in sound booths etc.
This vacuum was the motive in putting forward the idea of such a project to the State Library of Tasmania’s then Tasmaniana Library thru Tony Marshall. This was unusual, as most library grants are for the study of existing holdings. The 3 months part time project showed the need for field-work collectors, as in that time I barely touched the surface, but raised the interest and hopes of many current and former musicians – and fans. In concentrated on Rock and Folk music, but, due to time constraints, I didn’t venture into country or original Tasmanian folk music, but believe that field should also be looked at, although local enthusiasts are doing so privately.
The collection came in varied formats- as you will see, which require differing conservation and storage approaches, and also raises questions of accessibility, copyright and other issues you are all familiar with. Documenting and itemising – and returning the items- has been a painstaking process – which is worth a paper in itself!
Tasmania – even Van Diemen’s Land – had a strong musical culture- both visible and less tangible, in the form of convict and other working class musicians. In the 20thC and especially post World War II, there’s has been a vibrant musical culture. While formal music based on the European classical tradition has always been visible and documented, much less so is the popular music of the day. Popular music post-1950 grew despite bemusement, and in some cases, straight out parental denial. In Tasmania, and probably throughout the western world, this was driven by the younger generation, attracted by the less formal approach to popular music typified by black American jazz, and even the European cabaret and music hall traditions. In Tasmania, regional differences existed via radio, with some artists being popular in Launceston and not in Hobart and vice-versa. However, the first visible change here was the arrival of rock ’n’ roll on radio stations –
Jerry Lee. The energy in the music was an antidote to a stifling post war education system and parental pressure, and in stark contrast to the popular music beginning to be heard on local radio. Initially only 15 minutes a day on 7HT- then back to Doris Day and Vic Damone. Even more energising were touring acts from the USA which made such a big impact, including Jerry Lee Lewis, whose autograph I collected backstage at the Hobart City Hall in 1959 – starting a love of live, energised music.
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