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A workshop was held as part of the CreateWorld 5 Digital Arts Conference, to explore how the transactions between people-environment and music occupations can be sonified -- and expressed through musicking. 

The theoretical background to the workshop is presented in the conference proceedings:
Kirkwood, S. (2014) Sonification: Can bloogle resonators enhance representation of time, space and culture through the Person-Environment-Occupation Model? AUC Create World Conference Proceedings, 12-13 February, 2014, pp. 56-63. Available from 

"Ecology is concerned with interrelationships of organisms and their environments" (Dunn et al., 1994, p. 595). In considering music, we are interested in interrelationships of humans and their contexts and how this affects their ethnomusicking performance (Kirkwood, 2009).

The importance of the context of human performance has been explored by many authors from 1960s to the present, possibly as a social application of General Systems Theory -- which arose in the physical sciences. Robert Chin used the systems model to think about human events and development in 1961. The term ecological perspectives appeared in relation to human systems, families and human development in the 1970s (Auerswald, 1971; Bonfenbrenner, 1979). Occupational therapists published many articles in the 1970s and 1980s about purposeful action and self actualization, using ecological models (Fidler & Fidler, 1978; Howe & Briggs, 1982). Psychologists and behavioural scientists were also part of this dialogue (Wicker, 1979). The Ecology of Human Performance was precisely stated as a framework by Winnie Dunn and colleagues (1994). The association between music and context, however, took parallel development through anthropologists, such as Allan Merriam (1964), and ethnomusicologist, Tim Rice (1987). The importance of environmental context is central to the writings of cultural theorists and sociologists, and became central to Indigenous knowledges when narratives started to appear in research journals by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.

Socio-ecological perspectives are now very important to Primary Health Care (Kronenberg et al., 2011; Baum, 2008). They appear in International Health Promotion Conventions, and are discussed here to explain the theoretical foundation for Music Health services in Australia.

Auerswalkd, E. (1971). Families, change, and the ecological perspective. Family Process, 10, 263-280.

Baum, F. (2008). The new public health. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Chin, R. (1961). The utility of system models and developmental models for practitioners, in Warren Bennis, Kenneth Benne & Rober Chin (Eds), The Planning of Change: Readings in the Applied Behavioural Sciences. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Dunn, W., Brown, C., McGuigan, A. (1994). The ecology of human performance: A framework for considering the effect of context. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 595-607.

Fidler, G. & Fidler, F. (1978). Doing and becoming: Purposeful action and self actualization. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 32, 305-310.

Howe, M. & Briggs A. (1982). Ecological systems model for occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 36, 322-327.

Kirkwood, S. (2009) Socio-ecological perspectives of performance health: Optimizing function within an environmental context. Australian Society of Performing Arts Health Conference, 10-11 October, 2009, Southbank, Brisbane, Australia.

Kronenberg, F., Pollard, N. & Sakellariou, D. (2011) Occupational Therapies Without Borders Vol. 2: Towards an Ecology of Occupation-based Practices. Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.

Merriam, A. (1964). The anthropology of music. Illinois: North Western University.

Rice, T. (1987). Toward the remodeling of ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology, 31(3), 439-488.

Wicker, A. (1979). An introduction to eological psychology. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

The new socio-ecological perspectives of primary health care are gaining momentum in Australia at present. This has arisen from peoples' concernf for the sustainability of the environment, population health, eco-systems concepts, and the community development movements that try to facilitate positive social action by communities. Through music, we can reflect on our place in the world in relation to others. The movie Australia, showed linkages between people of diverse cultural background, Indigenous Australians, music, and the land. There is further discussion on peoples' views of this movie - later on this webpage.

Socio-ecological approaches to health care are described in Taylor et al (2008) Health care practice in Australia: Policy, context and innovations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The Perfect Beat journal of Macquarie University has also led the way to better understanding of socio-ecological, and systemic approaches to local music (established in 1992, and edited by Mark Evans and Denis Crowdy). This inter-professional dialogue could ensure that health professionals and environmentalists take up issues identified by ethnomusicologists, and vice versa.

The practice of community music involves working with people at the local level and there are many instances where this has resulted in social action that has benefited communities. In some cases, policy, funding and infra-structure lags behind the ideals of practice. The "Present and future ideals"

Policy Statement of the Community Music Commission of the International Society for Music Education International is inclusive of the cultural diversity of communities, but makes no mention of community music that is grounded in particular geographical environments. The geographical, social, and temporal dimensions of musical experiences are very significant to the music heritage and culture of particular communities. Peter Dunbar-Hall (researcher of Indigenous music) and Chris Gibson (cultural geographer) make this point in "Deadly Sounds, Deadly Places" (2004).

Communities may need support to enable them to devise their own place-based music practice and memorandum of understanding agreements -- because one policy does not fit-all. Dialogue is starting to emerge between health professionals and music educators. The Music Council of Australia has a knowledge base on their website where people can map particular sectors of the music industry, and complete SWOT analyses (describing
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). This collaboration has resulted in better understanding of the inter-professional and systemic aspects of music. The Music Health sector is represented on the MCA knowledge base and the description of Music Health includes "optimising music environments to support health and well being" (Kirkwood, 2008).

Places of musical/sonic significance have not yet been mapped, but there may be potential to make baseline sound recordings of such places and to advocate for acoustic environmental protection through Caring for our Country or cultural heritage funding programs. Are there particular natural sonic environments that need to be protected for the health and well-being of living organisms? Is this a concern for musicians, since they have expertise in the aesthetics of sound? The planet seems to be becoming noiser, so composers and musicians may be able to assist with safeguarding the natural beauty of certain acoustic environments and to reduce noise invasion that results from industrialisation and other developments. There are interesting articles and resources at the World Forum of Acoustic Ecology and the Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology

websites. Suggestions for digital collection of Australian soundscapes can be made through the National Registry of recorded sound.

The difficulty of communicating between professional disciplines is complicated by the differences in terminology. For example, representatives of over 200 countries developed the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF, WHO, 2001). This has been useful within the health sector but may have limitations when the terms used for musical functioning are applied to other professional domains.

Examples of the terminology drawn from the ICF for music functioning are discussed more fully on the

Functional Classifications page of this website. The primary ICF categories for discussing music are listed below, and each category can be further subdivided.

b3400 Production of notes
b340 Alternative vocalization functions
d115 Listening
d3151 Communicating with - receiving - general signs and symbols
d3351 Producing signs and symbols
d920 Recreation and leisure
d9202 Arts and culture
e1400 General products and technology for culture, recreation and sport
e1401 Assistive products and technology for culture, recreation and sport
e250 Sound

Using a taxonomy such as this for music vocabulary may tend to limit the discussion of music to pragmatic and structuralist frames, but the ICF at least places an emphasis on function, rather than disease and disorder. People's participation in activities within environmental contexts is considered to be of central importance. It appears that the ICF needs to be renegotiated and possibly expanded if it is to be useful for inter-professional communication about music. There does not yet appear to be any consistent classification system that is used for active engagement with music, so terminology can be ambiguous. Ethnographers have tended to use terminology that is consistent with local music traditions in particular environments and that has produced better understanding of the way that people describe their own involvement with music. Personalised vocabulary may be necessary, but there are also benefits of more universals terms that can be used for research and collection of statistical information.

Perhaps one of the final connections, is then to relate the socio-ecological context of music to human performance and our livelihoods. People can express their state of health through performing arts, music heritage and culture (Kirkwood, 2009). This is one way that we can derive meaning and purpose through our music occupations.

The person-music-place-occupation connection needs further development, especially in relation to local/globalisation of music traditions and representation of soundscapes related to music heritage and culture. The place connection can be easily lost digital technology and this can adversely affect cultural eco-tourism if not managed effectively. There is a need to support the place-stituated practice of music in neighbourhoods, cities, and regions; not just de-contextualised representation of the music by national or ethnic groups. Place-based community music brings people together into physical contact with one another and the environment and this has important social ramifications. There is an art and science to faciltiating social connections through place-based community music activities. We need conversations about theory and practice, in easy-to-understand terminology. This may help to build frameworks and partnership agreements across borders in Music Health, social, cultural, occupational and environmental domains.

Erb, J. (1926). Music for a better community. The Music Quarterly, 12(3), 441-448.

Kirkwood, S. (2009)
Frameworks for culturally engaged community music practice in rural Ipswich, Australia. Master of Philosophy thesis. Griffith University: Brisbane.

Article written by Sandra Kirkwood 12 November, 2008; updated 15 September, 2011.




The Tracker and


, two movies with Aboriginal themes

by Hans Hoegh-Guldberg

3 January, 2009.



Sandra has suggested that I share my Australian movie experiences during Christmas 2008 with other members of the group, and I am happy to do so.



On Christmas Day my wife Isobel and I saw the recording of an outstanding SBS production which ended with Rolf de Heer's 2002 movie, The Tracker. David Gulpilil put in a stunning performance with his facial expression based on a minimum of acting tricks, Gary Sweet was the baddie fanatic police officer and Damon Gameau his rookie trooper whose development we follow through the film. The whole makes a highly significant, possibly great film. In fact, we saw the movie again on New Year’s Day and it confirmed our opinion that it was a terrific experience. Highly recommended and I note that I am not alone in this. Refer critiques by Andrew L. Urban and Louise Keller at



, which also gives a synopsis of the film.

The other movie is Baz Luhrmann’s new and much-touted Australia. On Boxing Day, after reading Germaine Greer's devastating critique in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2008/dec/16/baz-luhrmann-australia

), and an equally negative review by The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, literally snorting from both ears in his elevated position as a pundit (


)), we decided to see Australia for ourselves. A Hollywood-type blockbuster bringing to mind Ponderosa, with the Cartwrights and thousands of thundering cattle, and so corny in places to make you laugh – yes, to that extent we agreed with the above. But Greer's perception lacked humour, and Bradshaw’s was marvellously arrogant (including his reference to the stars, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, who did put in a creditable performance within the context of the script). Jackman's use of an Oral-B toothbrush in 1939 may have been deliberately inserted as a lure. It was so obvious.

Australia makes some good points about the need for a dual culture for the 12-year-old Aboriginal boy beautifully played by Brandon Walters. We enjoyed the film with its stunning landscapes despite its excesses, and I respect Marcia Langton's rejoinder to Greer in The Age newspaper (http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/why-greer-is-wrong-on-australia-20081222-73kk.html). Nevertheless we will remember Tracker as the better film and Gulpilil for being allowed to give the better performance in it , as compared with his tourist image of invariably standing on one leg with spear and spear thrower in

Australia. But Langton's point is that 'the film is a romance, not a documentary’, and I value her opinion especially after seeing the excellent SBS series The First Australians, in which she had a prominent role as a senior consultant.


Cinematically, the almost three-hour long Australia

never dragged, whatever else you might say about it (neither did The Tracker during its 90-odd minutes). I remain slightly in two minds about Australia but feel that people should take the opportunity to form their own opinions by seeing it as well as trying to track down The Tracker, if they can. The latter, importantly, gained the Critics’ Awards in 2002 for best actor (David Gulpilil), best film, best music (Archie Roach), and best cinematography. It also, cleverly, commissioned a series of paintings by Peter Coad to represent the more horrific moments of massacre (see further




The only thing I understand was in somewhat short supply was audience. A great pity.


© Sandra Kirkwood, 2008. Last updated 16 November, 2016




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