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Book explores role of music in Australian films


Brigid Veale
29 August 2005
The music of contemporary Australian feature films and its links with our identities is explored in a new book on film music edited by media program course co-ordinator at Southern Cross University, Dr Rebecca Coyle.

The book, Reel Tracks, includes sections on key Australian feature films from the past 15 years such as 'Rabbit-Proof Fence', 'Lantana', 'Chopper' and 'Paradise Road'. It focuses on how film music shapes contemporary cultural identity.

Dr Coyle said the term 'Australian film' was more than a description of the production personnel working on the film, the funding sources or where the film was shot.

"An Australian film raises issues of cultural perception — of images and sounds as standing for 'Australia'. The Sydney 2000 Olympics drew heavily on Australian film music and images," she said.

"The opening ceremony included music, themes and images from the 'Man from Snowy River', the closing ceremony highlighted 'Strictly Ballroom' and 'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'. These films were centre stage — portrayals of the Australian identity to be shown globally."

Reel Tracks, targeting film aficionados and cinema students, has chapters on 15 Australian films and other sections including an overview of films from the 1990s and 2000s; multiculturalism; and sexuality. Dr Coyle contributed the chapter on 'Lantana', while SCU's Associate Professor Michael Hannan contributed a chapter on 'The Bank'. Other contributors include SCU postgraduate student Jude Magee; jazz musician and academic Professor Bruce Johnson; and Professor Jon Stratton.

Dr Coyle said popular cinema used a variety of forms of music — traditional composed screen music, pre-recorded songs, mixes of music, sound effects and combinations of these.

She said what constituted a soundtrack could be very confusing, with some people using it to refer to the sound of the film and others using it to mean the soundtrack album. The soundtrack album had become a completely different item with its inclusions selected specifically for that product.

"Music plays such a key role. Australian film makers are increasingly calling on the services of a music supervisor for assistance in popular music input for the soundtrack album product," Dr Coyle said.

Reel Tracks, released earlier this month, is a John Libbey/Perfect Beat publication and is distributed by Elsevier Australia.