Thursday, December 08, 2011

Outback Soundscape

I think it was Miles Franklin who said that if there were one sound which could define her life, it’d be that of a tin can rattling along a street (or something along those lines). If I had to pick one at the moment I write this, it’d be the sound of one hand slapping March Flies to death on my legs...or maybe the piercing repetitive clanking of Nev breaking the bead on yet another tyre...or perhaps the distant, constant hum of the community generator.

OK, so I can’t pick just one: there are yapping dogs; locals yelling at the dogs, at each other, at the world (depending on the time of day and substances consumed); screeching cockatoos; the old-fashioned ringing of the doorbell at the shop next door; a lawn mower somewhere nearby; 4WDs and trucks rolling into our yard or just whizzing past; River (Nev’s dog) panting in the heat; and the slapping of March Flies continues the whole way through. And then some days, there’s almost nothing but birds making the only kind of tweets we need in our life.

As well as single sounds, there are soundtracks to parts of my life. When I hear these songs, they can recreate the camaraderie of a particular workplace or the solitary sense of cold winters past. The song of the season at Mt Elizabeth was, without a doubt, Zac Brown Band’s ‘Chicken Fried’ (courtesy of our cook Sharron), the chorus of which we belted out nightly as we washed the dishes after dinner, with little regard for the remaining diners...

“... a little bit of chicken fried,
cold beer on a Friday night,
a pair of jeans that fit just right,
and the radioooh-aaooh-aaoooh”

A song or album can often bring to mind a particular event, like the way my mobile ring tone (which I rarely hear these days, living out of range as I do) reminds me of being on the rooftop bar at the Union Club with a great bunch of friends, Hadass and I shouting along every time the phone rang...

“The best things in life are free
but you can save them for the birds and the bees
I want MONEY
that’s what I want.”

I also tend to associate particular songs with specific people in my life. For me, listening to Lowrider’s ‘What Are You Looking For?’ (“What...IF...I. Don’t. Know?”), will always remind me of living with Meisy in Parkville – two handsome and entertaining Germs in our flat and more wordly and wonderful friends just a crack in the floorboards away.

For me the combination of single sounds in my life as well as my soundtrack of the moment has drastically changed along with the environment in which I live – from the urban soundscape of Melbourne, to the outback soundscape of the Kimberley.

I’m sure that along with the physical change, I’ve become more open to new and different sounds, including music I never thought I’d listen to by choice...

When Nev and I started courting (the lingo here is another story altogether!), he’d pick me up from Mt Liz and take me places in his car. These were Nev’s pre-iPod days (since rectified), and his source of music was a handful of terrifically scratched CDs – if ever there was a technology not made for the outback, that’s gotta be it – and a USB stick that a friend had put together for him, featuring songs from Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

So, not only did I get to enjoy the likes of ‘Stand By Me’, ‘Nothing Compares To You’, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Oh, What a Night’ as we drove to and camped in beautiful places, but we also listened to albums by such great 70s rockers as The Police, whose lyrics Nev changed from “So Lonely”, to “Leooooonie”, and howled it out as loud as he could far too often. I have to admit, even if it might have driven his neighbours crazy, I liked it then and I like it now, much more than I would have imagined.

Less impressed was I, when I discovered the source of one of Nev’s sweet sentiments was actually appropriated from the lyrics of a Deborah Conway song. And, you know, things are pretty great between Nev and I, but the other day Whispering Jack nearly brought that all undone. The good thing is, I could probably delete it from Nev’s iTunes and he’d be hard pressed to get it back. Ahhhhhh technology; I like it when it’s on my side.

It’s also a little strange to realise that I don’t often want to listen to the albums and songs that used to be my absolute faves and that’s at least partly because my outlook has changed so [Achtung! Confession approaching] where heartsick and lonesome used to form the underlying narrative of many of my cherished albums, now I’m altogether more positive and, lacking the music library to support this change, well, let’s just say that Nev’s iPod is a welcome addition (Whispering Jack notwithstanding).

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