Performing reality through Australian indigenous epistemologies of ceremonial law
There is a song in my mind that takes me to a place of great beauty and antiquity. As its melody undulates through my synapses, I can sense this place anew - fine, white sands squelching between my toes; wind rippling across the bay towards an adjacent island. The air tastes of salt and, close to shore, a rip current emits a constant, gentle roar as a lone gull cries above. In this place, I am alone, yet people surround me and watch me as I sit - generation upon generation of them moving in rhythm; their intertwining voices becoming one with the song in my mind. Such are the performed realities of Australian indigenous ceremonial law through which humanity is defined, ancestral lineages are reckoned, and rights to country are evidenced through the human ability to sing and dance in the traditions of ancestors. This system of codifying generations of knowledge about the ecologies found on country enabled humans to survive and thrive in Australia for scores of millennia before British colonisation, and gave rise to formal musical structures that aesthetically echo the heterophonic individuation of natural forms. This presentation will explore how Australian indigenous song and dance traditions formally codify ceremonial law, and will raise salient questions about perceived relations between music and knowledge within the academy, where meaning and evidence are conventionally rendered in text.