Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


The Sounds of Aurora Australis

A History of Australia’s Musical Identity

Beatrice Dalov is an early-career scholar at Florida International University, Miami. After archival and ethnographic research on the topic of the book, her work was presented at national and international research conferences. Academic and musicologist response was substantive given the lacuna in the overall history of Australian ‘art’ music. Further research has resulted in this first history of the music of the Great Southern Land.

Entrenched until recently in Western aesthetics, Australian composers are now developing a functional cultural “identity” expressed through a distinctly nationalistic musical idiom. Its ongoing formation, inspired by Australia’s Aboriginal heritage and unique natural environment, seeks to distance the nation’s artistic developments from the geographically remote Occidental regions and emphasize its "native" cultures. Presently, however, mounting sociopolitical and ethical concerns surrounding the cultural ‘borrowing’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are problematizing the developing nationalistic idiom, as composers must determine whether the two groups share any legitimate connection beyond mere occupation of the same land, given their tense post-colonial history.

Musicologist Beatrice Dalov traces the formation of the Southern Land’s cultural identity while simultaneously considering its complex relationship with the nation’s First Peoples. She illuminates the origins, influences, and developments of Australian “art” music, from colonization (late eighteenth century) to the present day, interweaving the social, cultural, political, and economic forces that shaped (and often determined) its evolution. The history demonstrates that the complex processes of articulating a unique cultural identity began almost immediately after arrival of the first colonists and continues uninterrupted through today.

Drawing on newly available archival material, key works, and personally conducted interviews with numerous contemporary composers, Dalov traces the history of the land's music, from scattered convict settlements and eventful contacts with Aboriginal peoples, to the formation of a national musical infrastructure, to today’s thriving musical independence. She brings forward not only the most prominent composers and musicians of the last century, but also those who laid a crucial foundation and offered the first contributions toward a national idiom. A comprehensive history of the music of the Great Southern Land has been too long neglected by social historians and musicologists worldwide. Beatrice Dalov sets the record straight.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-78976-108-5
Hardback Price: £70.00 / $84.95
Release Date: March 2022
Page Extent / Format: 256 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No




Foreword – Natalie Williams                 


Chapter 1: Terra Australis Nondum Cognita—Colonization

Chapter 2: Earliest Compositions and Institutions

Chapter 3: Patriotism, Nationalism, or Somewhere in the Middle?

Chapter 4: Revolutionary Figures and the First Enunciations of a “National Identity”

Chapter 5: “The Nerves of Nationality”: Australian Musical Possibilities and its Impact on Australian Music

Chapter 6: “The great composer who came to define Australia’s sound for the rest of the world”: Peter Sculthorpe, 1929–2014

Chapter 7: “Sometimes I realize that the music I’m speaking has a broad accent”: Ross Edwards

Chapter 8: “An optimistic, personal geography”: Paul Stanhope

Chapter 9: Contemporary Voices of Australia’s Musical Identity

Chapter 10: Predominant Themes in Australian Music

Chapter 11: Final Questions

Appendix: Timeline of Major Events Throughout Australia’s History



Review Quotes to Follow

Books can be ordered by phone or online

Ordering in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Rest of the World

Gazelle Book Services
Direct sales tel.: +44 (0)1524 528500; email:
Web ordering:

Ordering in the United States and Canada
Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
Direct sales tel.: (800) 888-4741
Web ordering:

Bookseller Ordering
Information is provided under the Resources tab

eBook Ordering
e-Book type availability can be sourced via by book title. Kindle availability is via Amazon .com and sites.