Sounds of Australia open to new voices

Sophie Moore
(Australian Associated Press)


From Waltzing Matilda to Kylie Minogue, the collection of quintessential Australian sounds which make us feel like happy little vegemites is open to new entries.

Sounds of Australia is a formal registry of the songs, jingles, sound bites and radio programs which have made a significant cultural impact.

Begun in 2007 by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, each year people can nominate tracks spanning from 1896 to the past decade.

“It’s basically a Hall of Fame of Australian sound,” NFSA curator Thorsten Kaeding told AAP.

Recordings from 2009 are now eligible for inclusion including singer Guy Sebastian’s chart-topping single, Like it Like That, while history buffs may prefer to nominate former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2008 apology to indigenous Australians.

The decision to cut off entries at the past decade is deliberate, Kaeding says.

“It’s not a Hottest 100. By only including recordings from 10 years ago it makes people think about the sounds that really made an impact.”

Songs by INXS, Midnight Oil and AC/DC are already among the collections more than 130 tracks, along with 1954’s “Happy Little Vegemites” advertising jingle.

Kaeding says cultural cringe, which often plagues lists of Australian popular culture, has become less divisive as the collection has evolved.

“Because it’s not about preserving high art, or the creme de la creme of Australian music, it did suffer a bit from cringe when we started,” he said.

“But when people hear things like the sound of the bush, indigenous languages or an advert from their childhood, it has a visceral connection to their memories which I think overrides that.”

The NFSA will whittle down thousands of nominations to a shortlist from which a panel of experts will chose the archive’s 10 newest entrants.

People have until Sunday, July 30 to nominate with results to be announced in November.

Kaeding is proud of the archive’s Aboriginal content which he says has been “purely driven” by the public.

But this year he would also like to see “more entries from different cultural backgrounds”.

The NFSA currently preserves more than 2.8 million items in both physical and digital format, which brings unique challenges.

“Try playing a digital track from a decade ago on your latest computer. Updating our digital copies is a full time job,” Kaeding says.

However the NFSA is about more than just collecting a database for academics, he said.

“It’s about preserving our history for people in the next 100, 200 years.”

Funded by the federal government, the archive is currently researching how it will store newer forms of cultural expression like online memes and video games.

“In the digital age things disappear much quicker. And how we preserve that going forward is a challenge archives around the globe are having to face,” Kaeding says.


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