One Night the Moon – music development

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When first approaching the story of One Night the Moon, we planned to tell the tragedy through music, aiming to use as little speech as possible to convey story, emotion and cultural information. To develop the music alongside the script, we had three composers and an ensemble of musicians who came together in workshops. We created a presentation somewhat like a radio play based on the skeleton of the real story. In its rawest form, the first presentation of the piece included music and narration by John Romeril (the writer) to tell a narrative. So the work in its first iteration was an audio piece.

I asked the songwriters to focus on characters who were pivotal to the drama – Kev Carmody on the songs for the tracker and Paul Kelly to write for the father/farmer. We agreed to work together on songs for the mother hence collaborations led to creating Little Bones, One Night the Moon (the lullaby), What do you Know? and Unfinished Business. Kev Carmody and I then worked in isolation on writing instrumental music that linked to themes and sequences in the script. Kev wrote guitar and dijeridu pieces which we blended with my compositions by playing them with the ensemble of musicians who are heard on the recording. Working with an ensemble that was close to the script, supported the music to develop into a cohesive whole prior to shooting and editing the film.

Instrumental music

In writing instrumental music, I saw the landscape and the moon as characters that sat alongside the people in the film. I wanted to convey the vast and powerful nature of the landscape, and whilst it was important for an indigenous view of the landscape to be present, I wrote much of the “landscape music” through the eyes of the settler, with a pioneer attitude and an outlook that the place was vast, scary and unknown. For the purposes of the drama, the landscape needed to be perceived as ominous, enticing, powerful and easy to get lost in – Rachel Perkins and I referenced Picnic at Hanging Rock, for example, in developing this portrayal of the landscape. Hence the instruments featured here are borrowed from the Irish tradition, and placed in a new context. In One Night the Moon, the settler is disconnected from the land, doesn’t understand it or how to work with it or connect to it. The instruments I selected bring this disconnection to the fore and also reflect the grandeur of the landscape, its omnipresence, and conversely the brevity of human life.

The moon was treated similarly. For the film it needed to be a character that is beyond human control, is enticing, and could lure the child away in the night. But it was also used as a connector. The choice of female voices for the moon, allowed us to let a range of characters who were otherwise separated to connect, by noticing the moon. Their emotions moved between fear, longing, despair, and hope and each time the moon was seen, voices were heard and we could imagine the child might still be living. Kev observed that the female voices connected to the human and community experience, rather than the race-based story that was underlying much of the action.

It’s worth noting that in the final cut there are only 20 spoken lines on film, which always surprises me as it seems like there’s more but I guess that’s the power of music, people and landscape! Given this, what is said on screen is punchy and either supplies information to move the story along or tells you indirectly about the characters – eg, when Albert’s wife slams the door and says “Albert’s not here!” we understand the tension and history behind the settler/indigenous relationship.

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Arden St Oval

Gasometer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arden St oval is being upgraded to be of a size and quality for AFL. So we’ve been seeing it in transition over the past few weeks – from grass, to dirt, to a giant sandpit and back to grass again. It’s looking fabulous and we can’t wait to see it in use again!

I have some wonderful photos that we use in the Arden Street program to teach students about how the place has changed and how it has been used, so this is a good opportunity to revisit Arden St as it has been in the past and as it is today. The images are a good way of getting students to reflect on social spaces, the importance of gathering spaces for belonging and on how humans impact on environments. It also gets them thinking on how much care is taken to create and maintain sports and gathering places.

Arden St December 2012 – here it is dug up and then made into a huge sandpit:


Below are some photos of Arden St from the 1900’s. They show the oval and the enormous gasometer which was such an important feature of North Melbourne until the 1970’s when it was removed. There are some great photos of players with the gasometer in the background – player Mick Nolan came to be known as “the galloping gasometer”. We always called it the gasometer but they often seem to be referred to as “gas holders”. There aren’t many of them I left in the world now as gas it stored differently.

This photo was taken in 1928:


Locals used to come to Arden St for training in their own time after work – now players are professional sportsmen who come to Arden St everyday to work as players. You can see the gasometer in the background:


Les Foote was awarded the Syd Barker medal 3 times. Here kicks the ball at Arden St in front of the gasometer:


These photos show Arden St in the 1970’s and were given to me by a member but we don’t yet know what day they were taken on or who was playing. You can see how imposing the gasometer is. On this match day, a marching band and marching girls seem to have been the pre-match entertainment. The last photo with the banner at the ready for players to run through shows the old scoreboard and the Housing Commission flats in the background.

Arden St 1970’s – gasometer and marching band