Noisy silences: complexity in non-Indigenous Central Australian soundscapes in the 1970s

Taylor & Francis
Publication Type:
Journal Article
History Australia, 2022, pp. 1-17
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
Silence is a powerful concept that many read in stark metaphorical, binarised and/or ahistorical terms. By contrast, sound historians can show how metaphors like silence take on specific historical power, but elide complexity in the heard world, and how they change. This article uses Robyn Davidson’s popular travelogue, Tracks (1980), to investigate how the non-Indigenous meanings of the iconic motif of Central Australian silence were shifting in the 1970s, in line with acoustic ecology and second-wave feminism that positively valorised certain sorts of quiet and/or listening. But silence is multivalent and it also developed negative metaphorical connotations in the 1970s, especially as shorthand for the way many Australians had obscured Indigenous presence. By reconceiving 1970s silence as entangled with noise, we can better understand complexity and change in these non-Indigenous soundscapes.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: