Music and World-Building in the Colonial City : Newcastle, NSW, and its Townships, 1860–1880 book cover
1st Edition

Music and World-Building in the Colonial City
Newcastle, NSW, and its Townships, 1860–1880

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after February 1, 2022
ISBN 9780367495640
February 1, 2022 Forthcoming by Routledge
228 Pages 33 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Music and World-Building in the Colonial City investigates how nineteenth-century migrants to Australia used music as a resource for world-building, focusing on coalmining regions of New South Wales. It explores how music-making helped British migrants to create communities in unfamiliar country, often with little to no infrastructure. Its key themes are as follows:

  • people’s relationships to music within specific contexts;
  • how music-making intersects with class, gender and ethnic background;
  • identity through music.

Situated within a wider discourse on music and identity, music and well-being and music and emotions, this is an authoritative study of historical communities and their relationship with music. It will be of particular interest to scholars and researchers working in the fields of sociomusicology, colonial studies and cultural studies.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 (Introduction): Music Making at the Coalface

Chapter 2: The Sights and Sounds of the Coalopolis, 1860-1880

Chapter 3: Aspirations and Transposed Traditions

Chapter 4: Music’s Affordances in the Settler Context: Brass Bands and the Self, Body and the Social.

Case Study 1: Brass Bands as the Apotheosis of World-Building: The Miners’ Demonstration of 1874

Chapter 5: Choirs Local and Global: Community makers, Vehicles of Respectability and Colonial Connectivity

Chapter 6: Singing, Eisteddfodau and Identity

Case Study 2: Nostalgia: A Transnational Concert at Lambton

Chapter 7: The Minstrel Mask: Blackface Miners at Work and Play

Chapter 8: Social Inclusion: What Township Benefit Concerts reveal about Township Values

Postlude: Conclusions

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Helen J. English is a Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She has a strong interest in music communities, past and present, and in capturing ways music is at work in the everyday and the out-of-the-ordinary day.


In this meticulously researched local study Helen English demonstrates the critically important role that popular music played in determining a sense of community and identity amongst working class immigrants in Victorian Australia. This is an exemplary case study of the complicated processes of cultural transmission in shaping a colonial Australian mentalite.

Emeritus Professor Richard Waterhouse FAHA FASSA
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry,
University of Sydney, NSW Australia


Helen English presents a ground-breaking study of the musical activities of migrant miners in nineteenth-century Australia, showing how vitally important music was to the making of new communities, their social values and colonial identity. In this absorbing, historically informed and persuasively theorized study of Newcastle and outlying townships, the author constantly surprises the reader with examples of how people were able to recreate musical practices from Eisteddfodau and brass band concerts to blackface minstrel shows, despite their lack of infrastructure and resources.

Derek B. Scott
Professor of Critical Musicology
University of Leeds