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Tim Winton’s Dirt Music : Sounding Country/Re-siting Place single work   single work   criticism  
Issue Details: First known date: 2015... 2015 Tim Winton’s Dirt Music : Sounding Country/Re-siting Place
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'In his novel, Dirt Music, Tim Winton centres the narrative on the literary conceit of “dirt” music as an elemental thus generative force that at once ‘earths’ and elevates the human being. Luther Fox, one of two central characters, experiences a powerful epiphany upon playing a rudimentary musical instrument through which he creates a reverberative drone summoned from the environment using improvised natural acoustics. In doing so, he enters a paradoxical state of immanent transcendence through the drone experienced as a kind of pure sound. Thus, Dirt Music invites creative speculation about the power of music as source of both music (rhythm/harmony) and ontological ‘poetics’. In this article, I explore the literary significance and philosophical and ethical implications of what Winton has called (after the indigenous poet and elder, Bill Neidjie) “practical mysticism”. In this way, the transcendentally spiritual is always grounded in a “common-sense” experience of fully lived being, just as ‘dirt’ music is ‘rooted’ in the energised abstraction of the aharmonic drone – “common” as both a shared and an empirically immediate sense of wonder at the living, interactive presence of the natural world. In Dirt Music, then, the act of making music is richly allusive: to make music becomes a means of working towards a felt and vital connection with country; but it is also to understand how music works conductively as indigenous sound, effecting the animating interplay or interconnection between individual consciousness and the living presence and force of natural world as ecology and wilderness, landscape and country.' (Publication abstract)


  • Epigraph:

    Noise is sound out of place as dirt is matter in the wrong place. (Adam Mars-Jones)

    We hear white noise as one sound; however, by further processing we create new sounds. But the importance of comparing white noise to traditional musical sounds is the realisation that through white noise we reach sounds inaudible to the human ear—part of which I intuitively call the ‘river of sound’. (Toru Takemitsu, quoted in Toop 147).

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon JASAL Critical Soundings : Voice, Space and Sound in Australian Literature vol. 15 no. 1 2015 8859932 2015 periodical issue 2015
Last amended 19 Jan 2017 10:19:59 Tim Winton’s Dirt Music : Sounding Country/Re-siting Placesmall AustLit logo JASAL