The Songlines: An influential work on Aborigines, Australia

76844Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines is a book that’s like many good trips: suddenly, you find yourself navigating an unfamiliar, confusing and even intimidating region, but by the end you realize you’ve had an irreplaceable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

For students of my COMM 373 Australia winterim course, a trip that begins with our departure from Chicago Dec. 27, this may be especially true.  Chatwin’s work isn’t always easy to read. At times, it might seem to less patient readers that Chatwin’s writing is like the Australian outback.

Many would perceive the outback as vast, substantially flat, incomprehensible in its sameness, and tough to find one’s way through; a look in any direction might show more features that are hard to distinguish from the last set.  One might not see the small details that differentiate one apparently barren spot from another.  Even when discernible, these features might not promise anything substantially different in an interminable landscape beyond.

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Musical interlude: Derek Trucks Band’s “This Sky”

Former Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks, ranked 16th in the 2011 Rolling Stones list of greatest guitarists, released Songlines in 2006, an album whose unifying concept is one my Australia winterim class will be considering during its trip this year.

Currently collaborating with wife and well-known blues/soul singer Susan Tedeschi in the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Trucks is a guy I’d heard a bit about. He never really caught my attention until the song “This Sky” captivated me during a workout a couple of years ago. It took me until September of this year to purchase the album that held it. Continue reading