Shane Homan, Seamus O’Hanlon, Catherine Strong and John Tebutt. Music City Melbourne: Urban Culture, History and Policy

Book review by Isobel D’Cruz Barnes 

Context 48 (2022): 117–20.

Published online: 31 Jan. 2023


Documenting cultural life in contemporary Australia seems a fraught and daunting task, if not for the one-sided narratives so consistently reinforced through early scholarship, then at least due to the geographical vastness and diverse population that makes generalisation so difficult. The arrival of Music City Melbourne: Urban Culture, History and Policy is thus welcomed for its resolute specificity and unique historical lens. The book narrates and delineates popular music in Melbourne from the 1950s until the mid-2000s, exploring how it has shaped, and been shaped by, cultural policy and migration. The text is a much-needed contribution to scholarship on both Australian cultural policy, which focuses predominantly on the fine arts, and Australian popular music that in general fails to account for the historical contributions made by marginalised groups. Indeed, the authors describe Music City Melbourne’s historical emphases and use of subtly critical language (most notably, their casual use of the term ‘invasion’ as opposed to ‘settlement’ of Australia) as ‘an important corrective of Anglo Saxon accounts’ of Australian history (p. 3, emphasis added). […]

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