About Tunelines

In making this website, I was inspired by the Aboriginal concept of 'Songlines' and the way that tunes can represent and illustrate physical geography. This is an unfamiliar concept in our culture, but I think is well explained in the following article.

Within the animist belief system of Indigenous Australians, a songline, also called dreaming track, is one of the paths across the land which mark the route followed by localised 'creator-beings' during the Dreamtime. The paths of the songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and painting.

A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia's interior. The continent of Australia contains an extensive system of songlines, some of which are of a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through lands of many different indigenous peoples — peoples who may speak markedly different languages and have different cultural traditions.

Since a songline can span the lands of several different language groups, different parts of the song are said to be in those different languages. Languages are not a barrier because the melodic contour of the song describes the nature of the land over which the song passes. The rhythm is what is crucial to understanding the song. Listening to the song of the land is the same as walking on this songline and observing the land.

Glossary of Terms

The tunes on this website are mostly in one of these common forms.

A lively dance in 6/8 time (felt as 2 in a bar, with each beat divided into 3).
A steady dance in triple time; usually written in 3/4.
A medium tempo tune in quadruple time, often written in 4/4. The rhythm is often swung (and each beat could be divided into 3).
A fast dance in 4/4 or sometimes 2/4. Usually a straight, not a swung, rhythm.
A lively dance in duple time.

There are also a few airs and song tunes, which are generally quite steady and lend themselves to a freer style than the tunes used for dancing.

Toponymy is the study of place names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use, and typology. A toponymic tune is thus one which has a place name as its name.