restricted access 7. Border Conflicts at Music’s Definition
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180 C H A P T E R 7 Border Conflicts at Music’s Definition Wills Developmental Road, North Queensland, 30 October 2013: Dark clouds of red-tailed black cockatoos wheel overhead as I depart Karumba for Gregory Downs. Although paved, the byway rides like a horse in places. Cockatiels, budgerigars (parakeets), and wallabies keep me on high alert with their last-minute swoops and bounds across the road. Suddenbrakingrearrangesthebackofthevanseveraltimes .WhenIgetoutto straighten up the mess, the cicadas are so loud, I fear they will damage my hearing. Coming into Gregory Downs (population 40), a sign on the sunbaked macadam reads: “No parking next 1.5km—Emergency Airstrip.” Australia is such a sunburned land that “shade tree” is an oxymoron. Trees have extraordinary rules: grow your leaves small and turn them away from sunlight. For instance, the fork-leaved corkwood’s (Hakea divaricata ) needle-like leaves expose scant surface area through which to lose moisture, while the leaves of the prickly wattle (Acacia victoriae) have a waterproof wax coating that helps hold in moisture even on the hottest days. Upon my 10:00 am arrival, there’s not a bit of shade to park in at Gregory Downs (the camper van is not allowed on unpaved roads), so I am forced to take a room. The air conditioning doesn’t really cool, but it spits shards of ice onto the bed. Meanwhile, the fan hums: “what’ll it be, Whoever engages in a musical performance, of whatever kind, is saying to themselves and to anyone who may be taking notice, This is who we are, and that is a serious affirmation indeed. —Christopher Small, Musicking Border Conflicts at Music’s Definition 181 what’ll it be, what’ll it be?” and later, “do your best, do your best, do your best.” I try to catch the very moment that “and the next one, and the next one, and the next one” morphs into “and the next, and the next, and the next.” It has an impressive repertoire. A fellow on the deck next door is crinkling a beer can every twenty minutes and tossing it. The heat gets to you. It’s hard to believe I am only a half-day’s drive from Karumba, the Arafura Sea, and Graham, the green tree frog, but then. . . Dear Graham, I see that you are perched front and center on my toilet seat. I note that you have grown dramatically since we last met. The contrast of green and white makes for a fine photo. Your black eyes also contribute to the intensity of your look. While I feel I cannot disturb you, neither can I complete my own tasks. Moments like this make me want to give it all up. Is there space for negotiation? This is the only night of my two-month trip that I have paid for a motel room; having spent the $100, I’mloathtowalkdowntheroadtothepublictoilet,whereI’msuretomeet up with your cousins and suffer other indignities. If I sprinkle water on you, will you feel content and meander off for the moment? I also note the gap under the bathroom door and ask that you respect this divide and my righttosleepuninterrupted.Frogsmovingaboutinthedarkofnightbring to mind mice and snakes. I understand that you are a regular, while I am a transient. While I want to work with you toward a shared resolution, if you come into the main living area, I will feel compelled to remove you. I may attempt this hastily and with less finesse than you would hope for. Whethersuccessfulornot,bothofuswillbedisturbedbytheeffort.Ihave notraininginhowtotreatyou—howdelicateorhardyyouare.Therefore, I urge you to find a place in the bathroom other than my toilet seat to spend your time, although I will grant that in all likelihood “my” toilet is actually “your” swimming pool; that grates on me. Wading is also fine. I will sprinkle water in the shower and wish you an enjoyable evening. The firstflushoftheswimmingpoolisat3:00am.Perhapsthatisofnoconcern to you. Unlike today, this cannot be put off, nor can it be accomplished if you are in the current perch position. Afterward, you may have free run of the place while I am recording birds. I return to take my shower at about seven. Since hot water is involved, I urge you to remove yourself prior to this. Thank you, Graham, for your consideration. 182 is birdsong music? To give Graham time to retreat, I go outside to scout for birds and meet thelocaldogs.Imakeitmybusinesstoalwayslearntheirnamesandallow them to learn my smell, so that when we...


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Subject Headings

  • Birdsongs -- Australia.
  • Butcherbirds -- Behavior -- Australia.
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