Graeme Skinner
Under construction
as of 10 July 2014 at
as last updated in April 2014, can for a short while still be consulted here
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians A-B
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians C-D
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians E-G
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians H-J
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians K-L
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians M-N
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians O-R
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians S-T
A biographical register of colonial Australian musicians U-Z
An organisational register of colonial Australian music and musicians A-Z
Chronological checklist
A chronological checklist of colonial compositions 1788-1840
A chronological checklist of colonial compositions 1841-1850
A chronological checklist of colonial compositions 1851-1855
A chronological checklist of colonial compositions 1856-1860
A chronological checklist of colonial compositions 1861-1865
A chronological checklist of colonial compositions 1866-1870
Other content
A bibliography of colonial Australian music
Readings in colonial Australian music history
Nineteenth-century musical sources online
Searching for Stephen Marsh's The Gentleman in Black
1888 Melbourne Centennial Exhibition Orchestral Series
John Onions
convict musician
George Skinner
{fl. 1844-48}
Sydney Catch Club
Emile Coulon
Windsor Band
A lost colonial opera archive
Beethoven in Australia 1827

Weblog of  Graeme Skinner

POST 13 JULY 2014

Australharmony has moved . . .

As of 10 July 2014, Australharmony, my online resource toward the history of music in colonial Australia, is located at, from where I will continue to build, curate, and update it. My thanks to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, PARADISEC, and especially to Professor Linda Barwick, SCM's Associate Dean of Research and Director of PARADISEC (Sydney Unit) and the unit's Audio Systems Officer and IT specialist, Aidan Wilson, for all their help and support during the transfer.

Since I began building it here on my own site in January 2012, it has grown steadily. The National Library of Australia took an archival snapshot of the site as it was in December 2013 which is now stored permanently in their Pandora web archive, accessible here through the old site's Trove record.

For a short time, for the convenience of users who don't yet know about the new address, the main content of the old site (as last updated in April 2014) will also remain on line here.


Australharmony's Australian colonial music tag in Trove

Trove users can now call up, and search among, the thousands of items on Australian colonial music so far tagged by australharmony as part of this project. Clicking on the Australian colonial music tag inside Trove gives instant access to a curated resource including:

- a virtual anthology of over 1500 Australian colonial musical compositions and arrangements under Music, sound and video

- over 3500 relevant press articles and advertisements under Digitised newspapers and more

- a virtual bibliography of books and articles on Australian colonial music under Books, and Journals, articles and data sets

- grouped resources on about 150 key composers and other musicians under People and organisations

- as well as a selection of over 500 images of colonial composers, musicians, and instruments under Pictures, photos, objects

Also, starting with the earliest colonial prints, Australian colonial editions of imported music


POST 11 JUNE 2013

Calling for help identifying early colonial sources of manuscript music ...

The purpose of the chronological checklists on this site is to record original musical compositions and arrangements as well as original song lyrics by composers, arrangers, and songwriters active in colonial Australia. Most of those that survive do so in printed commercially published form. Only a very small number survive in manuscript, representing only a tiny proportion of the many hundreds of lost (but documented) early and later colonial musical works.

In fact, survivals of colonial manuscript music of any descrption - whether original productions, or copies of imported traditional or composed music - are sadly rare; so rare, in fact, that it would be very useful to build a separate checklist of all known instances.

To date, the earliest example that I know of any musical notation that was written down in colonial Australia is William Cavendish's 5 quadrilles and 2 waltzes (“The Fairy Quadrilles”; “Australian, Notasian, Arabian, or Mal[a]gareske quadrilles”), posted from Parramatta to his wife in England in April 1833 (thus predating the first locally produced Australian musical print, Lhotsky's A Song of the Women of the Menero Tribe that appeared in November 1834). The first major manuscript survival is the voluminous score of an original work, Isaac Nathan's Don John of Austria ... but until at least the 1870s, manuscript music of any sort is rare enough to be worth noting.

Janette Pelosi, of the State Archives of NSW - and author of the extremely useful article on colonial playscripts held by the State Archive - recently brought to my attention another realtively early example of manuscript music, copied into the script of Gustavus Arabin's play Rookwood, or the Adventures of Dick Turpin, written in Sydney in 1850 and produced at the Royal Victoria Theatre in 1851 (the original MS now in the State Archives).

It turns out that Arabin probably found both the words and music of the song - the tune a verison of Greensleeves propularly known as the “Blacksmith“, or “Which nobody can deny“ - in an earlier printed edition of the source text for his play, as you can see for yourself here: William Harrison Ainsworth’s Rookwood (1837 edition), 65: ... But, as a survivng manuscript copy penned in early colonial Australia, Arabin's borrowed song is notable anyway. If anyone else knows of, or comes across, other examples of manuscript music in colonial sources, not already listed in my checklists, I - and other researchers - will be very keen to hear of them.

POST 25 MAY 2013

More biographical updates ... Moore, Cranz, and Linger

During the past fortnight yet more new information, now incorporated into the biographical register, has kindly been shared with me by descendents of violinist and composer Andrew Moore and his wife, actor, dancer and singer Rachel Moore, late Miss Lazar; and of August Friedrich Cranz and Mathilde Cranz, both musicians, Mathilde - a decade after August deserted her - also mother of a child by Carl Linger ... 

POST 23 MAY 2013

Dettmer pianoforte makers in Australia ...

In the last few days emails from two Dettmer descendents have supplied new information on the family that I have now incorporated into the Dettmer entry in the biographical register. A shipment of 6 cases of pianofortes from the London firm of George Dettmer and Son (by then under the management of the Son, William Dettmer) arrived in Sydney in 1828, and Dettmer pianos appear from time to time in Australian sale advertisements throughout the 1830s and 1840s. One of William's daughters emigrated to Sydney by 1839, to be followed by her father and her four Jackson neices and nephews 1849-54. Latterly assisted by his Jackson grandsons John Dodds Dettmer Jackson and James Norris Newby Jackson, William's business had run into financial diffifuclties by 1848, prompting first John, then William and his two recently orphaned Jackson grand-daughters late in 1848, and finally James in 1854 to take assisted passages to Australia too. Having thus tranferred two branches of the family and most if not all of family-member personel of the once moderatly successful London firm to Australia, William and John both continued to work as piano repairers and tuners (James may also have occasionally). They did not, however, manage to re-establish the Dettmer brand or piano manufacturing activity in Australia ... but, then, perhaps their hopes of a new life in the colonies were more modest. Who knows?

POST 14 APRIL 2013

Some supportive feedback ...

“Hello, I am finding the work you are doing on early Australian music very interesting. It is wonderful that is freely available for people to view. Below is an article that has Mr. Martin as bandmaster of the 99th Regiment in 1852. I hope it is of use to you. Thanks.“

Email from Fiona Hickie (30 April 2013):

And a notice in the journal literature from Robyn Holmes (Senior Curator, National Library of Australia) ...

“Exemplifying use of this new research tool [TROVE], musicologist Graeme Skinner has written a definitive history of Australian colonial music, cross-checking all known holdings with citations and advertisements of Australian compositions in colonial newspapers and other sources. He has identified a comprehensive and accurately-dated list of 410 known Australian works composed between 1788 and 1860, of which Australian libraries hold 73% or 297 works. Of these, 204 are held at the National Library. His index is enabling the Library to update both catalogue records and authority records, as well as to add or modify biographical records of Australian composers or performers in Music Australia/Trove (each with a unique people or ‘party’ identifier that links the people to the works they created). The Library also now has an improved desiderata list that may yet elicit rare surviving copies from around the world.“

References: Robyn Holmes, “Music at the National Library of Australia”, Fontes artis musicae 58/3 (July-September 2011), 212-226; this extract 218:

© Graeme Skinner 2014