TISM costume featured in new Strength in Sound display at the Australian Music Vault

Australian-Music-Vault-Strength-in-Sound-photo-by-Jacinta-KeefeThe ever-evolving world of stories in the Australian Music Vault sees a new display come to life representing the various communities that make up the Australian music landscape.

Strength in Sound highlights the lasting connections between artists and fans spanning cultures and generations to create a sense of identity and belonging.

“The Australian music landscape is made up of so many vibrant communities that connect artists and audiences, and evoke positive messages of inclusion and belonging,” said Curator at the Australian Music Vault, Bella Chwasta.

“Strength in Sound celebrates just some of these festivals, venues, labels, organisations and online communities, and the artists that bring them to life.”

“We hope that visitors will feel nostalgic, connect with familiar objects as well as discover new artists and places they can go right now to engage with in their local music community.”

Across the many objects on display – either loaned or from the rich archive of the Australian Performing Arts Collection – the overarching message is clear: whether it’s a favourite festival, venue, radio station or record label, the value of music in Australia’s society is unwavering.

“Pre-2000s, there were no camera phones or social media to capture those precious moments at gigs, in-stores or festivals,” said Australian Music Vault Ambassador, Jane Gazzo.

“Strength in Sound reminds us of those innocent days when music lovers immersed themselves into those times; when record stores were the hub of gossip, magazines and street press were our bibles and radio made local heroes of our artists.

“Communities come in all shapes and sizes but perhaps nostalgia and good humour are the winners here in this latest exhibition at the Australian Music Vault, which showcases so many facets of those care-free days. And begs the question: Just how did members of TISM breathe inside those ‘sock’ costumes?”

Music festivals have certainly become a rite-of-passage for generations of fans who continue to reflect on their shared experiences years later. Music lovers will revel in the historical roots of these iconic festivals in this new display and see how Victoria’s largest Indigenous music festival Share the Spirit has provided both cultural and economic opportunities for artists and community to gather in a family-friendly environment.

Meanwhile, national festivals like Big Day Out bring together local and international acts every summer, performing to loyal audiences. For over 20 years, it was Australia’s most iconic festival, paving the way for many more festivals to come. On display are posters, tickets and programmes to inspire conversations of summers gone by.

Then there are online communities, like Sound As Ever – Australian Indie from 90-99 – which have emerged as places for fans and artists to share memories and collectibles.

Developed during the pandemic, this community has amassed nearly 20,000 members and branched out into publishing and record releases inspiring unexpected reunion shows by artists popular in the 90s.

For big fans of 90s band This Is Serious Mum (TISM), communities like Sound as Ever encouraged them to reunite and perform after an 18-year hiatus headlining Good Things festival in December 2022.

On display is the iconic silver costume worn by one of the anonymous members for their set which included a four-metre-tall inflatable “sock” attached to each band member. It was created by Melbourne-based designer Alexi Freeman.

Also on display is the 2021 compilation Loud As Ever and the 2022 anthology Blind Love. For those feeling nostalgic about the cassette tape, they can see which demos became big hits, including those from The Killjoys (1990), The Sugargliders (1990), Frente! (1992) and Something for Kate (1995). Or, they can remember what it was like to flick through the pages of Recovery or Form Guide.

Plus learn about the role of volunteer-run community radio stations like PBS and discover the Made from Melbourne guitar constructed by Maton Guitars using timber from some of Melbourne’s most iconic live music venues: The Tote, The Espy, The Corner Hotel and Cherry Bar.

This guitar is an enduring symbol of how venues play an intrinsic role in fostering Australia’s local music scene and are essential spaces for emerging and established artists to perform for peers and growing fan-bases.

In Melbourne, The Boîte has supported artists from diverse communities since 1976 showcasing unique music experiences by artists from all over the world. On display are flyers, the 3RD magazine, posters and a cassette tape for Highly Strung from 1983.

More recently, not-for-profit record label Music in Exile was created to assist artists from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to perform and record music for new audiences. Spanning those that bring their Chinese and African heritage to the Australian music landscape, on display are posters, costumes and records from the Music in Exile roster including Mindy Meng Wang, Gordan Koang and Elsy Wameyo.

The Strength in Sound display is on now as part of the Australian Music Vault’s FREE exhibition space inside Arts Centre Melbourne. For more information, visit: www.australianmusicvault.com.au for details.

Image: Strength in Sound display at the Australian Music Vault – photo by Jacinta Keefe