Musical Connections: Alice Moyle

Dr. Alice  Moyle
Dr. Alice Moyle.


This online exhibition pays tribute to the life and career of the Australian ethnomusicologist, Alice Marshall Moyle (1908-2005). Although she began her music career as a teacher and as a performer, she is best known for her pioneering work in ethnomusicology where she documented, recorded, analysed and publicised the variety and the complexity of Australian Indigenous music.

This exhibition is based on her manuscript collection deposited in the AIATSIS Library following her retirement in 1995; it also includes a sample of one of her music notations for Curlew, a clan song that she recorded in Groote Eylandt in 1962. Alice recorded a large collection of tapes during her many field trips to Cape York, Arnhem Land and the outlying islands, and the Kimberley. The original tapes are held in the AIATSIS Audiovisual Archives, but copies of her published field recordings are located in many of the important recorded sound archives in Australia, the USA and Europe.

There are also a number of CDs of Australian Indigenous music recorded by Dr Moyle available for sale through the AIATSIS Bookshop. For details of the original recordings contact AIATSIS Audiovisual Archives.


This tribute to Alice Moyle, in the Anindilyakwa language with an English translation, comes from Jabani Lalara on behalf of the elders of Groote Eylandt. Jabani is the brother of Gula Lalara, who was one of Alice’s most dedicated teachers. Groote Eylandt music became the focus of much of Alice’s research, especially in her later years.

Dakine-ka yinguwar.danguma eningabe-ka warka Angwurrkwa-manja akwa Ambukwamba-manja. Umba ngalilangwa warka yinguwar.dangu-mulangwa aburruwa wurrarumuruma, aduwaba najerrida arakba. Akena yingilalikama ababurne-ka emeba yirrilangwa-yada. Aduwaba kambirra yirruwa yarnumamalya yarnikengkirrika-yada amurndakibina enungkwunungkwurakba emeba. Yirriyirrbiyirrba ngawa yirrubayindenama ngalilangwa emeba.

Kambirra yirruwa yarnumamalya yikengkirraja-yada yirrilangwa mangma akwa yukwudukwuda ngaluwa-wa aduwaba. Umba ngayuwa ningiyaminama wurrakinu-wa wurradiyuwangkwa ningingaminilyalyingminama aduwaba yingiyamarrka-mulangwa yingingekburaka-mulangwa yirrilangwa-yada akwa yirrilangwa-yada wurriyukwayuwa kuwakakirumakajungwuna-yada.

Yirrilangwa ayakwa nungkwuwa-manja kuwambilyamurra arngkawura aduwaba. Ngeniyerriya.

'This lady did a lot of good work at Angurugu and Umbakumba. That work that she did with the old people, it’s all finished today. But she left lots of emeba ‘clan songs’ for us. So today we listen to all those old songs. We keep on and on buying copies of her songs.

So our people’s minds and hearts are going out to her today. And I am saying to that dear lady, I am grateful for what she did for us and for our children so that they can learn.

Our words to you will stay forever, we will always be grateful. Thank you.'

AIATSIS Library acknowledges Jabani Lalara, and the people of Groote Eylandt, for permission to place this statement by Jabani on the Alice Moyle Online Exhibition. The statement was prepared by Julie Waddy on 26 October 2005.

The work that Alice Moyle has collated over the years is very very important for the younger generations to use and to be proud of. These are some of the most superb and outstanding recordings of people who are now deceased. They are much sought after by the families of the people who have recorded them.

These are like cultural maintenance and preservation of knowledge in songs. The songs are oral narratives, texts and oral histories, knowledge and law which have been handed down from father to son about the land immemorial. They show that the Yolngu people own the songs of the land and of creation stories and ancestral heritage of the land. The sounds of the old people are different to those of the young people now. The lyrics stay the same, and are poetic when translated and transcribed.

These recordings are like history books to us. That is why the sound archives at AIATSIS are so important to us. Some people have lost their knowledge and can now come here to AIATSIS to learn from the recordings.

I love to listen to the recordings that Alice Moyle made of my father when he was a young man. They bring tears to my eyes when I hear his singing. These recordings are here to be accessed at AIATSIS and are here for younger generations to hear. AIATSIS is here for all those communities out there.

Dr Marika
Council Member, AIATSIS
2 December 2005

AIATSIS Library acknowledges Dr Marika for permission to place this statement on the Alice Moyle Online Exhibition.