Thursday, March 10


He went on to explain how each totemic ancestor, while travelling through the country, was thought to have scattered a trail of words and musical notes along the line of his footprints, and how these Dreaming-tracks lay over the land as "ways" of communication between the most far-flung tribes.

"A song," he said, "was both map and direction-finder. Providing you knew the song, you could always find your way across country."

"And would a man on 'Walkabout' always be travelling down one of the Songlines?"

"In the old days, yes," he agreed. "Nowadays, they go by train or car."

"Suppose the man strayed from his Songline?"

"He was trespassing. He might get speared for it."

"But as long as he stuck to the track, he'd always find people who shared his Dreaming? Who were, in fact, his brothers?"


"From whom he could expect hospitality?"

"And vice versa."

In theory, at least, the whole of Australia could be read as a musical score. There was hardly a rock or creek in the country that could not or had not been sung.

-- Bruce Chatwin The Songlines

Peter Lindberg discusses The Songlines