Rare Music Collection, University of Melbourne Library
This sheet music score, with its captivatingly illustrated front cover, is an example of the importance of published popular songs for entertainment in Australia during World War I. As well as supplying a market for popular songs to perform in the home, war-themed songs began to appear in great numbers during 1915 and 1916. Coo-ee! Coo-ee! is a recruiting song designed to persuade hesitant would-be soldiers to join the war effort at the front in Gallipoli. It uses colours, flags and even Aussie slang to evoke a sense of national pride and patriotism.
Singing was a constant in military life: it relieved boredom, aided in marching exercises and lifted spirits. It could also bring people together around a piano, or in a larger setting for a stage performance. Organised concerts bought respite to soldiers who were fighting far from home. Song- writing itself provided sustenance, in terms of profit and wellbeing, both for returned soldiers and professional composers. Sheet music was produced in large quantities, and generally sold for two shillings or less. Such publications combined sheet music, lyrics and advertisements, and contributed to a sense of national identity.
The University of Melbourne’s curriculum is rich and varied, and changes from year to year. For more teaching ideas, contact a collection manager.
The Great War 1914 to 1918
Analyse primary and secondary sources in constructing historical arguments about how soldiers experienced the war, and how they experienced the war through music.
Australia in the World 1914 to 2014
Examine Australia’s place in the world by analysing the illustrations, lyrics and advertisements in 20th-century sheet music from the Rare Music Collection.
Controversies in Australian History
Find examples from the University of Melbourne’s collections, such as the Rare Music Collection, that illustrate the conscription referenda in World War I, and analyse these documents.
Music and Health
Using works from the Rare Music Collection, develop skills in using music to reduce anxiety and improve communication by creating and playing musical instruments, and by listening to music.
Music Therapy Skills
Be inspired by rare sheet music to compose original and adapted songs with therapeutic intent.
Creative Writing: Ideas and Practice
Focus on the creative process of shorter literary works by viewing and reading music lyrics to inspire a written piece.
The Business of Music
Understand the relationship between music creation and commercialisation, by examining popular songs produced for entertainment, found in the Rare Music Collection.
Articulate the roles of advertising, sales promotion and publicity by using printed popular songs as a case study.
The Writing of Australian History
Explore the ways in which Australian history has been written in the 20th century, by examining printed popular songs.
To learn more, visit the website of the Rare Music Collection.
Jennifer Hill, ‘Singing the Great War: Australian song in World War I’, University of Melbourne Collections, issue 17, December 2015, pp. 25–32.