Sound and music in the works of Randolph Stow

Richards, Fiona (2013). Sound and music in the works of Randolph Stow. Antipodes, 27(2) pp. 177–183.




This article considers the many ways in which sound and music resonate through the works of Australian writer Randolph Stow (1935–2010), offering a broad, contextual perspective on the ways in which music and words, and often place as well, are intertwined. It is a rich subject for exploration, as much of Stow’s literary output uses music and sound to great effect. Named pieces of music are used as a means of locating fiction in time and place. Though born in Geraldton, Western Australia, Stow’s affiliation with his distant British ancestry has had a profound impact on his work, and images of Scottish pipers, hymns and drums reverberate through his words. In the works set in Australia the landscape evoked is a sonorous one. It thrums with the sounds of old mills, cockatoos, gurgling tanks and imported drawing-room pianos. His literary output shifts from aboriginal mission stations (To the Islands, 1958) to drought-ravaged Australian desert towns (Tourmaline, 1963). The article focuses primarily on Stow’s poetic novels, including the autobiographical The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea (1965) as well as his later allegorical works set on the east coast of England (The Girl Green as Elderflower, 1980) and The Suburbs of Hell (1984), which last novel is structured as a Brittenesque chamber opera, in a series of short acts and interludes.

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