Milerum’s Basket

Orchestral tone poem celebrating and lamenting the Coorong of South Australia and its Ngarrindjeri culture with oboe solo

String orchestra with oboe soloist

Milerum’s Basket, Becky’s string orchestra with oboe soloist composition, takes its name from a basket coffin woven by Ngarrindjeri elder Milerum (Clarence Long) she was permitted to listen to in the South Australian Museum collection. It includes Becky’s musical transcriptions of four songs Milerum sang onto Norman Tindale’s wax cylinders in 1932: Bar 39: Song of Njengari, Bar 85: Storm Song (Belinjum), Bar 121: Song about Death and Bar 158 Whale Song.

When Becky wrote this in 1993, Milerum’s homeland, the Coorong was still a fertile home of fish, bird and wildlife which she had enjoyed as a camper. The rich musical tradition of Ngarrindjeri people reflected the abundance of food in the Coorong which gave people time and energy to develop a rich musical lexicon. She shaped Milerum’s ancient songs into an orchestrated idiom as a musical story in one long non-repeating narrative like the 100km long Coorong itself.

The Coorong has been depleted of its ability to sustain many plants, birds and wildlife as the River Murray has increasingly lost the ability to take water to its mouth.

Song of Death, with the oboe splitting its tone, a profound lightning strike, seems to foreshadow now, not just the loss of the Ngarrindjeri’s traditional living but of the Coorong itself. With its plaintive oboe sounding over strings, this tone poem is indeed a funeral basket of musical bones of what the Coorong used to be and what we have lost since settlement. 

This popular, evocative Australian piece written in 1993 is a 10-minute piece for advanced and professional musicians commissioned by the Adelaide Chamber Orchestra.

Listen to a sample of Milerum’s Basket with the Adelaide Chamber Orchestra

Podcast about Milerum’s Basket with Glenn Quick

Click to enlarge

Where to buy

Milerum’s Basket is available from the iTunes Music Store – Apple Music.

Milerum’s Basket is also on the Move CD, Milerum’s Basket CD can be purchased online through Buywell Music  which offers secure online ordering.

The score for Milerum’s Basket is normally available at the Australian Music Centre but it is closed because of the coronavirus outbreak. You can however buy a digital audio download of the piece for $2.95 through this link:

Australian Music Centre

You can purchase Milerum’s Basket score and parts directly from Becky by emailing her:

music@beckyllewellyn.com.

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