New Internationalist

RAN (Remote Area Nurse)

Issue 393

Just as writing soundtracks for films is an art form in its own right, so too is writing for television. Both demand similar things: a music that aids the drama at hand as well as mirroring the visual activity on screen. Leitmotifs for characters, themes and places are essential. It’s this ‘indefinable sense of place’ that initially drew Australian composer David Bridie to Remote Area Nurse – RAN.

A series made for Australian television, RAN is set among the Torres Straits Islands and this location alone allows Bridie a generous scope in this soundtrack album. Soundtrack music has to move fast, and by this necessity the 23 tracks – from melodious songs and soft choral arrangement to purposeful drummings – are short. But it’s Bridie’s orchestration that’s so effective. Filled with sympathetically arranged settings of music and song indigenous to the Torres Straits, this becomes, as Bridie rightly says, a collaboration between himself and artists such as Albert David, Norah Bagira – who appears in the TV drama – and Ricardo ‘King Kadu’ Idagu among many others.

Bridie’s RAN music is not just a passing interest. A musician with a finger in many pies – his many projects include bands such as Not Drowning, Waving and My Friend The Chocolate Cake – he’s also recognized for a record of activism, in promoting both indigenous music and human rights. (His 2000 solo album, An Act of Free Choice, took a strong stand against Australia’s asylum policies.) Long interested in Melanesian music, Bridie traces the songlines from Papua New Guinea (one of RAN’s best bits is ‘Mambu’, written for PNG bamboo flute) to Australia, and the album fits together in a harmonious whole. The segues are beguiling: from the gentle ‘lama’ choral of ‘Kapu Ya Ujaremo’ to the feelgood quality of ‘Follow the Sun’, sung by Torres Strait legend Seaman Dan.

Louise Gray

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