Live from the Rainforests of Tarra Bulga National Park in Victoria, Australia. Listen to my 3 streamed guitar concerts, in 3 different locations, premiering my suite based upon my interpretation of this Dreamtime story of the GunaiKurnai Nation.
Tiddalik the Frog and Woorayil the Lyrebird Musical Suite
- Concert part 1: The Balance of Nature.
- Concert part 2: The Corroboree and the Punishments of the Bush Spirits.
- Concert part 3: The Creation of Waratah Bay.
This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.
A Dreamtime Story of the GunaiKurnai Nation: Tiddalik the Frog and Woorayil the Lyrebird, Musical Suite
This story was told to me by Wayne Thorpe, an elder of the Aboriginal GunaiKurnai people. I now share it with you, I tell the story and have composed music to portray the feeling of the bush and its spirits. The story teaches us to listen to the birds, trees and animals of the bush and to learn how to form part of this natural balance without destroying it. It teaches us to learn from the wisdom of its ancient inhabitants that would still be here today living in the same manner as they had for over 30 thousand years, if it had not been for imposing on them, our contemporary need of wealth and gain. It teaches us to be one within nature.
The Way it was Before, the Balance of Nature
The Gunai creation era has been termed “a Time of Creation. A time when everything of the natural lore was in first recorded, an ideal harmonious order, a balance within nature’s lore; there were no animals at war or eating each other, they were all friendly.
The following story happened in the streams of the mountainous hills of the South West country of the Gunai country (this area is known today as Tarra Bulga in South Gippsland). In these mountains the lyrebird can be heard singing as he celebrates the gift of language. And before the hot dry season the burrowing frogs fill up with water and burrow into the mulch of these mountains, along with a great quantity of other small animals and insects that eat and live amongst the mulch.
The Lyrebird Taught Tiddalik How to Sing
Every morning the Lyrebird would walk to the waterhole. He would sing to all the spirits and all creatures of the bush and listen to their words. Woorayil the lyrebird sees Tiddalik at the waterhole and sings to him. Tiddalik says to Woorayil, “I love your voice, can you teach me how to sing”. The Lyrebird agrees and teaches him the language of music. They sing all evening until dusk, until they fall asleep.
The Gentle Spirits
The next morning the Lyrebird walked to the waterhole, and sang to all the spirits, and all creatures of the bush and listened to their words. The Lyrebird sees her student at the waterhole and teaches her how to sing the gentle spirits and bring them to joy, to heal.
Tiddalik Tricks Woorayil
For a few months the Little Frog practiced singing, and then one morning Tiddalik used his voice in a variety of ways, making strange sounds and then he threw his voice like a ventriloquist. Tiddalik then decides to trick the Lyrebird. He waits for Woorayil to come to the waterhole and sings as if he was his brother. This made Woorayil feel happy, but he then realised that it was the Little Frog imitating his brother. He said to himself, “the Little Frog has learned to throw his voice”. He was happy and decided to call a great gathering to share Tiddalik´s gift of language. He cried out “Let’s have a big corroboree so you can sing for every one”
Tiddalik had spent many months practicing the language of music and had become an extraordinary singer, therefore the Lyrebird decided to call all the Totem people to a Corroboree to celebrate the beautiful singing of the Little Frog.
The Kangaroo sees the Little Frog and asks the Lyrebird, “Did you really call this gathering for us to look at this little frog? “No,” the Lyrebird said”, I called you here to listen.”
Tiddalik Gets Cheeky
All the animals compliment the Little Frog for his beautiful voice, but the Little Frog gets a big head and hops around and starts feeling cheeky. The little frog decides to trick everyone, and uses his voice as a ventriloquist, he starts throwing insults towards the dancing partners.
The Kookaburra screams, the Kangaroo smells….
The Wombat says the Koala dances like a snake….
The snake calls the kookaburra a liar…
The Totem people start blaming each other for the insults, and they start a fight.
This fighting caused everything to change; the winds changed direction, the trees leaned and the sands shifted.
The Lyrebird tried to calm everyone down by saying: “Stop fighting…we are here to dance and celebrate life, don’t fight each other”.
The Ancestor Spirits
As a result of hearing the fighting noises, the Ancestor Spirits came to talk to them, and all the animals in the fighting storm stopped. And as they all looked around, they began to comfort each other, because they felt ashamed for blaming their friends. The Ancestor Spirits decided to punish the Totems for their fighting, and gave each of them a different voice, a language to resemble the fighting sounds they had just made.
They gave the Kookaburra the language of laughing calls.
They gave the Wombat the language of grunts.
From now on the Koala would only be able to scream.
Kangaroo would make the sound of tih tih tih.
The Little Frog lost his beautiful voice, they gave him a rough sounding one. The Little Frog couldn’t believe that his voice had changed, and he kept trying to sing, and after a while his throat became sore and dry. He started to drink some water and it felt good for a while, but this didn’t satisfy him and so he kept on drinking. The ancestor spirits are sad, the lore has been broken, they hope wisdom will prevail and the balance of nature can be once more.
Tiddalik was given a hoarse voice, and from trying to sing he became thirsty and started drinking and drinking and drinking, and eventually drank all the water of all the rivers, until there was only black mud. Sadly all the rivers and creeks that once flowed into Waratah Bay were now reduced to black mud.
All the totem people were extremely thirsty. Tiddalik had grown into an enormous frog full of all of the water. They were desperate and some totem people decided to cut him open to let out the water. “Stop” the wise elders said “Don’t kill him, try to make him laugh and he will release the water.”
Make him Laugh
And so they tried. It didn’t work.
But then Tiddalik saw the Eel wiggle its way through the black mud.
He felt the balance of flow and beauty and this made him smile, then laugh and laugh. He was once again happy and water began to trickle from the sides of his mouth. He laughed and laughed and the water followed the Eel in its path through the mud and flooded the rivers. The balance was finally restored.
The water flowed down the river and turned as the old watercourse was now blocked, and the water flowed across the low land, creating the Snake Islands.
Wayne Thorpe Aboriginal GunaiKurnai Custodian Storyteller
What do you feel when you enter the Tarra Bulga Bush?
“I feel the ancientness of my ancestors, the freshness of the air, all the vegetation, the tall trees, I am in wonder of them, the views that you get from being up high. And I notice the birds and animals of the area. I feel that freshness and that coolness.”
What do you listen to when you enter the Tarra Bulga Bush?
“I always listen to the sounds of nature, I listen to the trees, the birds and animals, I listen to the streams of water and most of all I listen for Woorayil the lyre bird and Tiddalik the frog.”
The Aboriginal GunaiKurnai Culture teaches us:
“It’s always good to value the bush. People that have come here and made residence or have made farm or businesses, have not valued the bush, unless it is a natural resource that they use, so they need to value the bush, the life of mother earth, and embrace nature, as a living spiritual being, one that provides the freshest air, the clear water and, we all can protect our mother earth.
So these are the sort of messages I believe people need to be aware of , and that was the reminder for us, in the traditional society, though our aboriginal dreamtime stories and our culture, songs stories and dance, to respect nature, mother earth, that provides for us.”
The Grampians, VIC, Australia
Wednesday, October 28 at 7 a.m
This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.