A Harvester Rag

A screen from our Sunshine multimedia interactive.

Throughout Landmarks, multimedia plays a role which allows a deeper exploration of places, people and objects. Curator Leah Bartsch tells us about an interactive that she has been developing for our Sunshine exhibit.   

The exhibit about Sunshine in Victoria includes an interactive that looks at the Sunshine Harvester Works, the people who worked there and, of course, the machine that built the factory’s success, the Sunshine harvester. I’ve been working with Georgia Miles from our multimedia team, with lots of greatly appreciated assistance from curator Jen Wilson, and our external multimedia producers, Roar, to bring a horse-drawn Sunshine stripper-harvester to life through an animation which will be included in the Sunshine interactive. 

The Sunshine stripper-harvester (Photo: Lannon Harley)

Stills from the harvester animation by Roar.

With the visual elements of the animation almost complete, we then had the task of choosing music to play with the animation. With so many music styles to choose from, it proved to be a more complex process than I thought. There were a number of factors to consider when selecting the music to play with the harvester animation… would the music work with an overlay of horse and harvester sounds… how would the music fit the pace of the animation and the movement of the harvester… what time period are we trying to capture in the animation, and what type of music would people in Australia be listening to at this time… what type of musical instruments would suit the animation… 

This led me on a journey into early 20th century Australian music and cinema. Our harvester was manufactured in 1911, and, as I mentioned earlier, was horsedrawn. Considering this, it seemed appropriate to capture the silent film period of the 1910s and 1920s, when sound effects and music were provided by live musicians. 

As I watched examples of cartoons and short films from the 1910s and 1920s, I was reminded of a 1977 film called The Picture Show Man, which follows a travelling picture show troupe through country Australia. 

Without the opportunity of having a live pianist create a piece of music which would echo the action of the animation, we chose a prerecorded piece which embraced the feel of the animation. As well as being light hearted and happy, the rhythm of the song also needed to follow the rhythm of the harvester and the pace of action in the animation. 

After listening to many music tracks, we chose a track that had a cheerful, upbeat ragtime feel. Here are some of the songs I found: 

Limehouse Rag
Fig Leaf Rag
Hammock fight
Olde Timey
Four Square Rag 

I won’t tell you which one we chose, you’ll have to come and watch the animation to find out! 

Leah checks out the newly-installed interactive in the gallery. (Photo: Rathicca Chandra)

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