TRACK 20 (Moy62-26-s24) Song 9: Lerri
Song structure summary
Item 3 (Moy62-26-s24)
VOCAL SECTIONS 1-3
Rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled)
Melodic section 1
Text phrases 1-2
aa nyele nye nye nye nyele nye nye
karra kani yelendaga dagane dagane
INSTRUMENTAL SECTIONS 1-3
Rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled)
Musical analysis of Muluk’s repertory
Because this repertory was not analysed in Songs, dreamings and ghosts, and because of Muluk’s great variety of musical variation, here we provide considerable additional detail on his musical style. This section of the chapter provides an overview of Muluk’s use of song structure, textual variation, rhythmic mode and melodic mode across his repertory, as well as additional musical detail on some of the tracks.
Song structure overview
All Jimmy Muluk’s songs comprise an introductory instrumental section and a number of vocal sections, each of which is usually followed by an instrumental section. Because the recording made by Alice Moyle in 1968 was of a tourist corroboree involving long dramatic dances, this corpus contains a number of very long songs. ‘Wörörö’ (track 8), for example, has nine vocal sections and Muluk’s version of ‘Puliki’ (track 1) has seven. Another feature of Muluk’s style, which we will deal with in more detail shortly, is the presentation of several items of a song using contrasting text structures and rhythmic modes.
Text structure overview
Structurally, the texts of Jimmy Muluk’s songs may be classified into three broad groups: texts repeated exactly from vocal section to vocal section and from item to item of the same song (Group 1); texts repeated almost identically but incorporating small changes that subtly affect the meaning (Group 2); and texts whose forms change from vocal section to vocal section and even within a single vocal section (Group 3). We mentioned in chapter 2 that songs sung regularly in ceremony tend to have more stable texts, allowing clear unisonal singing and providing a clearer, less ambiguous focus than texts that are highly variable. In the case of Muluk’s songs, however, text instability does not seem to have the same implications. His songs were regularly sung in ceremony as well as on more informal occasions. It is perhaps his ability to balance regularity in other aspects of form—rhythmic mode and melody in particular—that allows him a degree of freedom with regard to the stability of his texts. It is normally the case that when one element of form is varied others remain stable.
Group 1: stable texts. The three Jimmy Muluk songs in this category are: ‘Tjinbarambara’ (track 5), ‘Lerri’ (tracks 19 and 20) and Wörörö’ (track 8). ‘Tjinbarambara’ takes the form of a couplet that is repeated in each vocal section of all recorded performances. ‘Lerri’ contains only vocable text, which is repeated exactly across all three items (irrespective of its rhythmic setting) and in all vocal sections. While we have only one example of ‘Worörö’ (track 8), and cannot therefore test the stability of this text over a large number of items, the text does remain entirely stable for each of the nine vocal sections of this long single performance. ‘Worörö’ also reveals an important aspect of Muluk’s poetics, namely his love of subtle shifts of meaning brought about by minute adjustments to the text. The first four text phrases of each of the nine vocal sections take the form of a pair of couplets, ABAB1, where B1 is an altered version of B produced by the addition of a final particle nö, which in turn produces a subtle shift of meaning.
A This was from me
B Let me always walk on top of the mangrove for you
A This was from me
B1I will always walk on top of the mangrove for you
Group 2. Let us turn now to the three texts that exhibit subtle changes from vocal section to vocal section: ‘Puliki’ (Buffalo) (track 1), ‘Wak’ (Crow) (track 7), ‘and ‘Pumandjin’ (track 9). Muluk’s performance of the text of ‘Puliki’ is completely stable for the first six vocal sections, but truncated in the final vocal section, where he omits the final two text phrases (text phrases 4 and 5) (see further information below under rhythmic mode).
‘Wak’ is a somewhat more complex than ‘Puliki’ and exhibits the same love of subtle shifts of meaning brought about by small adjustments of the text as we found in ‘Worörö’. Except for the first vocal section, which presents a looser, introductory version of the text, all vocal sections consist of one or both of the following two closely related text phrases:
Ah, it was because of Crow, who is always climbing (kalkal) on top of our stuff there.
Ah, it was because of Crow, who is always walking (putput) on top of our stuff there.
In the case of ‘Pumandjin’, each vocal section is made up of some or all of two text phrases, the first of which is sung on the vocable e and the second of which consists of variable text in Mendhe. While the form of the vocable text phrase is entirely stable, its placement is not: in vocal sections 1-3 it is the first text phrase, while in vocal section 4 it is the last. The fullest form of the text in Mendhe occurs in vocal section 2, thus:
karra kama-ngana-yi ‘It [the song] came from she [Numbali] who is standing’
kana-nga-mu-viye karru ‘dancing [making a deliberate movement of hands above her head]’
viye pumandjin yakerre ‘on top of Pumandjin, yakerre’
All vocal sections except vocal section 2 use only two of these three text phrases: thus, vocal section 1 uses the last two and vocal sections 3 and 4 use the first two. All four vocal sections thus contain the second text phrase.
Group 3 consists of two songs which have much more variable text: ‘Rtadi-thawara’ (tracks 15-17) and ‘Piyamen.ga’ (tracks 10-12). Muluk sings five items of each song, with between two and five vocal sections in each. Both songs contain an evolving and complex mix of text in Mendhe and text in ghost language. A detailed analysis of precisely how Muluk develops the texts of these two songs is beyond the scope of the present discussion, though a fuller account is planned.
Rhythmic mode overview
Jimmy Muluk’s use of rhythmic mode is the most complex encountered among the wangga repertories under consideration (see table 5.2).
|Tempo band of vocal section||#||Song title||Rhythmic mode of VS||Rhythmic mode of IIS||Rhythmic mode of FIS|
|Without clapsticks||3||‘Wak’ (track 7)||1||2, 4a, 2, 4a, 4a, 4a||4e|
|4||‘Wörörö’ (track 8)||1||2, 2, 4a, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2||4e|
|5||‘Pumandjin’ (track 9)||1||4a||4a|
|Slow (50-54 bpm)||1||‘Puliki’ (tracks 1-4)||2a+2b, 2b
(Muluk)2a (VS1-9), 5a (VS10-17) (Mandji)2a, 4b, 4b (boys)2a, 2a, 5a, 5a (Worumbu)
|2, 4a, 2, Ø, 2, Ø Ø (1-9), 5a (10-16)Ø, 4b2a, Ø, 5a||
|7||‘Lame Fella’ (item 1) (track 13)||2b, 2a+2b (x3)||4a, 4a, 4*||4e|
|8||‘Rtadi-thawara’ (item 1) (track 15)||2b, 2a+2b, 2a||4a, 4a||4e|
|9||‘Lerri’ (item 1) (track 19, item 1)||2b+2a, 2a, 2a+2b, 2a+2b||4a, 4*, 4*||4e|
|Moderate (110-13 bpm)||9||‘Lerri’ (item 2) (track 19, item 2)||4a||4a||4a|
|6||‘Piyamen.ga’ (5 items) (tracks 10-12)||4a + 4a, 4a (var), 4a (var)4a, 4a(var) + 4a, 4a (var)4a+4a+4a, 4a (var), 4a (var) + 4a, 4a (var)4a + 4a, 4a (var) + 4a4a, 4a (var) + 4a||4a||4a|
|Fast (126–140 bpm)||7||‘Lame Fella’ (item 2) (track 14)||5a||5a||5a|
|2||‘Tjinbarambara’ (tracks 5-6)||5c||5c||5a|
|8||‘Rtadi-thawara’ (items 2 and 3) (tracks 16, 18)||5c||5c||5c|
|Fast doubled (244-280/122-140 bpm)||8||‘Rtadi-thawara’ (items 4 and 5) (track 17)||5b||5b||5b|
|9||‘Lerri’ (item 3) (track 20)||5b||5b||5b|
Table 5.2 Rhythmic modes used in Jimmy Muluk’s repertory (track references are to chapter 5) (Final IS is bold when different). VS = vocal section, IIS = internal instrumental section, FIS = final instrumental section. Commas indicate successive vocal or instrumental sections in sequence through the song, where these are different. Plus signs indicate sequences of rhythmic modes occurring within a section. Names of performers in brackets.
The following comments regard only performances by Muluk himself and not those of other singers of his songs, such as Billy Mandji or Colin Worumbu Ferguson.
Presenting the same text in different rhythmic modes in successive items
Table 5.2 shows that for three songs Muluk presents a number of successive items in different rhythmic modes: ‘Lame Fella’ is sung first with slow even beating (rhythmic mode 2) (track 13) and then with fast even beating (rhythmic mode 5a) (track 14); ‘Lerri’ is sung first with slow even beating (rhythmic mode 2), then with moderate even beating (rhythmic mode 4a) (items 1 and 2, track 19), and finally with fast doubled beating (rhythmic mode 5b (track 20); ‘Rtadi-thawara’ is sung first in rhythmic modes 2a (slow even beating) and 2b (suspended slow even beating) (track 15), then items 2 and 3 are in rhythmic mode 5c (fast uneven quadruple) (track 16), and items 4 and 5 are in rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled) (track 17). 
Distribution of rhythmic mode between vocal sections and instrumental sections
As can be seen from Table 5.2 above, songs in the moderate, fast and fast doubled tempo bands tend to use the same tempo across the whole song.  Other wangga singers also tend to maintain the same rhythmic mode in both vocal and instrumental section for these tempo bands. In songs with vocal sections in the slow and unaccompanied rhythmic modes (1 and 2), however, Muluk’s practice is particularly rich in the variety of rhythmic modal combinations between vocal sections and instrumental sections. As table 5.2 shows, in these cases it is the instrumental sections that exhibit the greatest variety of rhythmic mode.
In rhythmic mode 1, while ‘Pumandjin’ uses only rhythmic mode 4a (moderate even) in all instrumental sections, individual instrumental sections in the two other songs (’Wak’ and ‘Wörörö’) are presented in two different tempo bands and three different rhythmic modes: rhythmic modes 2a (slow even), 4a (moderate even) and 4e (moderate doubled, used for the final instrumental section in each case). This means that the dancers would normally utilise three different styles of dancing in the course of the song (one for the unmeasured vocal sections, and two different forms of rhythmic movement for the slow and moderate tempo sections). 
The situation can be equally complex with songs whose vocal sections are in the slow even rhythmic mode 2. For example, in instrumental sections of ‘Puliki’ we find the same three different rhythmic modes (2, 4a and 4e) as in ‘Wak’ and ‘Wörörö’, and a number of vocal sections even proceed one to another without any instrumental section (these are marked Ø in the table).‘Lame Fella’ and ‘Lerri’ (item 1) also use several different forms of the moderate rhythmic modes for their instrumental sections: rhythmic modes 4a (moderate even), 4* (a combination mixing rhythmic modes 4e and 4a which will be discussed in more detail below), and 4e (moderate doubled), used for the final instrumental section.
Mixing of rhythmic modes within a vocal section
Another type of rhythmic modal complexity typical of Muluk songs is the presentation of different text phrases within a single vocal section in different rhythmic modes. In both slow and moderate tempo bands this occurs by suspending the clapstick beating for a portion of the vocal section. Note that in the absence of clapstic beating the same tempo is maintained by the didjeridu pulse.
Muluk’s repertory exhibits numerous cases where slow beating is suspended in the clapsticks while the regular pulse is maintained in the didjeridu (rhythmic mode 2b), Examples of performances by Muluk that mix normal slow even beating (rhythmic mode 2a) with the suspended form are: ‘Puliki’, (track 1), ‘Lame Fella’ (item 1, track 13), ’Rtadi-thawara’ (item 1, track 15) and ‘Lerri’ (item 1, track 19). In all these cases the didjeridu clearly articulates a regular pulse that marks the text at precisely the same point as the clapsticks do when these are present.  In some cases you can also hear handclapping reinforcing the slow even metre, even when the clapsticks are absent. Table 5.2 shows that Muluk always exerted the option of occasionally suspending beating in rhythmic mode 2.
Muluk also uses suspended moderate beating in parts of vocal sections otherwise using rhythmic mode 4a (this occurs in all five items of ‘Piyamen.ga’, tracks 10-12). We have applied the label ‘rhythmic mode 4a (var)’ to such instances. In all vocal sections except the first of each item, Muluk suspends the stick beating at the beginning of text phrase 1, then gradually introduces quiet stick beating in the course of the vocal section, increasing the volume after the last syllable of the final text phrase.  This seems analogous to the suspension of beating in rhythmic mode 2 just discussed. 
Mixing of rhythmic modes within an instrumental section
Another distinctive feature of Muluk’s style is the mixing of rhythmic modes within a single instrumental section.  This occurs in two songs, ‘Lame Fella’ (item 1) (track 13) and ‘Lerri’ (item 1) (track 19) where in certain instrumental sections a sequence of moderate doubled clapstick beats (rhythmic mode 4e) is followed by a sequence of moderate even clapstick beats (rhythmic mode 4a), which in turn is followed by two iterations of a characteristic cueing pattern (see below). This combination of two rhythmic modes is classified as rhythmic mode 4* in table 5.2 and in the song structure summaries above. 
Cueing patterns in instrumental sections
Some instrumental sections in the moderate tempo band contain a cueing pattern typical of Jimmy Muluk’s style, and significant for the history of wangga. This is the pattern ryqryqqQ, which in Songs, dreamings and ghosts was labelled the ‘Walakandha wangga cueing pattern’. In the Walakandha wangga this pattern signals the end of almost every instrumental section, which led Marett to regard it as distinctive of the Walakandha wangga (as indeed it is). The frequent use of the pattern in Muluk’s historically earlier repertory shows that it is likely to have been adapted from here for use in the early Walakandha wangga by Stan Mullumbuk (Marett, 2007, p 71). As mentioned in chapter 1, we know that before the composition of the Walakandha wangga, Jimmy Muluk was one of the singers who used to visit Wadeye for ceremony.
Nonetheless, the way Muluk uses the cueing pattern differs from its use in the Walakandha wangga. While in the Walakandha repertory it is used for all fast instrumental sections irrespective of their position in the song, Muluk marks the end of final instrumental sections in 4a with the different pattern qqqQ q (in all other cases—that is, for all internal instrumental sections in the moderate rhythmic modes 4a and 4*, and for final instrumental sections in 4e—he uses the standard cueing pattern). These uses of the cueing pattern are noted in the song structure summaries above.
Melodic mode overview
Muluk’s songs are relatively homogenous with regard to their melodic modal qualities, like Barrtjap’s repertory (chapter 4). Six of Muluk’s nine songs—’Puliki’, Tjinbarambara’, ‘Wak’, ‘Piyamen.ga’, ‘Lame Fella’, and ‘Rtadi-thawara’—are in a major mode and all are either an octave or a ninth in range, with two of them, ‘Tjinbarambara’ and ‘Wak’, sharing the same melody. A further two songs—’Wörörö’ and ‘Lerri’—use a mixolydian series, and one—‘Pumandjin’—has a particularly florid melody that includes a number of chromatic notes and a degree of melodic instability.  The significance of melodic modal differences is, like the opaque qualities of the text, difficult to interpret at this distance in time, though the fact that major modality is used in two-thirds of the songs suggests that these songs belong to the the corpus of a single composer or lineage.
Further notes on selected tracks
Here we provide some additional analytical notes on musical features of seven songs (‘Puliki’, ‘Wak’, ‘Wörörö’, ‘Piyamen.ga’, ‘Lame fella’, ‘Rtadi-thawara’ and ‘Lerri’).
Song 1 ‘Puliki’
Here we provide additional detail on the musical differences between Muluk’s performance (track 1) and the three other performances of this song (tracks 2-4).
‘Puliki’ as performed by Muluk (track 1)
All text phrases in Muluk’s 1968 performance of ‘Puliki’ are in the slow tempo band. Melodic section 1, which comprises text phrases 1-3, is entirely in ‘ghost language’ and in vocal sections 1-6 is accompanied by slow even beating (rhythmic mode 2a), ending with the clapstick beating pattern ryq followed by a period of undifferentiated solo didjeridu drone  before the next melodic section. Melodic section 2 comprises text phrase 4, which is in Mendhe, and text phrase 5, which is in ghost language. This melodic section is accompanied throughout by rhythmic mode 2b (slow with clapsticks suspended, though sometimes handclapping accompaniment can be heard).
Table 5.3 shows that the pattern is varied in the last vocal section (7), where Muluk instead performs melodic section 1 (text phrases 1-3) with suspended slow beating (rhythmic mode 2b) (instead of the previous slow even rhythmic mode 2a), and omits the second melodic section (text phrases 4-5), before performing the final instrumental section in rhythmic mode 4e (moderate doubled). Here Muluk uses a change of expected rhythmic mode to mark the final vocal section and instrumental section, and, within the vocal sections, to differentiate the two melodic sections (which are also differentiated by use of ghost language vs Mendhe). A similar correlation can be noted with regard to ‘Piyamen.ga’ (tracks 10-12).
Table 5.3 shows that the rhythmic modal structure of the instrumental sections is also complex. In three cases (vocal sections 1, 3 and 5) the rhythmic mode of the instrumental sections is the same as that of the following vocal section, namely rhythmic mode 2a. Vocal section 2, instead, is followed by an instrumental section in rhythmic mode 4a (moderate even). Two vocal sections (4 and 6) proceed directly to the next vocal section without an instrumental section, being separated only by the solo didjeridu drone that follows each melodic section. The final vocal section (7) is followed by an instrumental section in rhythmic mode 4e (moderate doubled beating).
Table 5.3 Rhythmic modes in Jimmy Muluk’s performance of ‘Puliki’ (track 1). VS = vocal section, MS = melodic section, IS = instrumental section.
‘Puliki’ as performed by Mandji (track 2)
This is a very long performance, with 17 vocal sections. Only vocal sections 2, 4 and 8 include Muluk’s second melodic section (text phrases 4 and 5); the remaining 14 vocal sections comprise a single melodic section (text phrases 1-3). Unlike Muluk’s performance in track 1, Mandji’s never suspends the clapstick beating (rhythmic mode 2b). In the first nine vocal sections (including those with two melodic sections) he performs every melodic section in the same way, with slow even stick beating (rhythmic mode 2a) ending with the ryq clapstick pattern followed by a period of didjeridu solo, with no following instrumental section. For the final eight vocal sections (10-17), Mandji changes the rhythmic mode to employ fast even stick beating (rhythmic mode 5a) for both vocal and instrumental sections.
‘Puliki’ as performed by the boys (track 3)
They performed two melodic sections with slow stick beating (rhythmic mode 2a), in the characteristic form for this song, with the usual ryq on the sticks followed by solo didjeridu, with no instrumental section. There was some evident uncertainty about the text of the second melodic section, which one or two of the boys began to sing with text phrases 4, while the remainder began with text phrase 1 (to form a new vocal section). Once the disagreement became apparent, they all quickly reverted to a truncated form of text phrases 2-3. The remaining two vocal sections (both in the single melodic section form) were accompanied by moderate uneven quadruple stick beating (rhythmic mode 4b), a rhythmic mode never used by Muluk in any recordings of this song that survive.
‘Puliki’ as performed by Worumbu (track 4)
Here he structures the item in a similar way to that adopted by Billy Mandji, contrasting the slow even beating (rhythmic mode 2a) of the first vocal sections with fast even beating (rhythmic mode 5a) in the last vocal section. Also like Mandji is the use of both the single and double melodic section forms of the slow text. This performance can be viewed as a compressed version of what Billy Mandji sang in track 2. 
‘Wak’ (track 7)
Note that, as in ‘Puliki,’ Muluk uses a variety of rhythmic modes for the instrumental sections. Like ‘Puliki,’ the final instrumental section uses the doubled stick pattern to signal the end of the item.
‘Wörörö’ (track 8)
As in ‘Wak,’ each vocal section is sung in rhythmic mode 1 and is followed by an instrumental section, which in all but two cases use slow even beating (rhythmic mode 2a); after vocal section 3 we have an instrumental section that uses moderate even beating (rhythmic mode 4a); and the final instrumental section uses moderate doubled beating (rhythmic mode 4e).
‘Piyamen.ga’ (tracks 10-12)
Examples of text recombination are: item 1, which is made up entirely of repetitions of Text A; item 2, vocal section 3 where Muluk performs Text B twice in full; item 3, vocal section 3, melodic section 2 (track 12) where Text C is introduced in full for the first time.
In ‘Piyamen.ga,’ Muluk uses only one rhythmic mode, rhythmic mode 4a, but he presents it in two forms: normal moderate even beating, and in the variant form unique to him, which we label ‘rhythmic mode 4a (var)’. In this special form Muluk suspends the beating, or beats very quietly, for the first two text phrases of the melodic section, then increases the volume in the course of the last text phrase (text phrase 3).
Table 5.4 Rhythmic mode use within vocal sections of all five items of ‘Piyamen.ga’. Bold marks text entirely in Menhdhe.
We can see in table 5.4 that Muluk uses the normal form of rhythmic mode 4a for the first vocal section of each item. For subsequent vocal sections, he always performs the first melodic section in the variant form (rhythmic mode 4a (var)), and any subsequent melodic sections in the normal form. The six melodic sections that are entirely in Mendhe text (marked in bold in table 5.4) each appear as the final melodic section in a vocal section, and are therefore always accompanied by the normal form of moderate even beating.  As in ‘Puliki’ (track 1), we can see a relationship between item structure (whether a vocal section is initial or non-initial in the item), text language (whether it is in ghost language or Mendhe) and rhythmic mode (whether it is the normal or variant form of rhythmic mode 4a).
‘Lame fella’ (tracks 13-14)
In the slow version (track 13) Muluk performs the vocal sections in rhythmic mode 2a, that is with slow even beating, with the beating sometimes suspended (rhythmic mode 2b), and each vocal section comprises text in both ghost language and Mendhe. In the fast version (track 14) the vocal sections are performed with fast even (merrguda) clapstick beating throughout (rhythmic mode 5a), and vocal sections using ghost language alternate with vocal sections in Mendhe.
The instrumental sections of the slow version of ‘Lame fella’ are particularly interesting. Instrumental sections 1 and 2 are rhythmic mode 4a (moderate even beating) with ‘Walakandha wangga cueing patterns’. In instrumental section 3, a sequence of moderate doubled beating (rhythmic mode 4e) is followed by a sequence of moderate even beating (rhythmic mode 4a), which concludes with the ‘Walakandha wangga’ cueing pattern ryqryqqQ (see further discussion of this cueing pattern above). The final instrumental section uses moderate doubled beating (rhythmic mode 4e).
‘Rtadi-thawara’ (tracks 15-17)
Item 1 (track 15) presents the text in rhythmic modes 2a (slow even beating), with the beating suspended for some text phrases (rhythmic mode 2b). In items 2 and 3 (track 16), which are dovetailed, the text is presented in the fast uneven quadruple mode (rhythmic mode 5c). In items 4 and 5, which are also dovetailed, the text is presented in the fast doubled rhythmic mode (rhythmic mode 5b).
‘Lerri’ (tracks 19-20)
Items 1 and 2 are dovetailed in track 19. Item 1 uses slow beating in rhythmic modes 2a and 2b for the vocal sections, while item 2 is sung with moderate even beating (rhythmic mode 4a) and item 3 (track 20) is sung to fast doubled beating (rhythmic mode 5b). A variety of moderate beating patterns are used for the instrumental sections of items 1 and 2. Item 3 is sung throughout in rhythmic mode 5b (fast doubled beating).
Other possible photos for Jimmy Muluk
We have very few photos of Jimmy Muluk – perhaps there may be something amongst the Alice Moyle collection at AIATSIS.
Jimmy Muluk performing with a local band at Mica Beach. (Photo Northern Territory Library, Mike Foley Collection)
We need to apply for formal permission to NTL to use these images and we may also be able to get higher resolution copies for publication.
More tourist corroboree photos by Allan Laurence. I have written to him to request permission to publish them.
This picture from a tourist corroboree, Mica Beach, early 1970s, may show the dance for ‘Lame Fella’. (photo by Allan Laurence)
A woman dancer at the tourist corroboree, Mica Beach, early 1970s. (photo by Allan Laurence)
Unknown dance at the tourist corroboree, Mica Beach, early 1970s. (Photo by Allan Laurence)
The ‘Buffalo’ chases a dancer up a tree at the tourist corroboree, Mica Beach, early 1970s. (Photo by Allan Laurence)