Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - JONATHON MO­RAN The Great Aus­tralian Song­book Dou­ble CD is out now

The best tunes you’ll ever hear.

GATH­ER­ING ma­te­rial from Aus­tralia’s most- loved artists was no easy task for New Zealan­der Murray Thom.

In fact, it took the mu­sic en­thu­si­ast two years to cre­ate The Great Aus­tralian Song­book, a pack­age that in­cludes a dou­ble CD and col­lec­tors’ book of pre­cious mem­o­ra­bilia from artists in­clud­ing Cold Chisel, Ice­house, Mid­night Oil, Delta Goodrem, Jet and Em­pire of the Sun.

‘‘ We never set a re­lease date when we started,’’ Thom says.

‘‘ It was al­ways go­ing to be fin­ished when ev­ery­one came on board. Artists don’t re­spond to dead­lines, so we ba­si­cally had to wait.’’

Rolf Har­ris was the first artist to come on board, paint­ing the art­work that is now the pack­age cover.

From there, Thom and his team ap­proached the 39 other artists – split into two to en­com­pass mu­si­cians from this cen­tury and the last.

The pack­age feels al­most like a school project, with artists sub­mit­ting pieces.

From a hand- writ­ten let­ter from Olivia Newton- John to Steven Kil­bey’s art­work for his clas­sic Un­der The Milky Way and Nick Cave’s scrib­bled lyrics pieced to­gether with pa­per art for Where The Wild Roses Grow, it’s a rich ex­pe­ri­ence to work your way through the book while lis­ten­ing to the ac­com­pa­ny­ing mu­sic.

The art adds a new di­men­sion to the ex­pe­ri­ence, Thom says.

‘‘ It’s ba­si­cally a cel­e­bra­tion of art and mu­sic,’’ he says.

A par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful piece comes from ARIA Award- win­ning in­dige­nous per­former Geoffrey Gur­ru­mul Yunupingu, who supplied his song, Djarimirri, with the lyrics writ­ten in Braille in his Abo­rig­i­nal lan­guage of Yol­ngu over a pic­ture of his mother.

‘‘ It’s a tac­tile ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ Thom says.

‘‘ Artists want to ex­press the song and the craft of song­writ­ing and this gave them an­other abil­ity to do that.’’

Other artists fea­tured in­clude Kylie Minogue, John Farn­ham, Pete Murray, Missy Higgins and Sarah Blasko. Go­tye also man­aged to get his hit, Some­body That I Used To Know, on to the se­lec­tion.

Like any com­pi­la­tion, the artists earn roy­al­ties from sales of the pack.

For those not want­ing to fork out the $ 89.95 for the col­lec­tors’ pack, a dou­ble CD is also on sale for about $ 30.

Some ini­tially found the con­cept of a New Zealand com­pany cre­at­ing The Great Aus­tralian Song­book a lit­tle odd. But af­ter meet­ing Thom and his team, it quickly be­came ob­vi­ous this con­cept could be ap­plied to any coun­try in the world.

The Great New Zealand Song­book – fea­tur­ing works from artists Dave Dob­byn, Split Enz, Ever­more – quickly be­came a best­seller af­ter be­ing re­leased three years ago and has spawned an­other edi­tion.

Thom is now in dis­cus­sions for sim­i­lar for­mats in the US and the UK and be­lieves it could be rolled out in­ter­na­tion­ally.

With that in mind, Thom is look­ing at a raft of other op­por­tu­ni­ties. These in­clude a national Great Aus­tralian Song­book ex­hi­bi­tion, show­cas­ing the orig­i­nal art­works and mem­o­ra­bilia in­cluded in the book. A live tour is also pos­si­ble, along with TV doc­u­men­taries based on the project.

‘‘ There’s a lot we can do around Aus­tralia Day next year,’’ Thom says.

‘‘ We would love to do an ex­hi­bi­tion where you’ve got the spreads in all their glory and peo­ple can take their time en­joy­ing them.’’

And like New Zealand, there could be fur­ther edi­tions of The Great Aus­tralian Song­book. ‘‘ Is this all the Aus­tralian mu­sic? No way. We think there will be de­mand for a fol­low- up,’’ he says.

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