An all time favourite music video, The Lighthouse Song by Josh Pyke works beautifully as related material for Favel Parrett’s haunting novel Past the Shallows. Reading Australia has an excellent teaching resource which, though not NSW specific, offers a range of strategies for students to develop an understanding of how meaning is made.
This novel is a set text for the Common Module: Texts and Human Experience in the NSW Stage 6 syllabus. Unlike the previous Area of Study, students must analyse related material of their own choice but will not be examined on these chosen texts in the HSC exam. I have used The Lighthouse Song as an analytical model (one of many texts types discussed in class) for exploring related material – students will need to demonstrate their understanding of one related text in their multimodal presentation assessment task.
The lyrics for The Lighthouse Song reveal a first person perspective using colloquial language and delivered in an Australian accent. This style attracts a young adult and adult audience and highlights the very human urge to protect another person by isolating themselves from society. The opening sequence shows Josh walking into a room that is practically furnished.
This illustrates the functional living quarters of George in Past the Shallows and reminds us that life can be successfully negotiated within a humble, isolated forest landscape. The necessities of life are referenced in the first verse as the persona expresses his urge to wander ‘Through people’s houses, picking food from plates’ – a simple idea effectively represented via anaphora and alliteration.
Home, as a concept, is illustrated in various ways and reminds us of the differing experiences we may recognise from childhood, adolescence and adulthood. The lighthouse symbolises stability and an opportunity to recover or heal by escaping the metaphorical ‘fuckers’ from the chorus. The solo guitar and simple melody, later supported by light drumming, reinforce the personal nature of the lyrics and hope for future possibilities. This is affirmed in the extra line of the final chorus – ‘Our beams will burn the clouds to beacons in the sky’ – that begins with a collective pronoun and uses alliteration convincingly to reinforce a bright, shared future.
Verse two explores the connections we have with nature, and finishes with an image of a gloomy home in the alliterative ‘the dark and empty den’ after a group of foxes have left. Skulk, as a word choice, reinforces the negativity of this image through its two meanings: firstly, as a collective noun for a group of foxes, and secondly the more traditional idea of keeping our of sight with a sinister or cowardly motive.
We recognise the dangerous aspect of nature, contrasted with protective shelter, such as the sibilant ‘seas drown sailors’ and the wind’s ability to ‘knock and rattle’ doors while the persona’s are ‘safe and dry’ inside the lighthouse.
Directed by Leigh Richards, and photography directed by Glenn Hanns, the naive artwork created by Greedy Hen (Katherine Brickman and Kate Mitchell) presents a kaleidoscope of opportunities that marry beautifully with the sentiment of the song.