Because of New Zealand’s remote location, 2000 kilometres (1200 miles) from the nearest landfall in Australia, all New Zealanders or their forebears had to travel vast distances by waka (canoe), ship or latterly by air to arrive here, settle and build a new life. The annual migration of godwits and whales, are part of our mythology, as is a sense of separation and isolation.
Most Maori made landfall here perhaps 1000 years ago, traveling by canoe from central Polynesia, adapting from a tropical to a temperate climate and diet, and European settlement had begun by 1800.
Today, most New Zealand composers have spent some time abroad, in Europe, Asia, North America or Antarctica, and the fruits of this journeying are often reflected in their music. Some bring new traditions to the country, in the way that Jack Body is responsible for a strong focus on the music of Indonesia and Asia. Some composers reflect on distance and travel, a remarkable number on the ocean (beginning perhaps with Douglas Lilburn’s Landfall in Unknown Seas), or with the problems of settling into an unknown, possibly hostile environment.