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Searches for Tradition: Essays on New Zealand Music, Past and Present

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Searches for Tradition: Essays on New Zealand Music, Past and Present

Commentary or analysis Publication year: 2017

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In Douglas Lilburn’s famous address to the 1946 Cambridge Summer School of Music, the composer described his ‘search for tradition’ in the music of New Zealand and spelled out his hopes that a distinctive art music might yet emerge here. Sixty years on, this collection of scholarly essays brings together various perspectives on what ‘tradition’ means in the context of the music of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Searches for Tradition presents case studies drawn from a broad spectrum of genres, cultures and historical periods, from investigations of New Zealand’s colonial music to fresh consideration of Lilburn’s legacy, from corners of the jazz scene to the contemporary revitalization of taonga puoro. The focus on ‘tradition’ leads in some instances to critical issues of nationalism and biculturalism, while others uncover little-discussed aspects of local music history, performance practice or composition. It will be stimulating reading for all enthusiasts of New Zealand music’s past, present and future.


Introduction – Michael Brown and Samantha Owens

Colonial Traditions
1 Transplanting Traditions: Immigrant Colonial Composers in New Zealand, Elizabeth Nichol 2 London, Leipzig or Local? – German Musical Influence and Proposals for the Establishment of a New Zealand Conservatorium of Music, 1906–8; Samantha Owens 3 Alfred Hill’s ‘Māori’ Songs: Whose Tradition? Melissa Cross

The Lilburn Legacy
4 ‘Couldn’t It Have Been the Bagpipes?’: Douglas Lilburn’s Other Traditions; Michael Brown 5 Harmonic Stratification in the Instrumental and Electronic Music of Douglas Lilburn; Michael Norris 6 Lilburn vs Putney: What Price Tradition Now? Fiona McAlpine

Tradition in Māori Music
7 Whāia te Māramatanga – The Search for Enlightenment; Valance Smith 8 Mai i te Pō, ki te Ao: The Reclamation of Taonga Puoro as a Living Treasure; Awhina Tamarapa and Ariana Tikao

Jazz in New Zealand
9 The New Zealand Jazz Tradition: Something Borrowed, Something Blue; Norman Meehan 10 Going to Town in the Big Jam: ‘Official’ Jam Sessions in the 1940s and the Development of the New Zealand Jazz Community; Aleisha Ward 11 Trad Respect: Manifestations of the Jazz Tradition in Wellington; Nick Tipping

Contemporary Classical
12 ‘A Wonderful Shock’: The Influence of Minimalism on New Zealand’s Art Music Tradition; Anthony Ritchie 13 Shaping Traditions of Vocality: The Lyrical Legacy of Kiri Te Kanawa; Jenny Wollerman

14 Aotearoa, Middle Earth or No Man’s Land: Lilburn and the Search for Identity; Peter Walls

Michael Brown is Curator Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.

Samantha Owens is Associate Professor of Musicology at Victoria University.

Cover: The Dominion Centenary Concert Band, Triumph in Wellington (2007)




Publisher note

Victoria University Press

Author note

Michael Brown and Samantha Owens, editors