Lyell Cresswell

Divagations, Doodlings and Downright Lies

240mm x 170mm
Publication date:
12 September 2024

Available for pre-order only. Available from 12 September

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During lockdown, Lyell Cresswell wrote this far from conventional autobiography. Each chapter begins with an increasingly fanciful – and very colourful – account of an exciting life. Under the cover of this playful narrative, he smuggles in deeply considered ideas about music, and about what it means to be a composer – a person who is both philosopher and storyteller. These ideas are accompanied by beautiful and exuberant pen and ink drawings – some for graphic scores, others for his own pleasure.

He says, ‘When we look at art, we look for something deep and private. If we find what we’re looking for we realise that no attempt to put it into words is adequate.’ His music was like the man himself: emotional, uncompromising, richly textured, often quite noisy  – and wonderful.

‘a superb composer . . . a man with an unerring sense of humour and humanity . . . and someone who didn’t have a bad word to say about anybody’ —Professor Michael Thorne CBE

When Lyell Cresswell died on 19 March 2022 – a death hastened by Covid-19 – he had recently completed his third piano concerto and this autobiography.

The concerto completed his catalogue of more than 120 works which includes a dozen other concertos, many instrumental and vocal works, and four operas. In 2016 when he became an Arts Foundation Laureate, he said, ‘I find it impossible to tell lies when I’m writing music. I tell my story and give my view of the world.’

Lyell Cresswell (1944–2022) was a pre-eminent New Zealand composer of contemporary music. He studied in Wellington, Toronto, Aberdeen and Utrecht, and after 1985 was a full-time composer based in Edinburgh. His music is widely performed, and he was a featured composer at many festivals around the world and in New Zealand. His many honours include the Ian Whyte Award for the orchestral work Salm (1977) and the APRA Silver Scroll for his contribution to New Zealand music (1979). In 2002 he was awarded an honorary DMus degree by Victoria University of Wellington. His Third Piano Concerto is receiving its world premiere by the NZSO in September 2024 in concerts in Wellington, Hastings, Auckland and Dunedin.

Cover: Lyell Cresswell, from The Magical Wooden Head

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