Michael Brown and Samantha Owens

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


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December 2017

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.

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)


by Michael Brown and Samantha Owens

Colonial Traditions
Transplanting Traditions: Immigrant Colonial Composers in New Zealand

by Elizabeth Nichol 

London, Leipzig or Local? – German Musical Influence and Proposals for the Establishment of a New Zealand Conservatorium of Music, 1906–8
by Samantha Owens 

Alfred Hill’s ‘Māori’ Songs: Whose Tradition?
by Melissa Cross

The Lilburn Legacy
‘Couldn’t It Have Been the Bagpipes?’: Douglas Lilburn’s Other Traditions
by Michael Brown

Harmonic Stratification in the Instrumental and Electronic Music of Douglas Lilburn
by Michael Norris

Lilburn vs Putney: What Price Tradition Now?
by Fiona McAlpine

Tradition in Māori Music
Whāia te Māramatanga – The Search for Enlightenment
by Valance Smith

Mai i te Pō, ki te Ao: The Reclamation of Taonga Puoro as a Living Treasure
by Awhina Tamarapa and Ariana Tikao

Jazz in New Zealand
The New Zealand Jazz Tradition: Something Borrowed, Something Blue
by Norman Meehan

Going to Town in the Big Jam: ‘Official’ Jam Sessions in the 1940s and the Development of the New Zealand Jazz Community
by Aleisha Ward

Trad Respect: Manifestations of the Jazz Tradition in Wellington
by Nick Tipping

Contemporary Classical
‘A Wonderful Shock’: The Influence of Minimalism on New Zealand’s Art Music Tradition
by Anthony Ritchie

Shaping Traditions of Vocality: The Lyrical Legacy of Kiri Te Kanawa
by Jenny Wollerman  

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

by Peter Walls

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