New Zealand music safeguarded in Global Music Vault

13 June 2022: New Zealand music safeguarded in Global Music Vault

Works by New Zealand composer Douglas Lilburn will be the Alexander Turnbull Library’s first deposit to a new archiving initiative the Global Music Vault.

Based in Wellington, New Zealand, the Alexander Turnbull Library holds the heritage collections of the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa.

“The Turnbull Library is one of the foremost institutional collectors of New Zealand music,” says Alexander Turnbull Library Curator Music Michael Brown.

“The Global Music Vault is an exciting opportunity to be involved in innovative solutions for the long-term preservation of our musical taonga.”

A man standing between lots of shelving holding a record.
Curator Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library, Michael Brown among the music collection holdings at the National Library. Photo by Mark Beatty, National Library of New Zealand.

The Global Music Vault will be an offline facility located underground on Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Circle. Using cutting-edge ‘Project Silica’ technology developed by Microsoft, digital copies of music will be stored on glass tablets that can survive thousands of years. The Global Music Vault will have a fraction of the carbon footprint of a standard data centre.

The Lilburn works will be in the form of recordings of electroacoustic works and images of original scores. Also contributing to the Global Music Vault are music and audio/visual material from the likes of pioneering innovator and artist Beatie Wolfe (UK), International music award Polar Music Prize (Sweden), and International Library of African Music (ILAM) (South Africa).

Black and white three-quarter portrait of a man in a suit and wearing glassed in a garden setting.
Photo by Chris Black of Douglas Lilburn (1960s). Ref: PAColl-7737-3-01).

The International Music Council (IMC), one of the Global Music Vault’s founding partners, has also facilitated the inclusion of material by two Music Rights Awards laureates, the Orchestra of Indigenous Instruments and New Technologies (Argentina) and Fayha Choir (Lebanon), as well as from Ketebul Music, a Kenyan organisation led by IMC Music Rights Champion Tabu Osusa.

“While the Library has its own digital preservation programme, the Global Music Vault will provide even more backup for some of our most iconic music,” says Brown.

“It’s great for New Zealand music to be included in this international collaboration. Over time, we hope to add more New Zealand music to the Global Music Vault in consultation with donors, kaitiaki, and rights-holders.”

Man sitting at a table with record covers in front of him.
Curator Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library, Michael Brown with a selection of records. Photo by Mark Beatty, National Library of New Zealand.

The Alexander Turnbull Library began systematically collecting New Zealand music in the 1960s and now holds over 55,000 published music recordings. In 1974, the Archive of New Zealand Music (ANZM) was established to preserve unpublished material at the suggestion of Douglas Lilburn. It includes unique collections of material created by New Zealand musicians, composers and songwriters, and the archives of record labels and other musical organisations and companies.

“Music offers an incredible glimpse into the history, culture and mood of a country on a unique and expressive level. Being part of the Global Music Vault will add to a greater understanding of what makes New Zealand and Pacific peoples tick.”

The Global Music Vault is the initiative of the Norwegian company Elire MG, with support from UNESCO’s International Music Council and the Arctic World Archive.

Media contact

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Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs
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Background notes

Global music vault website
Global music vault press release

The Alexander Turnbull Library and Archive of New Zealand Music

The Alexander Turnbull Library holds the heritage collections of the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa. Located in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, the Turnbull Library opened in 1920 following a large public bequest by merchant Alexander Turnbull. The Turnbull collections are protected by an act of Parliament defining the Library’s purpose “to preserve, protect, develop, and make accessible for all the people of New Zealand the collections of that library in perpetuity” (National Library of New Zealand Act 2003).

The Turnbull Library is among the foremost institutional collectors of New Zealand music.

Systematic acquisition of music — initially published sheet music and recordings — dates from the late 1960s. In 1974, at the suggestion of composer Douglas Lilburn, the Archive of New Zealand Music (ANZM) was established to preserve unpublished material. The objective was to build a comprehensive national collection relating to New Zealand music, composers, musicians, and musical organisations, capable of sustaining advanced research in New Zealand music studies.

The ANZM has since grown to contain, as of 2021, almost 1,000 sub-collections. Included are unique collections of material created by New Zealand musicians, composers and songwriters, and the archives of record labels and other musical organisations and companies. Other important collections relate to music education, criticism, patronage, librarianship, radio broadcasting, publishing, and musicology.

The ANZM contains original music scores and unpublished recordings, manuscripts and correspondence, master tape recordings, organisational and company records, photographs and ephemera, and oral histories. Audio-visual media range from acetate discs through to open-reel tapes and born digital files. All music styles and genres are represented, including classical, popular, Māori, opera, rock, jazz, folk, Pacific Island, country, world, theatre music, electroacoustic and sonic arts.

For more information, see the following links.

Archive of New Zealand Music. Alexander Turnbull Library collections.
National Library of New Zealand Music Collections and Services
National Library of New Zealand.

Douglas Lilburn

Douglas Gordon Lilburn (1915-2001) is New Zealand's best-known composer. Raised on a remote hill-country station near Whanganui, he studied in the 1930s at the Royal School of Music in London under English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. After returning to New Zealand he taught music for many years at Victoria University of Wellington, retiring in 1980.

Lilburn’s legacy is wide-ranging. He composed works for orchestral and chamber ensembles, and solo piano, as well as soundtracks, incidental theatre music and song cycles. They remain a popular part of the repertory in New Zealand and are regularly performed in other parts of the world. In the 1960s, Lilburn shifted from composing for conventional instruments to creating electroacoustic recordings. He founded the first electronic music studio in Australasia in 1966 at Victoria University and thus helped establish a tradition of sonic arts in New Zealand. His ideas about New Zealand music – as laid down in the manifestos A Search for Tradition (1946) and A Search for a Language (1969) – continue to ignite debates about cultural identity in music.

Aside from his creative and teaching work, Lilburn was a strong advocate for local composers as a member of APRA (Australasian Performing Rights Association). In 1984, he established the Lilburn Trust which offers substantial annual support to the music sector. He also successively lobbied for the establishing of a music archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library (see above) and led by example, donating his own personal collection.

In 2014, APRA also acknowledged Lilburn's contribution to New Zealand music by inducting him into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame. Of the inductees to date, Lilburn is the only classical composer to be named. For more information, see the following links.

Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand biography
National Library blogs about Lilburn
Douglas Lilburn website.

Lilburn Material for the Global Music Vault

Six works from Lilburn’s collection at the Turnbull Library have been selected for the proof of concept phase of the Global Music Vault. These comprise digital copies of three manuscript scores in Lilburn’s hand (holographs) and three electroacoustic recordings. The chosen works represent different aspects of Lilburn's musical achievements.

Scores

Overture: Aotearoa (1940) Ref: fMS-Papers-2483-048

Composed for the New Zealand Centenary in 1940, this anthemic overture has become a New Zealand classic. It is the most frequently performed New Zealand classical work. In 2011, the Alexander Turnbull Library successfully nominated the holograph score for the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. It was the first Turnbull Library item or collection to be added to the New Zealand register.

Symphony No.1 (1949) Ref: fMS-Papers-2483-099

A majestic symphony in three movements. Described by Lilburn scholar, Dr Robert Hoskins, as "arguably Lilburn's most spontaneous symphonic expression and a work representing the culmination of his first creative period."

Sonatina No.2 (1962) Ref: fMS-Papers-2483-090

Lilburn composed extensively for piano. Among the last works he wrote for conventional instruments before shifting to the electroacoustic medium, the haunting and beautiful Sonatina No.2 reflects the influence of modernist techniques on his earlier musical language.

Electroacoustic recordings

Poem in Time of War (1967) Ref: MST7-0149

"The suffering of all people caught up in the Vietnamese war was strongly felt by many of us in this country in 1967 when I made this piece," Lilburn later wrote of Poem in Time of War. A powerful protest against the futility of war, the work places dissonant electronic sounds alongside a Vietnamese folk song performed by a Victoria University student, Miss Dung.

Three Inscapes (1972) Ref: MST7-0157

One of Lilburn's most abstract and rigorous electroacoustic works, three "movements" exploring an interplay of electronic textures, frequencies, rhythms, and motifs.

Soundscape with Lake and River (1979) Ref: MST7-0163

Lilburn’s final, profound exploration of the New Zealand environment in music, combining field recordings with electronically-generated sounds. As Lilburn’s biographer Philip Norman notes: “The pulse of the work is measured and unhurried; one is left with memories of spaciousness and tranquillity.”