Music in the air, forever

In December 2015, Music in the air published its 40th and final issue. Founded in 1996 by publisher/editor John Thornley, this intriguing music magazine was mainly concerned with the hymn renaissance in Aotearoa New Zealand. But it covered more than hymn writing and hymn writers.

A scroll through issues of the magazine reveals articles about the songs of Wellington tramping clubs, feminist songwriters calling themselves the Brazen Hussies, waiata Māori, and, the ‘Ballad of Colin McCahon’. The articles tap into aspects of New Zealand society not widely written about, and are a treasure trove for both hymn aficionados and music researchers.

Covers of the first and final issues of 'Music in the air'.Covers of the first and final issues of Music in the air.

Finished, but findable

Music in the air was never published online. But full print sets are held by libraries throughout New Zealand, including here at the National Library. But does this mean that all this information about religion and music in New Zealand is no longer in the air, destined to lie mute on library shelves? Not so. The entire series has been indexed by Index New Zealand (INNZ), making the contents of the serial findable, forever.

Indexing articles

INNZ is one of the National Library’s ways of making the contents of serials and newspapers discoverable. It is a database freely available to anyone looking for New Zealand related information across an extensive range of some 1000 titles we have indexed and are currently indexing (pdf, 427KB). Coverage is best from the 1990s onwards, but includes many earlier titles. Around 3000 new index records are created monthly. INNZ metadata is freely available under a Creative Commons license and has been used by several online databases.

Index New Zealand’s Nelly Bess selects a newly arrived magazine for indexing. Photo by Michael Brown.Index New Zealand’s Nelly Bess selects a newly arrived magazine for indexing. Photo by Michael Brown.

In brief, the indexing process works as follows: an indexer picks up the latest issue of a title, decides which articles have enough information in them to be of use to researchers, then fills in a series of fields in the database record, including title, author, subject, keywords and a short abstract to help people decide if the article is of interest. Article information for Music in the air looks like this:

Christ! You know it ain't easy
By Boddy, Ian
In Music in the air, Win/Spr 2014; n.38:p.24-30
Journal article
Abstract Shares the ways that the author 'preaches' the songs and lyrics of The Beatles as an ordained minister in the Methodist Church. Describes how he grew up with the English pop group from the 1960s onwards and how their songs influenced his religious beliefs. Explores his preferences for the lyrics of John Lennon. Peppers the article with headings and unedited lyrics from a variety of Beatles songs.
About Boddy, Ian (born Scotland, Blenheim)
Subject Popular music--influence
Popular music--Religious aspects
Music--Religious aspects
Childhood and youth of a person

Finding and getting articles

You can access this kind of INNZ content in two ways. The first is searching on this site, and filtering down to just INNZ items. The second is the INNZ database itself. By searching on keywords, article titles, author or subject headings you can bring up records that contain these details, which also identify the relevant issues.

With a magazine such as Music in the air, you can also use the INNZ dataset to browse the entire collection of 271 articles. Or else narrow your search for particular subjects, years, or issue numbers using the available filters.

At the bottom of each INNZ record there are options for how to obtain articles. You can ask your local librarian if they have a copy, or could interloan it from another library; students and teachers can request copies of articles from the National Library; and items can also be requested at the National Library’s Reading Rooms. Clubs, societies and other groups may also have their own libraries you can borrow from.

Some of the many periodicals that have been indexed by the Index New Zealand team.Some of the many periodicals that have been indexed by the Index New Zealand team.

Music, music, music

INNZ indexes a wide range of music magazines and journals, and has recently branched into podcasts. In the list below you will see that we now index podcast interviews from music critic Simon Sweetman’s Off the tracks website. Each podcast features a musical performance by interviewees who include Dave Dobbyn and Rhian Sheehan.

If you know of other music-related journals/magazines we could be indexing, please email us at

INNZ is currently indexing the following New Zealand music serials:

Previously indexed:

Read more about the history of INNZ (pdf, 3.6MB)

For permission to use the magazine cover images in this blog, we gratefully thank: John Thornley (Music in the air), Simon Grigg (Rip It Up), Silke (NZ Musician), Sarah Ballard of CANZ (Canzona), Marilyn Portman of IAML-NZ (Crescendo), William Dart (Music in New Zealand), and Garth Wilshere (New Zealand Opera News).

Michael Brown assisted in the production of this post.

By Nelly Bess

Nelly is an indexer with the National Library’s Index New Zealand team.

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