Lilburn Lecture 2015
- Date: Wednesday, 4 November, 2015
6.00pm – 7.00pm
Te Ahumairangi (ground floor), National Library, Corner Molesworth & Aitken Streets
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In his seminal talk A Search for Tradition (1946), composer Douglas Lilburn discussed how necessary it was that New Zealand have a music of its own, “that would satisfy us in ways that cannot be satisfied by the music of other nations.”
Lilburn was talking about art music and, in decades past, when musicologists considered New Zealand music, they usually concentrated on what Allan Thomas called the “monumental or innovative musical works, essentially ‘masterpieces’.” Art music, again – and, understandably, the work of one composer dominated this discourse: Douglas Lilburn.
However it is popular music that the public think of when considering New Zealand music. Yet only recently has popular music been given serious consideration; for decades, many gatekeepers such as broadcasters, cultural commentators, academics and historians either ignored New Zealand popular music or prevented it from achieving mainstream acceptance.
For this year’s Lilburn Lecture – marking the 100th anniversary of Lilburn’s birth – music historian Chris Bourke discusses the place of local popular music in New Zealand. He notes that when Lilburn was born, the local music scene was more inclusive. How did the split between “high art” and “low art” occur? Has the neglect of New Zealand popular music been rectified? What is the most useful way to study local popular music? Is it still necessary to look for a New Zealand sound? Bourke considers the ideas discussed by Lilburn in his celebrated talks A Search for Tradition and A Search for a Language: are they still relevant, and can they be answered by popular music?
Chris Bourke is the 2015 Lilburn Research Fellow at the Alexander Turnbull Library, where he is currently writing a book about New Zealand music during the First World War. His book Blue Smoke: the Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music, 1918-1964 won the Book of the Year prize at the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Awards.
The annual Lilburn Lectures are a collaboration between the Lilburn Trust and the National Library of New Zealand. This year’s Lilburn Lecture will be the third in this series of open public talks. Refreshments will be served following the Lecture.
Music historian Chris Bourke.