By Dr Aleisha Ward
Celebrating Music Month 2020
Well, the 20th anniversary of New Zealand Music Month really didn’t end up the way anyone had planned.
Each year, here at the National Library, we mark Music Month with a mixture of online and onsite contributions: talks and displays, blogs, social media and more. Due to COVID-19 and the nationwide rāhui, we went completely digital in 2020. After a bit of rapid brainstorming, much of our onsite programme was repurposed for the internet.
This wrap-up post for NZ Music Month 2020 provides a handy digest of this year’s offerings from the Library, together with links to many of the musical resources you can find on our website.
“My heart gave thanks”
We began the celebration of Music Month with the announcement on 1 May that composer Douglas Lilburn's original score of Overture: Aotearoa — the single most performed orchestral work by any New Zealand composer — would be made available online by the Library.
This was accompanied by the blog “My heart gave thanks”: Douglas Lilburn’s Overture: Aotearoa by Keith McEwing (Assistant Curator, Music), explaining the genesis of the work 80 years ago for New Zealand's centenary in 1940 and its enduring significance today.
This announcement was also echoed by our partners in caring for the legacy of Douglas Lilburn: the Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust, who own Lilburn’s musical copyright, and Songbroker Music Publishing, who administer the music for the benefit of the Lilburn Trust.
More on the blog
Next up on the blogroll was Web archivist Sholto Duncan's Turnbull mixtape 8: Desert island digitals. Inspired by the famed ‘desert island discs’ concept, this year’s Creative Commons music selection featured choices and choice tips from Library staff, as we were all marooned in social isolation from each other.
As per usual, you can listen to and download all the tracks below and on our Bandcamp page.
Cover art for the 8th annual Turnbull mixtape: Desert island digitals.
Music Month 2020 also heralded the first ever co-institutional blog between Alexander Turnbull Library and Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision, who recently co-located to our building at 70 Molesworth Street.
In Tracking Chris Knox: A research journey, Turnbull's Aleisha Ward (Research Librarian, Music), and Ngā Taonga's Joanna Sczcepanski (Radio/Music Team Leader) demonstrated how to navigate the Turnbull Library, National Library and Ngā Taonga finding aids, using the iconic New Zealand musician Chris Knox as an exemplar.
Lastly, in Vinyl survival: A collector’s legacy, Michael Brown (Curator Music) covered a significant new music collection: the Anthony Norton Collection of around 8,000 New Zealand vinyl records and hundreds of posters.
This unique collection includes many interesting subsets, such as locally made lathe-cut records and over 1,400 records signed by the artists, which will provide a rich trove for future generations.
Browse 60 musical blog posts published on the National Library website between 2007 and 2020 which cover a wide variety of musical topics.
Twitter musical morsels
To liven up the lockdown days of our lives, we also launched a couple of new Twitter initiatives for Music Month. The goal was to draw attention to some of the fabulous musical history found across our Papers Past website.
Every morning, we tweeted out #RipItUpFlashbacks, snippets of fascinating content from May issues of iconic New Zealand music magazine Rip It Up. Particular favourites here at the Library include William Dart extolling the punk credentials of composer Henry Purcell, and a music crossword from May 1983: did anyone get all the answers right in that?
Crossword from page 20 of the May 1st 1983 issue of Rip It Up. See the crossword on Papers Past.
Then, every afternoon, under the hashtag #31Days31YearsOfMusic, we tweeted stories from the complete Papers Past back pages, using different days in May from years between 1920 and 1950 to illuminate the diverse music scene in New Zealand.
Highlights include: Begg's Music stores having an instrument drive to supply young people their own instruments to learn music on in 1945, and the dance that did double duty celebrating the King's birthday and announcing the 1924 All Blacks team – a very Kiwi event if ever there was one!
Lastly, we contributed to #NewMusicFriday by updating our open-access music track on the National Library homepage every Friday and tweeting the world about it. A question for those playing along at home: did anyone pick the theme?
Tracks that featured on the National Library homepage and where tweeted on #NewMusicFriday
If you’re looking for more New Zealand musical reading on Papers Past, there are many musical articles sprinkled through past issues of our very own Turnbull Library Record. Several issues are completely devoted to music. Check out TLR 2015, which includes articles on Douglas Lilburn, musician/artist David Mitchell, Johnny Cooper, and more; and TLR 1990, which covers the Brian Salkeld collection and the Simonsen Opera Company, among other features.
‘Pūkana! Moments in Māori performance’
The month of May saw our popular exhibition Pūkana! Moments in Māori performance also in lockdown while our building remains closed. But we have assembled a raft of resources so that the knowledge brought together in Pūkana! can be accessed online now and after it closes.
Let one of the exhibition curators, Paul Diamond, take you on a virtual walk-through of the exhibition with guided audio tours of the various sections.
Also published in May was the fourth and final Digital NZ story associated with ‘Pūkana!’, about composer Alfred Hill: Ko ngā Waiata a Alfred Hill.
Check out many other resources available on the Pūkana! webpage.
Finally for this Music Month, the Library embarked on some live-streamed talks using Zoom. We had three talks: music historian Louise Kewene-Doig talked about her PhD research on Māori Showbands, while Aleisha Ward (who, in addition to being our Music Librarian, is also a well-known jazz historian) gave two presentations about New Zealand's Jazz Age.
Although Zoom has been a very different format to what speakers and audiences are accustomed to, they proved most enjoyable and were a fantastic way to connect with audiences outside of Wellington.
The 2020 talks were all recorded and will be available in due course through the Library’s website.
In the meantime, you can enjoy two Public History talks held at the Library in recent years. For Music Month 2019, Associate Professor Inge van Rij discussed the place of women in orchestras at the turn of the 20th century in New Zealand. In May 2018, Aleisha Ward delved into other highlights of New Zealand’s jazz age.
NLNZ Music Collections and Services
The 2020 COVID-19 rāhui also gave us at the Library an opportunity to review and promote the plethora of musical resources we hold that people can reach from the comfort of their homes.
Many of these are summarised on our Music Collections and Services page.
Below we share a few highlights.
There are over 4,000 digital recordings by New Zealanders in the Library which can be openly streamed over the internet, by permission of the creators and publishers. Most of these are music, but also include over 1,700 podcasts.
Another subset is our Creative Commons Music collection which currently holds over 700 digital LPs, Eps and singles.
Digitised Music Scores
The National Library has also digitised almost 350 pieces of sheet music from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including many examples composed during World War I. The digital scores include both the images of the pages and a downloadable PDF, so that you can print and play them at home!
We have many taonga in our collections, including a 12th century treatise on music. This medieval manuscript, the oldest complete manuscript held in a New Zealand collection, includes the works of two authors bound together: De musica by Boethius, and a collection of four works by Guido of Arezzo.
On DigitalNZ you can access over 30 million digitised items from over 200 organisations. A search on “music” returns over 900,000 hits! In these results you'll find images, radio broadcasts and historic newspaper articles. You will also find 68 music-related “stories” curated by DigitalNZ users – stories such as this one about rock and roll, Rock Chicks by Donna Robertson, Music in the Community by S2S, and Zokoroa’s Celebrating the Ukelele.
This includes very useful links to music resources on a wide variety of musical topics covering articles, radio programmes, videos and more.
Music Hire Service
Did you know that you can hire music from the National Library? The Library holds the largest collection of musical performance material in New Zealand, with over 8,000 orchestral, choral and band sets for hire. The hire service has just reopened as part of the Library's COVID-19 alert level 2 activities. Although picking up and returning material to the physical library is not available yet, scores can be mailed out to you.
This blog was co-written by Michael Brown, Curator Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library. Thanks also to Joan McCracken.