Graeme Downes at Toitu

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Graeme DownesThe first lecture in a series from Global Dunedin at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, musician and lecturer Dr Graeme Downes from the Department of Music spoke about his collaboration with the Southern Sinfonia to produce the orchestral concert Tally Ho! dedicated to the Dunedin Sound.

I did not attend the Tally Ho! Concert.  I didn’t get around to getting a ticket.  What’s written below needs to be read with the proviso that my musical education is limited to the point of non-existence.

In the 1980s New Zealand was making a cultural shift from South Britain to a new identity.  Old Britain entered the European Union and New Zealand stopped being their sheep farm.  The Springbok Tour happened.  The Rainbow Warrior was bombed and sank in Auckland Harbour, the action of an allied European nation.  New Zealand changed its policy on nuclear issues, a course that would lead the nation out of a defense treaty with Australia and America.

Our music changed at the same time.  Our pop music was made stripped of the influences of African sound.  That left folk; urban white music like the Byrds and the Beetles, and Classical, both symphonic influences from Western Classical  and Sitar.  The first band to make this combination of sound was The Clean.  Other bands were to follow.

Culture took took two years to arrive in New Zealand.  This was the gap between the first Punk music in Britain and the first home-made release in New Zealand.  In an age of isolation the fashion was no longer cutting edge when it was imitated in the islands.  Rock bands learned off each other.  They were the minimum of two-three people, a poor man’s orchestra.  The cost of maintaining an orchestra makes it the music of the upper class.

The Dunedin Sound was an incomplete bar chord, which Downes replicated in Tally Ho! with an e sharp and a d from different instruments of the orchestra, creating a gnarly sound.  The symphonic idea was already in the music, as band members played around with the instrumental section.  The poetic depth existed in the music.  One set of lyrics Downes read out sounded it was already on the way into lieder territory.

The Sinfonia rose to the challenge.  I understand from one friend that the scores are stored away.  They will want another go at this in a couple of years’ time perhaps.

Home Interiors

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Acoustic TerritoriesI have been reading Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life by Brandon Labelle.  It grabbed my attention in the University Library’s new books and I took it home to read further.  His chapter, Home, interested me for laying out ideas that affect my understanding of my own identity.

In our homes we cultivate our privacy and individual identities.  Migrant and vagrant lives are apposite to home life.  They are homeless, happening outside our walls.  Our material boundaries create the safe space where the domestic rituals of our lives happen.  Since the Nineteenth Century home has become apposite to work.  Work happens in a different domain.  Noise from outside invades our homes.  The sound culture of our neighbours invades our lives, especially those who have not divided their lives as we have.  It becomes classist, the clash of different sound-scapes; they should not allow their work and their music to intrude into our peace.

So how do I construct my identity within and outside the boundaries I set myself?


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And that was the Easter that was for 2015.

A visit over the long weekend down to see my mother in Invercargill.  I tried to do some tidying up at home.  A bit Grimm’s Fairy Tale.  Once I had filled the rubbish bin there was not much more I could do.

Stayed with Southern Dave again and did a bit of family catch up.  At the last moment I rummaged through the shelves for something to take with me and pulled Hellboy: Oddest Jobs edited by Mike Mignola from the shelves.  It proved to be an excellent anthology of short stories to travel with.  The constant figure in these stories is Hellboy, a monster, a demon, a constant indefeatable champion for humanity.  They were a delight to read, and I would like to track down the earlier anthologies Odd Jobs and Odder Jobs.  I’m sure that they will have the same taste for comic book horror and superheroes.

I returned from Invercargill with loot, Southern Dave found me books:

  • Light in Dark Isles, by Alexander Don, NZ Presbyterian book on mission to the New Hebrides in 1918, lots of period writing
  • By Love Serve: The Story of the Order of Deaconesses of the Presbyterian Church of NZ, by J. D. Salmond, another one for my Presbyterian bookshelves
  • Spirit in a Strange Land: a selection of New Zealand spiritual verse, edited by Paul Morris, Harry Ricketts & Mike Grimshaw.  Excellent to have my own copy of this, my original thoughts on looking at this collection, some years ago, was that NZ poets view religion with a powerful hermeneutic of suspicion. I will be interested to see if that sense is still dominant in the collection.
  • Enduring Legacy: Charles Brasch, patron, poet and collector, edited by Donald Kerr, another book about Brasch for my collection at Manono House.

From mum, an easter egg and and a jar of relish from the Centre Street Dairy; and from my sister in law, a selection of Mama Jo’s Homemade Jams and Pickles: apricot, black berry, gooseberry and mixed berries jams, and capsicum and mango relish.  I have some serious sampling to do!

Mozart and the Brodsky Quartet

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Mozart RequiemThis week has proved to be a good week to enjoy music.  A ticket was offered to me if I wanted to see the Dunedin City Choir and the Southern Sinfonia perform the Mozart Requiem at Knox Church.  I didn’t refuse.  There were two pieces, Shubert’s Stabat Mater and Mozart’s Requiem.  I was distracted during the Stabat Mater.  Knox Church does not have the softest pews, even with padding.  However that was all forgotten when the Requiem began.  It was a piece to hold my attention.

If there is a resurrection I would hope it sounds like that trumpet.

Was there a tyrannosaur in the church?  Rex! Rex! Rex! Or do the choir have a very disobedient dog?

Then after the weekend I was offered the use of a season ticket to the Brodsky Quartet at the Glenroy Auditorium.  A friend could not make time to attend and was delighted that I could go instead.  It was a wonderful concert: Schubert’s Quartet Movement, a very modern sounding String Quartet No. 3 from Shostakovich; and a String Quartet from Beethoven.

It sounds like doing Shostakovich’s complete quartets is a favourite challenge for the Brodsky Quartet.  There are fifteen in total covering the beginning of Shostakovich’s career until before his final years before his death.  To play them all takes a weekend.  I did not resist the promotion.  Irene from Relics Music was on hand in the foyer with a display of CDs for sale.  I was the second person in line to buy The String Quartets in the intermission.  Irene had already recommended it.  I think they all sold.  I got the programme book with the CDs signed by the Quartet.  A momento of a memorable evening.

Brodsky Quartet