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.