Angry Men

June 5, 2009

Posted by Peter

The Worth saga rumbles on and is a delightfully messy scandal.  I wouldn’t want to say much because Worth is a big, fat hairy lawyer and will sue anybody and anything that displeases him.  Truly the world is going mad when Cameron Slater (Whaleoil – I won’t link to it) is on the idiot box in the guise of an “informed commentator”. Someone played an amusing little trick on TVNZ that time.  I would like to point at a couple of pieces of radio. 

The first is yesterday’s 3 way love fest between Sean Plunket, Richard Griffin and Richard Prebble on RNZ’s “Morning Report”.  The audio is at RNZ (scroll down for an mp3) Pretty disgusting stuff.  Three good ol’ boys blaming Phil Goff and the various women Worth has “bothered”.  The euphemisms that have been used are simply terrible.  “Made a nuisance of” and so on.  Sheesh.  Anyway, this segment consitutes apalling radio that everyone involved should be ashamed of.  Smugness, complacency and self satisfaction ooze from all 3 of these bozos.  I’ve always thought Plunket would be happiest commentating on a rugby match with a six pack and pie in his hand. Not one of the great thinkers of our time and he really hit a low point with that segment. 

On the other hand, Mary Wilson in “Checkpoint” had John key squiriming like a squirmy thing.  Great interviewing and nicely judged.  He came away looking like a complete fool.  And since when does the word “texts’ rhyme with “Texas”? This was RNZ doing exactly what it should.

Speaking of stupid men, Karl du Fresne has been at it again. This is a sordid business based on an earlier blog post of his which was dumb in the extreme.  Shorter message of both posts:  academics, espcially those involved in media studies, are left wing stooges of some Marxist conspiracy to brainwash students and said academics know nothing about the “real world”.  Sigh.  Pretty much yer standard anti intellectual gibberish from someone who doesn’t teach, read peer reviewed journals or attend academic conferences where the issues he raises are thrashed out.  The most amusing part of his original post was when he found out all about Pierre Bourdieu via Google and quoted his fellow columnist Bob Brockie as describing Michel Foucault as “a fruit cake”.  That cosntitutes research in Karl’s world.  I challenged him to actually go away and read the work of these subtle and complicated thinkers but no joy so far.  For a very rich and full dissection of Karl’s efforts, here is my colleague Martin Hirst.  I don’t have much to add to Martin’s comments except that I do wish people like Karl would take the effort to read the works of the philosophers they so blandly dismiss.  D- Karl.  More research needed.  This one by Karl is even funnier on so many levels and it’s about radio.  You kids get offa my lawn … What a jerk. The Onion has a delightful piece here that sums up the likes of Karl, Wishart, Kiwiblog etc.

I do wish NZ’s commentariat, both digital and dead tree wasn’t dominated by a bunch of resentful, middle aged men like Karl, Holmes, Leighton, Ralston, Garth George etc.  Here’s a catchy little number which may not be safe for work – visuals are OK but the language is a bit rough.  It’s a useful soundtrack when perusing the likes of Kiwiblog, Garth, Karl, Ralston and the hapless Worth. This one is especially dedicated to Michael Lawhs.


Yadda, Blah and a Side Order of Rhubarb

May 22, 2009

posted by Peter

The Hon. Dr Jonathan Coleman addressed our year 2 students this Wednesday past in his capacity as Minister of Broadcasting.  To be honest, it was not the most exciting speech I have ever heard.  He seemed a bit run down and tired but as Melissa Lee’s campaign manager I am sure he has been expending a lot of energy trying to get her foot out of her mouth over the last fortnight.

He read a speech that had obviously been put togther by wonks.  I understand that very few politicians write their own speeches but I wish they would.  Listening to someone read other people’s words is seldom interesting.  Anyway, the Hon. Dr. trotted out the usual bromides about broadcasting policy.  He began by mentioning TV a lot which was dull because we were there to hear about radio.  But he eventually came round to the topic in hand. 

Overall he semed to think the current model (mixed commercial/public etc) of NZ radio is working.  He gave us some background about the glory days of deregulation.  It seems that we are now “spoiled for choice” as far as radio goes due to there being so many stations inNZ.  That so many of the commercial ones are networked links in chains owned by 2 companies seemd to slip past.  It depends what you mean by “choice” I imagine.  No mention of perhaps thinking about regulating media ownership.

He went on to outline the spectrum frequency allocation process.  “Cultural content” was mentioned in connection with non-commercial stataions but while the importance of this was acknowledged he didn’t seem to have too clear an idea about what this was.  I thought that might have been a good thing to talk about and maybe a chance for him to express his own opinions (more U2!) but this didn’t happen.  Youth radio was also thrown about but evaded as it is in the “too hard” pile and when a question was raised about it, he seemed to think the market was providing it.  Well, if you think the point of the media is to train young people as Good Comsumers, then he’s right but if you think media might a platform/forum for dicussion of ideas, concerns and issues that affect young people then you are right out of luck.  I gather National are great believers in smudged photocopies of caricatures of Adam Smith.

Digital radio was discussed towards the end of his address but the main focus is on digital TV.  Overseas experience (UK, Australia) semes to show that digital radio is hard and there is no real business case or consumer demand for it in NZ at this stage.  Yes, that’s a tough one indeed so it seems the policy is to sit back and see what happens.  I did prick up my ears when he talked about accountability.  He wanted the RNZ survey results to be “available centrally”  but I have no idea what this means.  No mention really of RNZ Concert and the general line seem to be that RNZ is doing well (check out the 2009 NZ Radio Awards – well done RNZ!).   The idea is to make the RNZ charter stronger than it is.  Hmmm, we’ll see. 

Anwyay, it was hard to get excited about the speech.  I get the feeling the main focus in terms of broadcasting is on TVNZ, at least at this stage.  I didn’t get the impression he had a passion for broacasting as such.  Apart from his involvement on the legal side of deregulation, I’m still not sure what experience he brings to the role.  But, it was good of him to take the time to speak to our students.  He said the speech text would be available on beehive.govt.nz that afternoon (Wednesday) but it’s not there yet.  I had hoped to link to it.  Oh well, I guess he’s busy with the hapless Lee.

All that talk of TV reminded me of an oldie but a goodie …


Symphonies and Self Promotion

May 15, 2009

I missed last week due to thesis pressure and the joys of arthritis.  Both of these can make a man feel mighty low down.  And since I’m still deep in the joys of NZ radio from 1900 until the mid 1920s, I have only the following to offer.  These are the notes I made of a conert I went to last night and will be reviewing on Upbeat today at about 1ish.  Oh, and I have a Composer of the Week happening on Conert at 9am Sunday and repeated at 7pm Monday.  All about Girolamo Frescobaldi (Thanks Matthew – sow’s ears and silk purses etc).  So I have been writing some stuff,  just not enough of the thesis.  Moan groan, chiz chiz.

Auckland Town Hall, 8pm, 14 may 2009

APO cond. Roy Goodman

Dimitri Atanassov – violin

Robert Ashworth – viola

 

Mozart – Symphony no. 1 in Eb K.16

Mozart – Sinfonia Concertante in Eb K.364

 

Interval

 

Haydn – Windsor Castle Overture (also in Eb)

Haydn – Symphony no. 99 in Eb

 

Encore: Mashup of overture to “Nozze di Figaro” and “If you knew Susie”. Probably in Eb too. 

This was an evening in the key of Eb although there was little flat about the music other than the Concertante.  Eb is a key that has been associated with heroic, majestic and serious music and there was a certain amount of that but also a lot of laughs.  Hardly surprising with two pieces by Haydn on the programme and Roy Goodman conducting.  He likes his little jokes. 

The Symphony 1 (K.16) by Mozart got the evening off to a good start.  A charming enough piece although it sounds like a scrapbook of the bits and pieces Mozart had heard in his travels.  So we get Mannheim effects (crescendo passages) and overall it  has C.P.E. Bach’s fingerprints all over it.  Mozart was 8 when he composed it and I would assume Leopold had a lot to do with it – he was after all the showbiz parent from Hell and always looing for ways to show off Wolfgang.  No better way than a symphony by the little wunderkind.  A reduced band for this piece and the next – 2 French horns, 2 oboes, 2 double basses and quite small string sections.  Without getting everyone on period instruments, this is always a good way to get near some kind of Historically Informed Practice (HIP) as they say in early Music circles.  All sounding very good too – lots of interesting dynamics and well controlled by Goodman.  He did his usual amusing introduction to the evening.  I like to see a conductor who engages with both the band and the audience and Goodman is a past master of this.  Very engaging guy who radiates enthusiasm for the music.  As I listened to this I thought it would have been good to have a harpsichord in there somewhere but maybe that’s because I was hearing C.P.E. Bach echoing in my head.

The Concertante (K.364) is a kind of double concerto written 15 years after the 1st symphony.  Atanassov and Ashworth were the soloists.  It’s really great music – Mozart was setting out to show Salzburg what he could do with this piece so it’s full of exciting things including some great viola writing.  Lyrical passages in the cadenzas and exciting passages all through it.  The slow movement is particularly lovely.  But this didn’t really come off last night.  The soloists (esp. Ashworth) didn’t seem to be on top of the music and there were quite a few unpleasant passages.  I was disappointed with the soloists performance to be honest.  Not a lot of variation and a certain amount of uncertainty at some points.  Dare I say it sounded like they hadn’t rehearsed it enough?  A shame as it is a great piece.  Some of it worked really well but overall I wasn’t too taken by this performance.

Back after the interval and into the Haydn section of the concert.  The orchestra was expanded for this part of the evening and they made a pretty convincing sound.  By that I mean that they sounded like people playing like an 18th century orchestra despite the modern instruments etc.  Goodman knows this music backwards and how to get “modern’ bands playing in something that may be near to the style of the time.  Ha, I’m also a big fan of Haydn so I was very pleased to hear these pieces in the 2nd half.  Which reminds me, it’s the 200th anniversary of his death and we aren’t hearing that much of his music.  This is a shame.  We’re getting lots of the somewhat tedious Mendelssohn (200th birthday this year) but not enough Haydn.  Ha, I guess this reflects the dominance of 19th century music in our concert halls and general conception of what “classical music” is.  So it was great to have a concert that didn’t involve any 19th century composers.  But I digress …

The opening overture (Windsor Castle Overture) was really good.  Very dramatic and showy.  The band sounding really good on this.  Goodman all over them as well and obviously enjoying himself.  Did I mention he did a little talk at the start of this half that proved that this overture had been played in London in 1791?  Oh well, he does like to interact and he does it well) An excellent opening for the symphony to follow.

And what followed was the 99th symphony by Haydn.  And what a great piece it is.  Full of Haydn’s typical humour and irony.  Lots of dynamic contrasts.  Very springy rhythms (Springy?  Hmm, for want of a better word) Really nice woodwind playing going on throughout this piece.  The APO did a really nice job of this I thought.  And once again our man Roy was looking after every second of it.  He’s not one of those people who stands out the front and just waves a baton.  Well, he doesn’t use a baton anyway, but he’s always engaged (I keep using that word) with the orchestra at every minute of the music.  The enthusiasm works for both the band and the audience I think.

Lovely false ending near the close of the 4th movement that made a couple of people clap and Goodman half turned to the crowd while conducting and smiled impishly with a “Gotcha” look on his face.  Nice.  While I think of it, that 4th movement is like a crazed Opera Buffa full of alarums and excursions. You could just imagine cross dressed characters tumbling in and out of doors and bed chambers in some ‘servant bettering the master’ set up and all with a typically Haydnesque happy ending.

So that was all good.  And then the encore.  This was amusing.  Goodman set it up by explaining how a musicologist friend of his from Cambridge had recently unearthed the original version of Mozart’s’ overture to “Nozze di Figaro” and we were lucky enough to be hearing its premier and he mentioned an alternative title that translated as “If you knew Susanna”.  So it starts as per the overture and then turns into a mashup of “If you knew Susie” and the “Nozze di Figaro” Overture.  Ha ha.  Sounds weak on paper but worked very well live as bits of the overture kept poking through and the scoring was Mozartian. I’m not sure who wrote it.  It made a very effective encore.

There was a pretty light show happening on the Town Hall exterior courtesy of Telecom as they launch their XT network.  Quite effective and it was drawing the crowds.  The rocket launch was very good indeed.

And it’s Friday, I like cats and I can’t help but think the 4th movement of Haydn’s 99th would make quite a good soundtrack to this little gem. Hmmm, it seems the owners of it have disabled embedding so I can only give you this link.


Because Our Fathers Lied

April 24, 2009

Posted by Peter

Anzac Day in New Zealand is always an interesting occasion.  It’s a holiday that is truly a holy day in many senses. “Holy'” not in the religious sense but certainly sacred.  Given that NZ is a reasonably secular society, it seems to act as a quasi (de facto?) religious event.  Over the years the meanings of the day have changed in all sorts of ways.  It has sometimes provoked very strong passions – the anti-war protests of the 70s come to mind.  Now it seems to be a lynchpin for the expression of a conception of national identity that stresses unity and the “one people” myth.   As an expression of national identity it seems to have more power for a lot of people than, say, Waitangi Day.  But Waitangi Day raises all sorts of uncomfortable questions about history that mainstream NZ tends to want to ignore under the rubric of the “one people” mythology.  The official discourse that goes on around Anzac Day is full of words like “heroism”, “bravery”, “patriotism”, “fighting for freedom” and such like.  I’m not that keen on such talk as it tends to smother the lived reality of the past under a blizzard of fine but empty phrases.

The French historian Pierre Nora wrote about public memory back in 1984 and noted that history starts being vital for us when we stop living in memory but rather become aware of the ‘pastness of the past’ and what the construction and collation of memory is all about. The  rites enacted around memorials on Anzac Day strike me as being about living (wallowing) in memory rather than thinking about the past and the various ways we construct it.  The ceremonies and media blitz of Anzac Day tend to ignore issues like NZ as part of the imperial project, resistance to conscription, atrocities (Surafend anyone?), cultural colonization as an ongoing process and so on.  I don’t see standing around at a Dawn Parade with a lump in your throat as being thinking about history.  The emphasis on Gallipoli as a kind of Year Zero for the formation of national identity is simplistic and essentialises ideas about NZ that ignore conflict, dynamism and difference.  Let alone I think we should be aware of the emptiness of the notion of national identity in a country where pretty much everything of note is owned by transnational financial corporations (e.g. media, transport, banking etc).  These are the things I’d personally like the huddled masses of NZ backpackers and expats at Gallipoli to be thinking about. And I would really like the media to be floating these ideas too as part of what should be an ongoing debate about identity, memory and history that doesn’t elide the ‘otherness’ and strangeness of the past under a whole lot of weasel words.  Describing ordinary people dragged (conscripted) into ghastly wars as heroes doesn’t actually pay much respect to them as indivduals living in particular times and places.  Self awareness about why and how we make our notions about those times and places seems to me to be far more useful.  But we don’t get that on Anzac Day.

RNZ Concert has some nice programming for the day that mercifully doesn’t seem to include “Mars” from Holst’s Planet Suite.  One of the great Anzac Day cliches we can all do without.  There’s what looks to be an interesting doco about forgotten NZ composer Willie Manson – I’d certainly never heard of him.  There’s a 1969 performance of Britten’s  War Requiem.  Then we get a selection of pieces to do with peace including “Venus” from the Planet Suite.  Ha, that’s cool programming.  We’ll all be tired of people in uniforms toting guns by that stage of the day so the delights of Venus have a real appeal.  Nice one RNZ Concert. 

Here are some links that may be of interest.  I wrote this essay  in 1997 after visiting the Great War battlefields in France.  It’s quite long and I would do it differently now.  This site has heaps of mp3s of music and speech from the Great War.  Also some film footage from the time.  At the UCSB Edison Cylinder project, this link will produce about 100 or so mp3s of 1914-18 vintage wax cylinder recordings.  NZhistory.net has many articles about Anzac Day that track its different meanings and functions ove  the years.  Here is some NZ audio from 1950 which is a fascinating enough example of the mythology to do with the day.  And here is the Last Post from a 1956 Dawn Service at St Faith’s Church, Ohinemutu.  It would be interesting to put together a doco using the National Sound Archives resources to track Anzac Day through sound over the years. 

That reminds me of something that the conceptual artist Jonty Semper did back in 2001.  He put togther a double CD of recordings of the 2 minute silences from the UK Armistice/Remembrance Day ceremonies going back to 1929.  The CD set is called Kenotaphion.  Of course, it’s hardly silent.  Big Ben tolls, there are crackles and hisses  from the recording media and the crowds make their own noises including the sounds of protesters on some recordings.  Kind of like Cage’s 4.33.  It’s drawing attention to the paradoxical nature of silence.  I guess NZ’s version would have the Last Post and suchlike.  But it’s interesting to think about the importance  of silence as part of the holiness of the day.  After all, silence plays an important part in many religious/mystical traditions.  We live in such an often ignored ocean of sound that there is something other worldly and profoundly moving about sanctioned and enforced silence on public occasions like Anzac Day.  I’m really fascinated by noise and silence especially in public spaces.  Who gets to define these and control them?  But I’ll get back to this topic when I have something interesting to say about it. 

In th meantime, here’s my favourite Great war poem:

If any quesion why we died,

Tell them, because our fathers lied.

– Kipling.

Mentioning 4.33 puts me in mind of one of my favourite things by John Cage.  In a Landscape (1948). Played by Stephen Drury.  The music moves but the picture doesn’t.  And the rest is silence.


Quo Vadis?

April 10, 2009

Posted by Peter

 

The amusing radio story of the last few days has to be the Radio Wanaka imbroglio.  In brief, the 2009 after ball function for the students of Mount Aspiring College was themed as “white Supreeemacy”. Ahem. I believe it had something to do with snow – the idea was for everyone to dress in white.  It has been changed to “White Out”. Some people objected to the original title as well they might.  Wayne Johnston, Radio Wanaka’s breakfast show host, interviewed the school’s principal and 2 year 13 students on air and got a little heated.  He named the chief objector and called for her to be “run out of town”. This came after the 2 students had broken down and blubbered. He has since apologised although a complaint has been laid with the BSA.  According to Radio Wanaka’s co-owner, Ed Taylor, Johnston “was upset the story had gone out globally to the media”.  Not sure what he meant by this – a search of Google news reveals only NZ sources and not many of them anyway.  Hardly global.  And it’s sad when young people cry but hardly uncommon.

 

I was struck by the comments made by Paul Tamati, the college’s board of trustees Maori liaison representative.  He described the issue as a wake-up call for the broader Wanaka community. He described Wanaka as a sheltered place and floated the idea that more education on such issues might be needed.  Oh yes, I would say so.  Mr Tamati is a master of ironic understatment. 

 

OK, what were these people thinking?  How sheltered do you have to be to not get the significance of such a phrase as “white supreeemacy”?  (The cute triple ‘e’ is a bit nauseating to be honest).  Perhaps the college might like to review its curriculum.  I’m reminded of the Dunedin cricket “It’s all white here” debacle re the West Indies 2008 cricket tour. The South Island eh? It’s all weird here … (just kidding, it’s a lovely place full of lots of lovely and clever people)

 

As for Johnston, well, that’s what happens with radio.  Liveness, immediacy etc can be real traps when the mouth disconnects from the mind and radio often involves such brain burps.  So does TV of course as the ever sordid and childish Paul Henry demonstrated the other week.  It’s all performance and the supposed professionals (Johnston in this case) need to be constantly monitoring themselves just as any performer on stage does.  Carefully contrived and calculated outrage is often safer and can be more effective than simply letting rip as Johnston may have realised. 

 

Speaking of calculated outrage, The Edge’s  “Fat Jesus” promotion predictably offended the obvious suspects.  Organised religion is such a slow moving and easy target that I’m not sure why the deep thinking and subtle philosophers at The Edge bothered.  If you’re going to rip into transcendental deities, then go at them all although I appreciate this is a sensitive time for many Christians and so jokes about Jeebus are particularly relevant.  Ah well, must be survey time I guess.

 

Hmmm, commercial radio and organised religion have a lot in common really.  They both deliver audience/congregations ears to words and music that persuade people to hand over money so that small groups of (typically) middle aged men get to live in wealth and comfort.  Radio lets you hear voices when nobody is physically present …

But here’s Tim Minchin on the occult:

 

 

And in connection with ‘White Supreeemacy”, here’s an amusing Easter bonus thing from the Fry and Laurie “Jeeves and Wooster”.  Bertie’s speech to Spode early on is the gold and the text is below on account of it being so good. 

No ramblings next week as I am not here.

 

 

The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting “Heil, Spode!” and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: “Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?”

P. G. Wodehouse (Bertie Wooster speaking to Spode), in The Code of the Woosters (1938) pp.221-2.


Living Pictures

April 3, 2009

Posted by Peter

The TVNZ Charter episode has been less than edifying to my mind.  Peter Thompson has a very strong piece about it here to which I can add little to be honest.  I personally don’t think that Jonathan Coleman, Minister of Broadcasting and Second Hand Cigar Smoke, has much of a clue about what public broadcasting is about.  And I don’t think our current regime does in general nor do they care.  No doubt they will be a bit cautious in their first term but if they get another go I have a spooky feeling the gloves will come off and Radio New Zealand may well then be in the firing line.

National had a policy statement to the effect that they would “Insist on regular publication of rating/audience/ household penetration data for any broadcasting entity receiving state funding”.  Hmmmm, so the goals of public broadcasting can be boiled down to ratings?  No minister.  RNZ already survey quite comprehensively with public broadcastigng outcomes and goals in mind.  The RNZ charter is well worth a read.  one thing that has struck me about the TVNZ charter “debate” is the ongoing obsession with local content.  Yes, it’s important but it’s not everything.  It’s just a part of what a public broadcaster would do in an ideal world.  This pdf of an article by Peter Gibbons is worth a read in this connection as a way of thinking abut NZ, culture, identity, and the world [1].  I think a blinkered nationalistic perspective limits broadcasting.  Debating it needs a wider perspective that takes seriously the very idea of public broadcasting and thinks a little harder about what we imagine our “national identity” to be.  And what it might be – it’s a process after all.  Random thoughts I guess, but I fear for the future of public broadcasting under the current regime.  So far we have heard little about radio (the famously “forgotten medium” although I think of it as the “Senior Service”) but that may well change given the market ideologies embraced by our lords and masters.

Almost forgot, here are the 2009 Radio Award finalists.  The ceremony is on 9 May.  Good luck to all.

Speaking of moving pictures, I’m deep in a chapter about early cinema in NZ.  The first moving pictures ever seen here were at a photograph studio on Queen Street in November 1895.  A. H. Whitehouse exhibited some Edison kinetoscopes (see picture below).  These were peep show devcies that played film loops of about 1 minute or so.  For the quite hefty charge of 1 shilling, viewers got to see 4 films.  He also showed a kinetophone.   This was an Edison peep show device that also included a phonograph.  Aha, sound and vision.  The video below is one of those films – soneone has added music to it.  The woman doing the “Butterfly Dance” waas called Annabelle Moore.  She was one of the very early movie stars.  Her “Butterfly Dance” films made her quite famous.  She was even asked to appear nude at a private  dinner party in New York. She went to be the Gibson Bathing Girl in the first of the Ziegfeld Follies in 1907.  She married/retired in 1912.  (Details from this great site) Cool stuff.  Cinema in NZ from its first appearance had it all – sound, movement, and a bit of naughty but nice titillation.  Ha ha, and the sounds of silent cinema stuff bends and breaks the diegetic/nondiegetic distinction in all sort of ways. Anyway, back to the writing …

1895 Kinetophone of the type Whitehouse exhibited.  Sound and vision comes to NZ - image shamelssly stolen from Wikipedia article on kinetoscopes

1895 Kinetophone of the type Whitehouse exhibited. Sound and vision comes to NZ - image shamelssly stolen from Wikipedia article on kinetoscopes

Wikipedia article on kinetoscopes

[1] Peter Gibbons, ‘The Far Side of the Search for Identity: Reconsidering New Zealand History’, New Zealand Journal of History, 37, 1, pp.38-49.  PDF from here where there are some other NZJH articles that are worth reading.

 


Old Stuff, Who Needs it?

March 27, 2009

Posted by Peter

A former colleague from the days when I worked at Auckland City Libraries has today pointed me at The Review of National Library Music Services and Collection (Thanks Libby!) A somewhat spine chilling document. You can get the whole thing here. There is a lot blah blah in it and I freely confess that I haven’t gone through it in fine detail. However, the comments about older format recordings doesn’t look too encouraging.

There are 3 options. The first 2 seemed to aimed at removing the collections of overseas recordings. Option 2 states quite explicitly that “the existing overseas music component of the General Collections would be reduced in extent, particularly by the removal of recordings in obsolete formats.” Meaning cylinders, 78s etc. Hmmm, a bit like chucking out books because we’ve got computers.

I understand and applaud the emphasis on the retention of NZ materials. Makes sense. But recorded musical life in NZ has never been about just about NZ music. Given that recordings have been here since 1879 (OK, that was a tinfoil phonograph) and that locally made recordings didn’t really get off the ground until the late 1940s, this seems very dismissive of a large chuck of the recorded sounds that NZers listened to in the past (I’m leaving aside the Ana Hato, Tahiwis etc of the late 20s and early 30s – apart from the 1927 Hato recordings and the Rotorua Maori Choir stuff, these were all made in Australia. And even those were made by Oz technicians for global record companies. And while this digression is still going, hey Turnbull LIbrary, how about getting those Rotorua Maori Choir recordings out on CD?)

The recorded stuff that is in the collection was (and is) a part of NZ’s musical life no matter where it was made. If everyone here was getting down to Bing Crosby 78s then so be it, that was the NZ soundscape. Researchers care about these things because we’re here to analyse things, not clebrate ‘Kiwi Music’ (a truly cringe-making phrase). These recordings are part of the other materials at the library that are used by researchers to build up an idea of past musical life in NZ. All the pamphlets, posters, record sleeves, record catalogues, handbills, manuscripts, magazines etc all tell us stuff along with the recordings. It seems odd to think abou throwing out so-called ‘obsolete media’ and leaving the other stuff behind. It all interlinks in complex ways.[1]

And what’s with this ‘obsolete media’ phrase? Machines that play these recordings still exist and they are still played. I quite like to crank up the old portable gramophone every so often and spin a few discs. Beats watching TV. So obsolete is a weasel word. Ha, let’s chuck out all the illuminated manuscripts, no one makes them anymore. Damn that obsolete media.

I think losing the ‘obsolete media’ non-NZ recordings would be a big mistake on the part of the National Library. I intend to put togther a more coherent submission than this post to this effect. If anyone else feels so inclined, it can be done at the link given above.

Update: Interesting and informative comment below from John Kelcher (thanks John!) More coherent than my off the cuff scribblings.  

[1] Nice example of this is: Colin Symes, Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Classical Recording, Middletown, Conn., 2004. A fascinating read that looks at the words to do with sounds.

Anyway, my brain hurts from thinking about little except the sounds associated with silent film in NZ 1896-late 1920s. Chapter 2 on the production line. Here’s some ‘old’ music (at least to my students!) with some cool oldish pictures.