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Navigation for Douglas: The Landscape of a New Zealand Composer

During the months following his death in June 2001, producers Roger Smith and Gareth Watkins interviewed twenty-five of Douglas Lilburn’s close family, friends and colleagues in an attempt to gain a more personal understanding of this shy and complex man.

The resulting ten part radio series takes this new material and interweaves it with recordings from the archives – some of which haven’t been heard for more than fifty years. The voice of Percy Grainger in a rare archival recording from 1935, proposing a music competition in New Zealand, reverberates throughout the series as a key moment in allowing Douglas to discover his musical talents.

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Douglas Lilburn Timeline

1915: Born Wanganui, November 2. Youngest child of Robert and Rosamond Lilburn of Drysdale Station, Turakina Valley, near Hunterville
1920-24: Attended Pukeroa School
1925-27: Attended the New Zealand Friends' School in Wanganui (April 1925 to December 1927)
1927: Sat Proficiency Certificate Examination
1928-29: Attended St George's Preparatory School Intermediate Department
1930-33: Attended Waitaki Boy's High School as a boarder
1932: Opus 1, a sonata for piano in 3 movements.
1934: Enrolled at Canterbury College for a BA and Diploma of Journalism
1934: Piano lessons with Ernest Empson
1935: Satisfied examination requirements for a BA in History
Began music degree under Professor John C. Bradshaw - Passed Grade VIII
1936: Piano lessons with Ernest Jenner
1936: Satisfied examination requirements for a Diploma in Music
1936: Forest tone poem for orchestra. Winner of Percy Grainger Competition in 1936.
1937-40: Enrolled at Royal College of Music, London, from Christmas term 1937 to three weeks into the Midsummer term 1940. Studied composition (in the main under Vaughan Williams), and piano (in the main under Edward Mitchell). In 1939 he joined the conducting course under Dr Reginald Jacques
1937: Choral Sketches for baritone, male chorus and SATB.
1937: Drysdale Overture for Orchestra. Winner in orchestra class of NZ Centennial Celebrations Music Competition in 1940.

1939: Gained the Foli Scholarship and the Ernest Farrar Prize at the RCM
1939: Phantasy for String Quartet ("Westron Wynde"). Winner of the Cobbett Prize in 1939
1939: Harvestmen a-singing: for unaccompanied chorus.
1939: Festival Overture for orchestra. Awarded second prize in orchestral class of NZ Centennial Celebrations Music Competition in

1939: Prodigal Country for baritone, chorus and orchestra. Winner in choral class of NZ Centennial Celebrations Music Competition in
1939: Sonata for Pianoforte No. II in F# minor, in two movements.
1939: A sonata for piano in three movements.

1940: Returned to New Zealand in May. Returned to his sister's farm in August where he worked for nine months
1940: Summer's Sadness for baritone and piano.
1940: Aotearoa Overture for orchestra. Written for the NZ Centennial Matinee in London.
1941: Took up guest conducting post in Wellington for three months (June-August) with the NBS String Orchestra (formed by Maurice Clare as a nucleus for the Centennial Orchestra)
1941: Shifted to Christchurch and took a room with the Vincent family, 175 Cambridge Terrace. Worked as a freelance composer-teacher-musician
1941: Suite for strings.
1941: Short piano pieces: a collection of manuscripts and sketches.
1942: Allegro for strings.
1942: Two Concert Overtures for String Orchestra. No. 1 in D, No. II in B flat.
1942: Landfall in Unknown Seas for strings and narrator. Test by Allen Curnow. Written to commemorate tercentenary of discovery of New Zealand by Tasman.
1942: Canzonetta for violin and viola No. 1.
1942: Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for a cappella choir. For use by the Christchurch Cathedral choir.
1942: Five Bagatelles for Piano.

1943: Became a music critic for The Press
1943: Began association with Ngaio Marsh and the University of Canterbury Drama Society. The incidental music for five plays resulted
1943: Hamlet: incidental music for string orchestra.
1943: Sinfonia in D for strings.
1943: Sonata in C for violin and piano.
1943: Sonata in E flat for violin and piano.
1943: Canzonetta for violin and viola No. 2.
1943: Hamlet incidental music for three violins and tubular bell.
1944: Diversions for piano.
1944: Evening Service for SATB chorus. 1944: Music for Waitaki Boys' High School Song. Words by Frank Milner, revised by Walter Brookes.
1944: Prelude and Fugue in G minor for organ. Winner of the Philip Neill Memorial Prize in 1944.
1944: Othello incidental music (violin and piano) for University of Canterbury Drama Society.
1944: Willow song: for mezzo-soprano and piano.
1944: Willow song: for mezzo-soprano and string quartet arrangement by Lilburn.
1944: Distant Point incidental music for Canterbury Repertory Society production.
1944: Allegro Concertante for violin and piano in A Phrygian Mode in one movement.
1944: Four Preludes for piano.

1945: Four Preludes published by the Caxton Press
1945: String Trio.
1945: A Midsummer Night's Dream; incidental music for flute, cornet, two french horns.
1945: King Henry V; incidental music for two trumpets.
1945: Elegy for soprano, contralto, and strings.
1945: A song for Otago University. Poetry by J.K. Baxter.

1946: Composer in Residence at the first Cambridge Summer Music School. His association with the school in this capacity spanned 1946-49, 1951
1946: Sonatina for piano.
1946: String Quartet in E minor.
1946: A Song of Islands; originally titled Song of the Antipodes for orchestra.
1946: Chaconne for piano.
1946: Cambridge Overture for strings. Commissioned for the first Cambridge Summer School of Music.
1946: Macbeth incidental music for Univ. of Canterbury Drama Society.
1946: O Fons Bandusiae for voice and piano.
1946: Song Thinking of her Dead for tenor and piano.

1947: Moved to Wellington to take up position at the university as part-time tutor in music
1947: Began association with the National Film Unit (Backblocks Hospital) and with local Wellington drama groups (The Infernal Machine)
1947: Diversions for String Orchestra.
1947: Backblocks Hospital incidental music for National Film documentary.
1947: The Infernal Machine incidental music for play by Cocteau.
1947: Li Po in Spring; Voice and piano.
1947: Canon for 2 clarinets.
1947: Diversion for two clarinets in B flat and two trumpets in B flat.
1947: Summer Afternoon for mezzo-soprano and piano.
1948: Sonatina for clarinet and piano.
1948: Prelude for piano.
1948: Rhythm and Movement; incidental music for National Film documentary.
1948: Variations on a Theme by Douglas Lilburn; written at Cambridge Summer Music School. Variation (1) Farquhar, (2) Dellow, (3) Carr, (4) Franchi, (5) Tremain.
1948: Infant Schools incidental music for National Film documentary.
1948: Moths and Candles: a dance for children. From Infant Schools documentary.
1948: Journey for Three; incidental music for National Film feature film.
1948: Two Diversions for piano.
1948: The Islands settings for voice and piano of two poems.

1949: Appointed to position of full-time lecturer at Victoria Unversity
1949: Symphony No. 1 for orchestra.
1949: Sonata for piano in 3 movements.
1949: This is New Zealand; orchestral music for a BBC documentary.
1949: The Trojan Women incidental music for play,

1950: Began association with NZBS Drama Dept (Cornet Rilke)
1950: Sonata for violin and piano.
1950: Prelude for piano from Three Sea Changes
1950: Cornet Rilke; incidental music for string quartet to a reading produced by NZBS.
1950: Lines in Autumn; songs for mezzo-soprano and piano.
1951: Elegy song cycle for baritone and piano.
1951: Prelude for piano.
1951: Symphony No. 2 for orchestra; revised 1974.
1952: Sonata for Piano (revised 1956).
1952: Four Hand work: for piano four hands.
1952: Hamlet; incidental music to Wellington Rep production.
1952: Incidental music for a reading of poetry in Auckland Univ. College for violin and piano.

1953: Began association with New Zealand Players (Dandy Dick)
1953: String Trio published by Hinrichsen
1953: Dandy Dick incidental music for New Zealand Players' production.
1953: Sings Harry; song cycle for tenor and piano.
1954: Sings Harry; arranged for baritone and piano.
1954: Sings Harry; arranged for tenor and guitar.
1954: Duos for two violins.
1954: Clear Sky and The Picnic; two songs for soprano and piano.
1954: Piano Piece for four hands. Allegro non troppo.

1955: Promoted to Senior Lecturer, VUW
1955-56: Overseas travel from June 1955 to February 1956 (USA, England, Europe)
1955: Suite for solo viola (performance MS missing).
1955: Pieces in serial technique for various string combinations. Done at Tanglewood for Roger Sessions.
1955: Pardon goddess of the night: for SATB chorus.
1955: Suite for Orchestra.
1955: St Joan; incidental music for NZ Players production.
1956: A Birthday Offering for orchestra Commissioned by the National Symph. Orch. for its 10th birthday.
1957: Wind Quintet.
1957: Quartet for Brass Instruments.
1957: Merchant of Venice; incidental music for NZ Players production.
1958: Two duos for violin and viola.
1958: Three Songs for Baritone and Viola.
1958: Three Poems of the Sea for string orchestra and narrator.

1959: Recording of Festival Overture by HMV
1959: Suite for Brass Band in 4 movements.
1960: Shifted house to 22 Ascot Terrace
1960: Recording of Landfall in Unknown Seas and Sings Harry by Kiwi Pacific
1960s: Hommage à D.A.F.: for piano (for David Farquhar's composition class).
1961: Symphony No. 3 for orchestra.
1961: Grand Canyon Uprun for wind quartet; music for private film.
1961: The Axe; incidental music to radio play by Curnow.
1961: Processional Fanfare for the final congregation of the University of New Zealand.
1962: Sonatina No. 2 for piano.
1962: Canzona - The Flowers of the Sea. Arrangement of the 5th song of Sings Harry.
1962: Henry IV parts I and II. Incidental music for NZBC play.
1962: Piano pieces and sketches.

1963: Promoted to Associate Professor at VUW
1963: Trip overseas (including visits to Toronto, London, and Darmstadt)
1963: Diversions published by Oxford University Press
1964: Experiments with electronic music - results in The Pitcher and the Well
1964: The Pitcher and the Well; incidental music for NZBC play. Uses sound images of electronic derivation.
1965: 50th birthday tribute from NZBC in the form of four hour-long programmes on his music. Also open letter of tribute published in Landfall (v.19 no.4 Dec 1965 : 320-1)
1965: Canon for 6 hands for piano.
1965: Gamelan for 6 hands for piano.
1965: Canonic studies for piano Homage to .
1965: Fred's Birthday for piano.
1965: The Return Electronic Sound Image to poetry by Alistair Campbell.

1966: Electronic Music Studio at VUW officially opened
1966: Nine Short Pieces for Piano.
1966: The Spiral Tattoo; incidental music for NZBC production.
1966: Fragments of a Poem.

1967: First series of Wai-te-ata Press Music Editions published
1967: Poem in Time of War.
1967: Study from One Note.
1967: Cicadas, Oscillators and Tree Frogs.
1967: The Golden Lover incidental music for Downstage Theatre. Play by Douglas Stewart.
1967: He Mana Toa Maori Theatre Trust production.
1967: Hot Spring; incidental music for Downstage production of play by Adele Schafer.

1968: Symphony No3 published by Faber Music
1968: Three bars for the blood and bone for piano.
1968: Three Studies for Gustav Ciamaga.

1969: Overseas travel, including Toronto. On return lodged request for more funds for electronic studio
1969: Honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Otago
1969: Second series Wai-te-ata Press published
1969: He Tohu O Waharoa; incidental music to a play by James Ritchie.
1969: Summer Voices.
1969: Five Toronto Pieces.
1969: 16 pieces for guitar Published with Canzona.

1970: Appointed Professor at VUW with a personal chair in music. Appointed Director of EMS
1970: Expo 70 Dance Sequence.
1971: Lilburn versus Putney, Staircase Music and Glass Music (an end-of-term entertainment in the music room).

1972: New Electronic Music Studio premises in Kelburn Parade
1972: Third series of Wai-te-ata Press published
1972: Three Inscapes.
1972: One movement of 3 for viola.
1973: Occasional Pieces for Piano.
1973: Wide Open Cage; incidental music for play by J.K. Baxter.

1974: CANZ established March 9
1974: Overseas travel April 28 - July 5: Toronto, London, Paris (UNECO Rostrum), Utrecht, Ansterdam, Stockholm
1974: Two pieces for guitar.
1974: Welcome Stranger a ballet commissioned by the NZ Ballet Company.

1975: CANZ sponsored Lilburn 60th Birthday Concert
1975: Sounds and Distances.
1975: Lines and Distances.
1976: Carousel.
1976: Winterset.
1977: Tryptych.
1977: Of Time and Nostalgia.

1978: Presented with CANZ Citation for Services to New Zealand Music
1979: Retrospective concert of electronic music as part of "New Directions in New Zealand Music"
1979: Soundscape with Lake and River.
1980: January 31 - Retirement from Victoria University
1980: Appointed Professor Emeritus
1980: Four Canzonas for strings written for solo violin and string quartet; arrangement of incidental music for plays between 1943 and 1950.
1985: Processional Fanfare arranged for 3 trumpets and small orchestra from 1961; original composed for 3 trumpets with organ.
1987: Grand Canyon Uprun: a suite for woodwind quartet. Arrangement of original 1961 composition.