30 Oct 2015

More about Douglas Lilburn

11:59 am on 29 January 2018


Douglas Lilburn at his piano (195-?) © Alexander Turnbull Library. Reference: PAColl-7737-3-04 All rights reserved.

Douglas Lilburn was born in Wanganui in 1915. He moved to Christchurch to study at Canterbury University College, and went on to the Royal College of Music, London. He was tutored in composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams and remained at the College until 1939.

He returned to New Zealand the following year, and worked in Christchurch as a freelance composer and teacher.

In 1947 Douglas Lilburn shifted to Wellington to take up a position at Victoria University, and moved up the ranks to a Professor. In 1966 Lilburn founded the Electronic Music Studio at the University and was its Director until 1979, a year before his retirement.

He was presented with the Composers’ Association of New Zealand (CANZ) Citation for Services to New Zealand Music in 1978. In 1988 he was awarded the Order of New Zealand. Douglas Lilburn, described as “the elder statesman of New Zealand music” and the “grandfather of New Zealand music,” died peacefully at his home in Wellington on 6 June 2001.

Performances of Douglas Lilburn compositions:

Lilburn - Forest

Performed by the NZSO, conducted by Kenneth Young.

Lilburn - Drysdale Overture

Performed by the Auckland Philharmonia, conducted by Enrique Diemecke.

Lilburn - Festival Overture

Performed by the NZSO, conducted by Marc Taddei

Lilburn - A Birthday Offering

Commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra (now New Zealand Symphony Orchestra) for its 10th birthday. Performed in 2004 by the NZSO with conductor Kenneth Young.

Lilburn - Landfall in Unknown Seas (1972)

Performed by the NZBCSO, conducted by John Ritchie, narrator Bruce Mason.

Lilburn - Landfall in Unknown Seas

Performed by the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marc Taddei, narrator Elric Hooper

Lilburn - A Song of Islands

Performed by NZBCSO conducted by James Robertson.

LILBURN: Symphony no 1

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Charles Groves

LILBURN: Symphony No 2 (introduction)

Introduced by Kenneth Young.

Lilburn - Symphony No 2

Performed by the NZBCSO, conductor Alex Lindsay.

LILBURN: Symphony No 2

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Alex Lindsay; in a recording from 24 April 1974.

Symphony No 2 was composed in 1951, and can be seen as a key work in Douglas Lilburn's development: the first two movements show discernible overseas influences, giving way to the more individual voice of the last two movements. In this recording Alex Lindsay conducts the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. It was made just months before Lindsay’s sudden death, and has been digitally re-mastered for the Resound project.

Lilburn - Symphony No 3

Premiere performance by the NZBC Symphony Orchestra in the Wellington Town Hall, conductor John Hopkins.


Douglas Lilburn giving a demonstration of a work composed in the Electronic Music Studio at Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, in 1970. Lilburn is demonstrating the sounds produced for a modern dance performance that include the electronic reconstitution of the sounds of the extinct huia bird.

Interviews with Douglas Lilburn:

A transcript of a Jack Body interview done for the 1980 Festschrift, as Lilburn retired from Victoria University

A transcript of a Chris Bourke interview done in 1985 for The Listener

Interviews related to Douglas Lilburn and his work:

Philip Norman and Dean Major:Douglas Lilburn NZ Hall of Fame

Douglas Lilburn

Two of Douglas Lilburn's close friends and colleagues join Eva Radich to celebrate Lilburn's upcoming induction into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

Philip Norman: Three Stages of Douglas Lilburn

Douglas Lilburn

Phillip Norman, author of Douglas Lilburn's biography, talks with Emma Smith about the life and work of this pioneering NZ orchestral and electroacoustic composer who will be honoured at the 2014 APRA Silver Scrolls.


Artist: Douglas Lilburn
Song: Tritych
Album: Complete Electro Acoustic Works
Label: Atoll

Artist: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cond. Kenneth Young
Song: Aotearoa
Album: New Zealand Composers
Label: Continuum

Artist:New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cond.John Hopkins
Song: A Song Of Islands
Composer: Lilburn
Album: Douglas Lilburn: A Song of Islands
Label: Kiwi

Artist: Margaret Nielsen
Song: Three Sea Changes Pt. 1
Composer: Lilburn
Album: Douglas Lilburn: Piano Music
Label: Manu

Artist: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra cond. John Hopkins
Song: Symphony no. 3
Album: Douglas Lilburn: The Three Symphonies
Label: Kiwi

Artist: Douglas Lilburn
Song: Carousel
Album: Complete Electro Acoustic Works
Label: Atoll

Artist: Douglas Lilburn
Song: Triptych
Album: Complete Electro Acoustic Works
Label: Atoll

Artist: Douglas Lilburn
Song:Three Inscapes 2
Album: Complete Electro Acoustic Works
Label: Atoll

Artist: Douglas Lilburn
Song: Five Torronto Pieces Prelude
Album: Complete Electro Acoustic Works
Label: Atoll


Robert Hoskins: Author and Academic

Editor of a new collection of writings by Douglas Lilburn called 'Douglas Lilburn: Memories of Early Years and Other Writings'.

Writers Block: Philip Norman

Philip Norman has won an award which means he can write a companion book to his biography of composer Douglas Lilburn.

John Rae

Wellington's New Zealand School of Music 2009 Lilburn Composer in Residence.

Gunter Herbig

NZ based guitaritst talks about the recent release of his cd of Lilburn and Farquhar guitar works.

Michael Shepherd

Whose latest series of paintings draw inspiration from the scores of Douglas Lilburn's Electro-acoustic works.

Donald Maurice and Doug Munro

NZ violist and music historian talk about upcoming performance of Lilburn's 'Salutes to Seven Poets'.

Rod Biss and Robert Hoskins

NZ music scholars and editors of Douglas Lilburn's complete printed editions of piano music which are being released today.

Dave Armstrong

Writer of 'Rita and Douglas' featuring the letters of Rita Angus to Douglas Lilburn starring Jennifer Ward-Lealand and Michael Houstoun.

Scilla Askew

Author of 'A Search for Tradition & A Search for a Language' being released next week to mark the 10th anniversary of Douglas Lilburn's death.

Elizabeth Holowell and Cameron Rhodes

Violinist and actor appearing on new cd of Douglas Lilburn's previously unavailable works: Salutes to Seven Poets.

Samuel Holloway

Artistic Director of 175 East new music ensemble presenting 'After Lilburn' concert in Auckland this evening.

Dugal McKinnon

Director of Lilburn Electroacoustic Music Studios explores the concept of soundscape.

The Lilburn Lecture

Named after the New Zealand composer who instigated the Archive of New Zealand Music within the Turnbull Library and established the Lilburn Trust, the lecture is held annually on Douglas Lilburn’s birthday, 2nd November. Speakers are invited to talk on a subject of their choosing about music and New Zealand. The Lilburn Lecture is jointly organised by the Lilburn Trust and the Alexander Turnbull Library, and recorded by RNZ. Listen to past Lilburn Lectures here.