29 May 2017
The $100,000 Michael King Fellowship has been given to award winning author and composer Dr Phillip Norman to create a history of New Zealand composers and their work from the start of European settlement to present day.
Christchurch-based Dr Norman will use the fellowship to complete a lifetime of work studying New Zealand classical music identifying influential composers, works and performances, and tracing key developments through the decades.
“In the 1890s, when composer Alfred Hill was influential, concert goers would queue for hours to hear his latest work performed,” Dr Norman said. “Music was the primary form of entertainment so people were hugely interested in anything new and there was a great depth of activity and performance.
“The type of music composed also changed over the decades. The formation of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) in 1946 inspired orchestral and instrumental composition. Prior to that people mostly composed for choirs, individual singers or pianists because that’s who the performers were,” he said.
The book will provide a greater understanding of the country’s composers and their sounds, achievements, preoccupations as well as the challenges they faced. It will complement Dr Norman’s biography of Douglas Lilburn: His Life and Music, which won a Montana Book Award in 2007.
Creative New Zealand chief executive Stephen Wainwright said, “Dr Norman is a leading scholar who has the skill to write an authoritative as well as highly readable account of the people and music that made an important contribution to the country’s arts, cultural and social history”.
Dr Norman has compiled three editions of the Bibliography of New Zealand Compositions including biographies of some 120 New Zealand composers and descriptions of 4000 of their works.
He has co-authored, edited or contributed to numerous other books and publications on New Zealand music. From 1980-1991 he was the principal music reviewer for The Press in Christchurch writing more than 700 reviews.
In addition to being a writer Dr Norman has composed more than 250 works, from orchestral, chamber music and opera through to choral works, musicals and ballet. He composed music for Footrot Flats, New Zealand’s best-selling musical, and for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s successful Peter Pan, which is shortly to receive a repeat season in Perth, Australia.
Established in 2003 and administered by Creative New Zealand, the Michael King Fellowship was renamed in recognition of the late Michael King for his contribution to literature and his role in advocating for a major fellowship for New Zealand writers.
The fellowship is available to established New Zealand authors of any literary genre with a significant publication record. It is offered biennially for writers working on a major project which will take two or more years to complete.
Previous recipients of the fellowship are Martin Edmond, Fiona Farrell, Owen Marshall, Vincent O’Sullivan, CK Stead, Rachel Barrowman, Neville Peat, Dame Fiona Kidman, Philip Simpson, Kate De Goldi, Peter Wells, Dr Peter Simpson and Elizabeth Knox.
Image: Dr Philip Norman, courtesy of Gareth Watkins/Lilburn Trust/Wallace Arts Trust