NZ Music Month: In Conversation with Ruby Solly!

On her Facebook page, Ruby Solly describes herself as someone who writes things, sings things and plays things. While true, it doesn’t take much work to discover that this description doesn’t quite capture the scale–or success!–of Solly’s recent projects, publications and accomplishments.

For starters, Solly (Kai Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a music therapist, having recently graduated with a Master in Music Therapy from Victoria University (read her thesis here!). She’s also a taonga puoro practitioner, composer and role model at the Conversation Collective.

Solly’s poems have been published in The Spinoff, Landfall, Sport, Orongohau/Best New Zealand Poems 2019 and more, and her recent article in e-Tangata, Being Māori in Classical Music is Exhausting has brought increased insight into the attitudes and privilege within New Zealand’s classical music community.

This blog is also being written during New Zealand Music Month, so it wouldn’t be right to forget her musical achievements, including playing with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Whirimako Black, Trinity Roots and The New Zealand String Quartet. She describes her current project as music that reflects “my connection to the land I live on and the ancestors that passed through here”.

Anyway, all that is just the tip of the iceberg. For more–including what she’s been up to during lockdown–check out our conversation with her below. Solly also performs two fantastic poems: “Arrival” and “Six Feet for a Single, Eight Feet for a Double.” Enjoy!

NZ Music on Screen: NZ Music Month

Each year during May it is always New Zealand Music Month, but 2020 is an unusual one due to the COVID-19. It is forcing artists to find new ways of working and connecting with audiences, and there are a surprising number of things still happening. Check out the NZ Music Month official website as well as our Wellington Music blog and facebook. To celebrate and support New Zealand music and artists, we have selected some fantastic films available on Beamfilm and Kanopy. They include the documentary about Martin Phillipps (The Chills) and two iconic New Zealand movies (An Angel at my Table and Dean Spanley) for which Don McGlashan (Blam Blam Blam, The Mutton Birds) did the soundtracks. Be calm, kind and enjoy the movies!


The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps

Year: 2019
Length: 95 minutes
Directors: Julia Parnell and Rob Curry

Watch the full film here!

Martin Phillipps came tantalizingly close to conquering the international musical world with his band The Chills, but instead fell into decades of debt and addiction in his hometown of Dunedin, New Zealand. At 54, he’s been given a dire medical prognosis, forcing him to face his demons and realise his musical ambitions before it’s too late.


The Pa Boys

Year: 2014
Length: 90 minutes
Director: Himiona Grace

Watch the full film here!

A contemporary story with a strong message, PA BOYS, follows a Wellington reggae band as they embark on a tour ‘down north’, from Wellington to Cape Reinga. Staring Fran Kora (from the band KORA) and Matariki Whatarau (Go Girls, The Almighty Johnsons), PA BOYS is a story about life, death and music. As the band tours, their travels expose Danny (Kora) and Tau (Whatarau) to a spiritual history that cannot be avoided and when unresolved events from their past must be confronted it’s Danny who holds the key.


Topp Twins Untouchable Girls

Year: 2009
Length: 81 minutes
Director: Leanne Pooley

Watch the full film here!

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls” is the first time that the irrepressible Kiwi entertainment double act, Jools and Lynda Topp’s extraordinary personal story has been told. The film offers a revealing look into the lives of the World’s only comedic, country singing, dancing, and yodeling lesbian twin sisters. As well as rarely seen archive footage and home movies, the film features a series of special interviews with some of the Topp’s infamous comedy alter-egos including candid chats with the two Kens, Camp Mother and Camp Leader.


Born To Dance

Year: 2015
Length: 96 minutes
Director: Tammy Davis

Watch the full film here!

Champion hip hop dancer, Tu Kaea, has the chance to audition for K-Crew, the best hip hop crew in the country, but he has to go behind the backs of his home crew and his best friend Benjy. Things get even more complicated when he starts falling for Sasha, the girlfriend of K-Crew’s leader. When Tu’s old crew and new crew clash, he has to make a decision that will change his life forever.


An Angel At My Table

Year: 1990
Length: 158 minutes
Directors: Jane Campion

Watch the full film here!

Jane Campion brings to the screen the harrowing true-life story of Janet Frame, New Zealand’s most distinguished author. The film follows Frame along her inspiring journey, from a poverty-stricken childhood to a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia and electroshock therapy to, finally, international literary fame. Beautifully capturing the colour and power of the New Zealand landscape, the film earned Campion a sweep of her country’s film awards and the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.


Dean Spanley

Year: 2008
Length: 97 minutes
Directors: Toa Fraser

Watch the full film here!

A dog may be man’s best friend but in Dean Spanley it is also the key to reconnecting Henslow Fisk and his ailing father, Horatio. After attending a lecture given by a visiting Swami on ‘The Transmigration of Souls’, the Fisks run into eccentric Dean Spanley. Soon, Henslow discovers the Dean may be more connected to the Fisks than they could ever have imagined!

New Zealand Music Month: Quarantunes Part Two

During lockdown several of our hugely talented librarians have been creating and sharing music via the Johnsonville Library Facebook page to provide a pleasant distraction from the rigours of lockdown. The music is as diverse as you can imagine, covering numerous genres and worlds. So we thought New Zealand Music Month is a perfect time to revisit just a few of these musical creations and take the opportunity to ask their creators to pick a favourite New Zealand album and tell us why they love that particular piece of music.

(This is Part Two of our New Zealand Music Month Quarantunes blog–for Part One click here!)


Sue: performing Prelude In C Major by Johann Sebastian Bach

QUARANTUNES with Sue #2

This evening's beautiful and reflective QUARANTUNE comes to you from the talented fingers of Brooklyn Library's own one-woman orchestra, Sue, and from the pen of Gabriel Fauré. We hope you enjoy.#quarantunes

Posted by Johnsonville Library on Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Gosh, where do I start re: fav NZ album? That’s like asking what your fav book or movie is… different sounds and genres are snapshots and reminders of different experiences. BUT there are a few NZ artists that jump out – I love Listening to Bic Runga and Anika Moa. I know Beautiful Collision (Bic) and In Swings the Tide (Anika) got a fair hammering in my old car’s CD player! I think the combo of awesome melodies, poetic lyrics and crystal clear voices are the clincher for me. But then we’ve also got so many amazing classical artists – Ross Harris’ Requiem for the Fallen in memory of  soldiers who died in the First World War, is pretty humbling and awe-inspiring too.


Justin: performing his own music (Mow the Lawn)

QUARANTUNES 17 April 2020

Welcome back to Quarantunes, where tonight we are joined by Justin, Team Leader for Northern Libraries & Community Spaces. He’ll be singing an original song called “Mow The Lawn”. Have a nice weekend. Stay safe and stay home! #quarantunes

Posted by Johnsonville Library on Friday, 17 April 2020

I have to be very honest… as an American and having spent most of my life in America we are not very well versed in New Zealand music past Crowded House! But that band definitely made an impact on me because they have such great songs. It’s all about the great songs for me! I did some digging once I learned about Crowded House and I really just fell in love with this album. It brings me a sense of peace, calm, and hope. “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” is the song that does it for me. It has everything I want in a good song: amazing melodies, great rhythm, and a wonderful and soaring blippy synthesizer.


Reece: performing his own music

apologies to my new flatmates who have only known me for like two weeks but will shortly be very familiar with every single riff I have left to record on the Glassblower album

Posted by Reece Davies on Monday, 23 March 2020

Wellington’s post-rock/metal scene has been one of the more active areas in the city over the past decade, and People Used to Live Here by Spook the Horses is the pinnacle of what the genre attempts to achieve in its quieter moments. Haunting and lonely, the album takes you on a journey through abandoned places courtesy of restrained instrumentation, occasional vocals and rich textures. The accompanying videos, available on YouTube, showcase the group’s dedication to the atmosphere of the album and are all vital viewing, especially the final track “Following Trails”.


Discover More:

Wellington Music at WCL: Want to keep up with the latest gigs and releases throughout Wellington? Then look no further than the Wellington Music at WCL Facebook page, run by our very own music specialist Mark!

Wellington Music Past and Present: This site is a tribute to the decades of music that have contributed to Wellington’s sound, as well as a browsable portal to our physical CD collection.

Music eResources: With half a million tracks between them, Naxos Music Library and Naxos Jazz Library will have your lockdown listening covered. Discover them via our Digital Library.

NZ Music Month: Quarantunes Part One

During lockdown several of our hugely talented librarians have been creating and sharing music via the Johnsonville Library Facebook page to provide a pleasant distraction from the rigours of lockdown. The music is as diverse as you can imagine, covering numerous genres and worlds. So we thought New Zealand Music Month would be the perfect time to revisit just a few of these musical creations and take the opportunity to ask their creators to pick a favourite New Zealand album and tell us why they love that particular piece of music.


Claire: performing The Cuckoo Waltz by Emanuel Jonasson

QUARANTUNES 23 April 2020

Good evening and welcome back to QUARANTUNES! Tonight we've got the wonderful Cuckoo Waltz peformed by not one, not two, but THREE of the wonderful Claire from the Johnsonville Library. Enjoy! Stay home and stay safe!#quarantunes

Posted by Johnsonville Library on Wednesday, 22 April 2020

 

My favourite NZ album is Love and Disrespect by Elemeno P – it reminds me of O-Weeks at university, where I must have seen them live at least half a dozen times (which might not seem a lot, but I am not a huge concert-goer… shockingly for a librarian – I’m not a huge fan of big crowds of people!). I would certainly class it as the soundtrack of my Vic Uni experience in the early 2000s frequenting house parties and road trips along the way.


Stephen: performing Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut (And the moon descends on the temple that was) by Debussy

Welcome back to Quarantunes! We’re back right where we started with Stephen and his lovely piano. Tonight he’ll be performing a piece by Debussy. Stay home and stay safe please!#quarantunes

Posted by Johnsonville Library on Friday, 24 April 2020

 

My favourite NZ album – difficult to choose. I did recently write essentially an essay on Facebook about how much I love Solace by Jakob, so I guess it’s that. Jakob’s 2007 offering Solace is utterly consuming, from start to finish. It’s very difficult to describe the sound of this album and the emotional resonances it has for me. The dense layering of opener “Malachite” is sitting on the roof of the Wright’s Hill bunker and looking out over the darkening city as the first spots of rain stain the concrete. The crunching, subterranean bass of “Pneumonic” weaves a cocoon of sound so dense it feels as though you’re physically enveloped, untouchable. “Oran Mor” and “Everything All Of The Time” are the sweep of waves and the crash on the shoreline all at once. “Saint” breathes us through the quiet.

Ultimately I think that while Solace, like all of Jakob’s albums, is undeniably beautiful to listen to, it is music that suddenly ‘clicks’ when you have a memory or an experience to pin it to. Everything slots into place, and suddenly the music becomes part of your DNA, and you cannot ever listen to it in the same way again.


Sam: performing his own and Neil Johnstone’s (another of our librarians) music

QUARANTUNES 9 April 2020

Tonight's QUARANTUNES is here and we're happy to introduce you to Sam, one of our librarians from the Johnsonville and Tawa Libraries. He's joined by Neil, another one of our librarians from the Wellington City Libraries, who has prepared a backing drone synthesizer part to accompany Sam's guitar. We hope you enjoy this beautiful soundscape and we'll see you on Saturday with our next installment of QUARANTUNES. Stay home and be safe! #quarantunes

Posted by Johnsonville Library on Wednesday, 8 April 2020

 

Hollywoodfun Downstairs’ debut album The Mancunian Swing from 2013 remains my personal favourite. The sound is highly distinctive, utilising dissonant noise guitar, deranged vocals and pummeling rhythms, with strangely infectious hooks to create a punk rock maelstrom. Whilst there is an overarching sense of venom across the record, there are also moments of quiet fragility as well as a strong pop sensibility, which helps to give it real dynamic weight.

Songs like “216” and “Fuzzy” have an almost classic ’60s Brit-rock vibe to them, whereas the one-two punch of “This Circus Believes” and “Crackhouse” close the album in a relentlessly intense fashion. Whilst it may sound somewhat tame compared to some of their later work, to me The Mancunian Swing truly shows Hollywoodfun Downstairs at their most creatively nuanced and interesting.


Jamie: performing his own music

QUARANTUNES 19 April 2020

Sunday QUARANTUNES are always a nice time to sit back and enjoy the ambient guitar stylings of Makerspace Specialist Jamie. We hope you had a nice week and that your evening is full of happiness. Be well, stay safe, and stay home! #quarantunes

Posted by Johnsonville Library on Wednesday, 15 April 2020

 

I have fond memories of this album, lying on the floor of our house in England when I was about 6 or 7, listening to it. It was the first time I had ever heard of New Zealand, now I live here!! The intro/jangly guitar part to “Weather With You” and the progression of “Four Seasons in One Day” are just two of the songs that made me pick up a guitar. It is up there in my top ten of all time!


Discover More:

Wellington Music at WCL: Want to keep up with the latest gigs and releases throughout Wellington? Then look no further than the Wellington Music at WCL Facebook page, run by our very own music specialist Mark!

Wellington Music Past and Present: This site is a tribute to the decades of music that have contributed to Wellington’s sound, as well as a browsable portal to our physical CD collection.

Music eResources: With almost half a million tracks between them, Naxos Music Library and Naxos Jazz Library will have your lockdown listening covered. Discover them via our Digital Library.

Need audio equipment for a gig, or for recording music?

Libraries are no longer just places to get books. Need a PA system for a party, a speaking engagement, or a wedding? Playing a live or studio gig? Need to do some recording in the field, or hook up some gear to your laptop and make a new album at home? The new Library Music Equipment collection has what you need. We love Wellington music at Wellington City Libraries and we are here to help you make it.

We have five new Music Kits for people to borrow as part of our new Equipment Lending Service:


AudioBox KIT:
• 1x Rode NT1-A Microphone
• 1x SM6 Shock mount & pop filter
• 1x Dust Cover
• 1x Rode 6m XLR cable
• 1x Presonus Audiobox iTwo
• 1x USB cable
$30 for 4 days/Overdue charge: $10 per day
Continue reading “Need audio equipment for a gig, or for recording music?”

Split Enz: from the archives

“… can I say that Split Enz are chiefly themselves and so unusual that after the first listen I really didn’t know what to say; like a stargazer suddenly confronted with a UFO I knew it was good but I just couldn’t find words to describe it. I trust I’m starting to get them sussed now. And they’re going to be BIG…. ” –

so said Phil Sutcliffe about Mental Notes, Split Enz’s debut album – in the August 1976 issue of the UK magazine Sounds.  Read the full review – plus other Split Enz interviews and reviews in the excellent Rocks Backpages database, part of our mygateway.info suite of online resources.