Recently I have been doing a lot of research that involves using the music trade magazine Australian Music Maker and Dance Band News (which is partly why I have not posted for a while). While I had used clippings of it for my thesis research (held in the Dennis Huggard Jazz Archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library), this was the first time that I had seen more than a few issues in its entirety (albeit in the form of microfilm rather than hard copy). Now I’m wishing that I’d explored (or been able to explore) the magazine more fully sooner because I could have added so much to my thesis…although that would have made it much harder to stay within the regulations for word limits!
The magazine, which was published from June 1932 to the 1970s, was the main periodical for popular, jazz and brass band musicians in the Australasian region, and was likely the main resource for popular (dance) and jazz musicians to keep up with style developments in the northern hemisphere. There were regular articles on various performance practices (down to how to use vibrato in a swing band), how to articles for arranging and composition, and stock arrangements of local compositions. There were also news columns (both Australia and New Zealand), humorous articles, and profiles of local and international artists.
What I find fascinating is seeing what influenced local musicians, and seeing how they learned about jazz half a world away from the main jazz scenes. Then there are things that are clearly local trends- such as the craze for pianists to learn piano accordion in the mid-1930s- and discovering the reasoning behind those fashions. Figuring out how all these things worked in together to create the trans-Tasman jazz scene is one part of what I’m using Music Maker to research.
For me this magazine is an absolute treasure trove of information about New Zealand musicians and bands, and importantly, how the New Zealand and Australian jazz scenes were broadly integrated. Despite the fact that there is a sea between New Zealand and Australia, during the first half of the twentieth century there really was an integrated musical community with musicians regularly travelling and working between the two countries. What is interesting is to see that there were a number of layers of community going on in the Australasian jazz scene- from the micro-level of community within a band, to city and regional levels, national and then finally this trans-Tasman level of community. This is something that I have explored a little bit from the point of view of New Zealand, and how Australian musicians affected the New Zealand scene, but I am now researching the New Zealand scene from the point of view of Australian musicians, and their impressions of the similarities and differences between the two countries and between different local scenes in New Zealand.
As I progress through this research (and later writing), which is based on my swing era research, I’m hoping that I will be able to find out more about the influences of Australian musicians on the New Zealand scene. Importantly, I am hoping to discover how their backgrounds, influences and choices (performance practices, repertoire, showmanship, and so on) affected the New Zealand scene, and whether there were any influences from their sojourn’s in New Zealand when they returned to Australia.