Warwick Blair




Imagine a ‘plank’ of wood. It has its own grain pattern; its own DNA. Imagine it being placed vertically, and cut. Then imagine it being placed horizontally, and cut. The plank of wood, is a metaphor for Blair’s recent work, where there is no beginning, end, intention or direction.

This approach gives rise to an interest in the possibility of different ‘versions’ of the same work. Vertically where instruments are taken away or added, but it remains essentially the same work. Horizontally where the length is shortened or expanded, but again it remains essentially the same work.

The influence of pop culture could be seen to be at play here, where a pop song can be in a different style, or have a different ‘edit’, but still be the same song.

This, as well as an appreciation of Cage’s aesthetics of ‘leaving things alone’, and the Italians’ ‘la dolce far niente’ (the sweetness of doing nothing) are important considerations too.

Blair asserts that his collision of styles is his way of searching for a deeper meaning. Louis Andriessen (with whom Blair studied) talked about Blair creating a ‘universal metaphysical musical language, just as Mahler desired his symphonies to be heard to represent the world. And this is Blairs purpose, to permit eclectic diversity and temporal associations to offer exceptional musical freedoms, where all sound is equally relevant and musical hierarchies are levelled, so that something more abstract, more universal, can emerge…

In the late 1980s, having barely begun what is now a 20-year career, Composer Warwick Blair was already being described as one of New Zealand’s most original musical thinkers (NZ Herald) and the enfant terrible of New Zealand Music (NZ Listener).

His first trip to Europe in 1987 was to perform at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with legendary Greek polymath Iannis Xenakis using UPIC, an early electronic music system. In 1990 his Aotea Centre-opening orchestral performance The Good Seeds Are So Small, performed by the APO and broadcast by Radio New Zealand, was proclaimed concert of the year by seminal music magazine Rip It Up.

Having received an AGC Young Achievers Award in 1989, Blair moved to the Netherlands where he studied electronic music and classical composition with Louis Andriessen, and earned a NUFFIC scholarship from the Dutch Government. In 1991 Blair moved from Den Haag to London. Inspired by 4AD groups Dead Can Dance (featuring Lisa Gerrard) and This Mortal Coil, he began diversifying into the wider realms of pop music and formed the band Glory Box.

Blair has given concerts in the UK and Europe, including London’s prestigious South Bank Centre in 1994. His recording career includes material for Phonogram Records (Glory Box, 1995) as well as orchestral arrangements for ambient techno terrorist Scanner (1997) and the group Mandalay (V2 Records, 1998) a role that saw him working alongside Madonna/Bjork producer Guy Sigsworth. Reviews have appeared in The Times, NME, Wired and GQ, with radio support coming from BBC Radio 1 and Kiss FM, to name a few.

Blair has composed soundtracks and sound design for Gordons Gin, Mastercard, Sky TV and NZ Navy TVCs, as well as working on the film Stargate, the Nintendo game Cartoon Academy, and multimedia presentations for Signpost and Australian Fashion Week for Karen Walker. Returning to New Zealand in the late 90s, Blair spent a few years lecturing at the University of Auckland, where originally he earned his Masters degree in Music (MMus – 1st class, 1987).

With 15 years first-hand research into pop culture behind (and presumably still in front of) him, Blair felt compelled to write ‘Accordion’, rediscovering the territory that had captivated him in the late 80s, an amalgamation of contemporary classical music with elements of electronic pop culture.

Blair’s work ‘Stars’, a 24 hour work for Indian female singer and electronic music backing with 6 screen video projection of the heavens (ie. broadly speaking 12 hours of daytime clouds and 12 hours of nighttime stars), has received unanimous praise for its emotional power and structural thought.

Blair currently records for Ode Records.