Warwick Blair



Blair is a distinguished composer who remains at the cutting edge of new music in New Zealand ever since he first hit the headlines in the 1980s.

Since 2013, WBE (Warwick Blair Ensemble) has visited London three times. In 2016, Warwick Blair was Composer in Residence at Kingston University, performing recent solo soprano works with electronics. For 2017, there is a proposed tour of London, including: the Wigmore Hall, Guy’s Hospital operating theatre and Club Inegales.

The concept of memory, with the ability of the mind to retain certain information and yet reject other selective memories has fascinated the composer for many years. He explores a musical palette that draws on various seemingly opposing genres or styles, creating a compelling and challenging soundscape.

Melusine demonstrates the influence of Puccini’s lyrical melodies and Wagners pioneering chromaticism, but also draws on serialism, the avant garde and contemporary songwriters, such as Lorde & Rowland S Howard. Etuden is a work that combines the influences of Chopin and Billie Holiday.

Blair asserts that this 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 2013, State of Being was given its world premiere; an important new work of great vision, with a beautiful and charismatic score. The video and libretto were sourced from people all over the world using ‘crowd sourcing’, contributions offered through creative channels and based on the composer’s dialectical brief. The opera, in a nutshell, presents a powerful series of emotional states of being that depict an individual’s struggle for survival and redemption. The opera represents a breakthrough in the genre, interpolating live and recorded music, video and theatre to produce a compelling synaesthetic experience.

Blair has a distinctive, original musical voice, which has received high critical praise and one which deserves wider global attention. It can be highly atmospheric, using deep inner rhythms to create epic soundscapes, as well as using more complex, edgy sonorities. His influences are many, ranging from modern to early and traditional musical styles (including indigenous music of New Zealand). During his time in Europe there were performances at the South Bank and in several other capitals.

However, following his return to Auckland in 1998, his subsequent music could only be heard in the UK on radio; recent works such as ‘Stars’ and ‘Accordian’ enjoyed airplay on BBC Radios 1 and 3 and Kiss FM. Over the years his collaborative work has included linking up with the pop group Dead Can Dance, Bjork producer Guy Sigsworth, soundtrack work for the movie Stargate and a number of sound designs for Nintendo and other major corporate brands.