Kia ora and welcome to not unlike a trumpet. My name is Michael Brown and I am a music researcher and writer based in Wellington, New Zealand. In recent years, I have worked in the heritage sector as an archivist. My present position is Curator Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library. not unlike a trumpet was created in 2014 as a place to post short articles, notices, opinion pieces and reviews related to New Zealand music studies and other topics. It also includes information about my publications and creative work.

The title of this blog comes from an account of the first recorded contact between Māori and European people. This meeting occurred on 18 December 1642 when the ships Haemskercke and Zeehaen, under the command of Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman, sailed into what is now known as Golden Bay. “Not unlike a trumpet” is how surgeon Henrik Haelbos described the sound of a Māori instrument (possibly a pūkaea or pūtatara, perhaps an instrument otherwise unknown) heard during the first exchanges between the local inhabitants and the visitors. The Dutch responded by sounding their own trumpet, not realising that in doing so they were probably accepting a challenge. The following day they suffered the fatal consequences of this “musical misunderstanding” when several sailors were killed.1

The phrase “not unlike a trumpet” has significance, then, as one of the earliest descriptions of music-making in the place soon to be named Nova Zeelandia (New Zealand) by Dutch cartographers. The phrase appeals to me for several other reasons, too. It expresses my feeling that much of New Zealand’s musical past still remains unexplored and undefined. Also, given that blogs are sometimes about blowing your own trumpet, it seemed not inappropriate. Lastly, the phrase happened to suit the header image.2


1. See Richard Nunns and Allan Thomas, ‘A first encounter in New Zealand’, in World music is where we found it: essays by and for Allan Thomas, eds. Wendy Pond and Paul Wolffram (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2011), pp.173-183. The English phrase “not unlike a trumpet”  comes from Andrew Sharp’s English translation of the Haelbos account.
2. This photograph shows Owen Pritchard and Frank Crowther (at the piano) leading a community sing at Post Office Square, Wellington, during the Great Depression. Source: Evening Post, 7 May 1932.