WORD Christchurch 2023: The Music Book Club

Sunday afternoon at Tūranga was the scene for a little book club action, with a musical twist. This cosy music book club gathering was facilitated by Mike, the Unlikely Librarian. Singer, musician and actor Marlon Williams was our special guest star. #Blessed! Marlon said this was his first time at a book club, but he's got book credentials - he is the son of a librarian dad who worked at Christchurch City Libraries! 

First up, MËTAL

Mike spoke about two faves - the memoir of Black Sabbath's bass player, and a novel with a similarly black metal focus. 

Into the Void

Gone to the Wolves

Ngā mōteatea

Next up, Marlon delved into his folder and brought out something special - Ngā mōteatea

Over a period of forty years Sir Apirana Ngata, distinguished leader and scholar, collected and recorded hundreds of songs and chants from the iwi of Aotearoa, which became the four volumes of Ngā Mōteatea, with translations and annotations by Ngata and Pei Te Hurinui Jones. (Auckland University Press)

Ngā mōteatea

Find Ngā mōteatea in our collection

Marlon introduced us to this seminal work, explaining how it was compiled, the waiata it contains, and the topics it covers - Songs of pain and love, that were written out of personal necessity, personal songs, with obscure language. Marlon hopes we are on the precipice of scholarship coming up about these songs. Ngā mōteatea are minimal in terms of notes, no more than three, repetitive, relentless. There is microtonality and subtlety in the repetition. 

He sung us one to demonstrate. 

There were discussions between Mike and Marlon (and some of the other book club guests) about te reo, expressions used, the use of mōteatea as a basis for land claims, and about being stuck in a place of grievance. Plus some lighter stuff - the Māori strum and his fave Country and Western vocalists (George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Willie Nelson). 

Marlon also namechecked this book by Margaret Orbell:

The Presence of the Dew

Marlon is working on an album in te reo Māori, so it will be fascinating to see if ngā mōteatea is an influence on his new music. It seems likely!

Kim's pick - Sir Shayne Carter's Dead People I have known

Kim introduced Shayne Carter's wonderful memoir as her book club pick:

Dead People I Have Known

She appreciated that it wasn't all about the technical stuff about making music - it was more a personal history. 

My picks

I brought along some books of lyrics. Love the Faber ones! I also did a shoutout for music memoirs by women

And then we dispersed. Thanks Mike and Marlon and the Book Clubbers!

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