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Donation of Flying Nun tapes marks centenary for Turnbull

Original recordings of iconic New Zealand rock music, some in need of urgent preservation, have found a safe home at the Turnbull Library.

Flying Nun records master tapes pictured in collection storage at The Alexander Turnbull Library

Hundreds of master tapes from music recordings made between 1981 to the mid-2000s for Flying Nun Records have been donated to the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Archive of New Zealand Music.

The collection includes tracks from legendary New Zealand artists such as The Chills, The Bats, The Verlaines, Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, Look Blue Go Purple, Sneaky Feelings, Headless Chickens and Bailter Space, amongst others.

The donation is a major event that marks the beginning of the Library’s centenary period, 100 years since the original donation by bibliophile Alexander Turnbull.

“The music of Flying Nun is a huge part of our culture and was significant in forging important music connections internationally,” says Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, who announced the acquisition. “It’s important for New Zealand that these tapes will be preserved, both physically and digitally, and adds to the Flying Nun collection already in the library. It is a wonderful acquisition to celebrate the centenary of Alexander Turnbull’s donation of his collection to the people of New Zealand.”

Many of the master tapes are in fragile condition or on obsolete formats and require urgent preservation. The Library will digitally preserve all of the recordings over the next three years so that this unique part of New Zealand’s music heritage remains safe and accessible.

Minister for Internal Affairs Hon Tracey Martin, Associate Minister for Culture and Heritage Hon Grant Robertson with Roger Shepherd, founder of Flying Nun, in the archive.

Curator Music for the Library, Michael Brown, says that there has been growing excitement at the Library since discussions began early last year with Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd, ONZM, and Co-Director Ben Howe.

“The Library is honoured to be entrusted with this hugely important music collection”, he says.

“Flying Nun has consulted with artists about the project, which has been important to its success so far. We’re committed to protecting all the artists’ rights inherent in the material. And, once the masters have been preserved and digitised, we’re really looking forward to working with Flying Nun on future reissues of the music, exhibitions and other opportunities. We expect this collection will significantly enhance research into New Zealand music.”

Roger Shepherd says that the Alexander Turnbull Library was Flying Nun’s choice as the best place to hold this collection. “The Turnbull Library was a natural choice, because it has first-class preservation and research facilities, and was also willing to work with our artists to make their amazing and well-loved music accessible and still preserve all their rights.”

The master tape of the single Pink Frost / Purple Girl by The Chills

The Archive of New Zealand Music at the Alexander Turnbull Library was established in 1974 by composer Douglas Lilburn and contains the largest collection of archival material relating to New Zealand music and musicians. It sits alongside the largest public collection of published New Zealand and Pacific recordings, also in the Library’s collections.