Landfall in Unknown Seas, by Douglas Lilburn, has just been played on the radio yet again – this time with Sir Edmund Hillary doing the reciting of the poem (and not very well either, it must be admitted).
In spite of its ‘popularity’ this is an unexciting piece of music. The format doesn’t help much, with a person reading the poetry of Allen Curnow interspersed with string ‘interpretations’ of what’s just been read. Somehow it never takes off. The poetry is fine enough, but Lilburn’s music never rises to the occasion. In fact, it tends to flatten things out. As always, Lilburn fails to come up with anything except his usual chordal movement stuff, and after a while that gets tedious. It reminds me of Delius’ music, whose wandering compositions wax and wane in popularity. They never seem to have any purpose; they’re reflective, which is fine in music, but that’s all. Delius seems to have no other mood.
Lilburn has occasional moments in his compositions, moments when he finally seems to break out of the mode of the mind and into emotion. But he seems to hold back far more often than he lets loose, and in a composer that’s not a good trait, I don’t feel. Without some sense of passion, even if it’s only below the surface, music becomes a mere mood, and in Lilburn’s case it’s not a very interesting mood.