Grunt – 30 October 2013


In the film version of The Silence of the Lambs, Clarice Starling, the rookie policewoman seeking urgent answers to the spate of unsolved killings, gets to speak to the murderous psychopathic psychiatrist, Hannibal Lector. At a point when she tries to hurry him along, he demurs, saying: "Everything comes to those who wait." And if that is true, it depends, quite obviously, on the amount of patience and persistence you have.
When I was a postgraduate student in Auckland in the mid-sixties, I came across the work of a New Zealand composer named Douglas Lilburn. I heard one of his pieces on the radio and was very taken by it. So I tried to buy a recording of his work. (We have to remember that this was decades before the Internet and its multitude of search engines.) Admittedly, my efforts were rather spasmodic since my main purpose was to get the degree. However, when I returned to what was then Southern Rhodesia, I had had no joy in my quest. Lilburn had eluded me.
Nonetheless, every now and then, I would remember his name. I would google – what an horrendous verb that is! – but without particular success. Then, some years ago, I saw that a CD of his three symphonies was available, and, better still, on a budget label! I tried to order it but the various outlets I contacted told me that, although the recording was listed in the catalogue, it wasn’t actually available. That struck me as a strange way of doing business: advertise your goods and then say they’re not available. (I have since discovered this seems to be a common practice in many local businesses: "Sorry, we don’t have stock.")
This year, I saw the recording advertised again in the label’s new catalogue. I ordered it. Three months later, with considerable effort on the manager’s part, I finally had the CD in my sticky fingers, almost half a century after starting my search. I was glad I’d lived long enough to wait for it. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to listen to it yet.