The sound of Christchurch

Since the earthquakes first struck Christchurch on September 4, 2010, our musicians have not only been rebuilding their lives, homes and rehearsal spaces, but they have sought to express themselves in many ways and, with a shortage of venues, in various creative places. Vicki Anderson offers an overview of songs that have arisen from Christchurch post-quakes.

Ed Muzik

The self-described king of earthquake rock and more than worthy of this title, Ed Muzik, also known as James Dann, has been offering up #eqnz-inspired tunes since his 2011 EP Hates It, which included clever tracks such as EQC Are Looking At My House, It’s Grim Out East, Double Brownlee and I Once Was An Orange Parka.

Earlier this year he returned with a follow-up EP, Still Hates It, which kicks off with CERA, a remix of the Fleetwood Mac classic, with satire fully turned on the powers that be.

CERA sits alongside 12.51, a cover of the Strokes’ song of the same name dedicated to the people of Christchurch, and other tracks including Red Zone Holiday and Feel the Place.

It features album artwork by, appropriately, The Loss Adjusters.

The Grand Chancellors

The Grand Chancellors are a three-piece “hotel rock’n’roll” combo who formed directly after the quakes, naming themselves after our most infamous leaning hotel, the Hotel Grand Chancellor, which has now been demolished.

They created songs by drawing on their first-hand experiences from the rubble-laden alleyways of Christchurch. Their song 13th Floor says it all and does so at a frenetic pace.

The Harbour Union

The band of Lyttelton musicians who gathered under the name The Harbour Union in 2011 were drawn together by a simple idea – to do what they do best to raise some cash for their community.

Together, The Eastern, The Unfaithful Ways, Al Park (of AL’s Bar), Tiny Lies, Runaround Sue, Delaney Davidson and Lindon Puffin got together, formed a collective and made a record of, for and about their community.

They recorded it in the lounge of The Eastern’s Lyttelton home by Ben Edwards, of the Sitting Room, using borrowed gear, with aftershocks inadvertently captured during the recording process.

The proceeds of their album have gone back into Lyttelton and the wider Christchurch community in a variety of projects.

The 13 “new or reimagined songs” from the collective were written at different times, but to hear these songs is to get an overwhelming picture of Lyttelton. Songs: Ghost of This Town, Little Mountain Town.

Tom Cosm

Using a radio broadcast from the magnitude-7.1 quake of September 4, 2010, electronic artist Tom Cosm created his own earthquake tune, best described as quakestep. Hear it on

The Eastern

Recorded on borrowed gear in a red-zoned home in Dallington, The Eastern’s double album, Hope and Wire, entered the Top 20 charts at No 11 and staying lodged in the New Zealand album Top 10 for eight weeks.

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Writers Adam McGrath and Jess Shanks shared duties across the two records – Hope, which is “your heart, your head” – and Wire, which symbolises “that practical, make it work any way you can, DIY Kiwi spirit”. Their song, State Houses By the River, was a finalist in last year’s Silver Scroll Awards. This is a song that will reverberate for many years.

Sound artists

Song Song. To commemorate the lives of the 28 past students of the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology killed in the magnitude- 6.3 earthquake over two years ago, composer Chris Reddington and Stuart Lloyd Harris have created an interactive musical sculpture.

Called Song Song (A Musical Bridge), it is a walk-in enclosure consisting of two large, curved steel plates containing 28 steel strings on the inside walls. The pair enlisted the help of an astronomer who used GPS to plot the azimuth line.

The sculpture is sited next to the Rakaia Centre at CPIT and is open to anyone who wishes to visit. Its basic orientation bears a line which shows exactly where the sun was at 12.51pm on February 22, 2011.

Stand on this line and your shadow falls exactly where it would have at the moment of the quake.

Chambers. Last October, the Silencio Ensemble presented Chambers at 70 Gloucester St, beside the Centre of Contemporary Art gallery, as part of Festa (the Festival of Transitional Architecture).

An outdoor acoustic performance for 16 tubular bells, it also used eight road cones. The music was developed around questions about how acoustic sound is experienced in space – outdoor space. The empty site was prepared with four large vertical sets of tubular bells, forming a basic architectural frame for musical structures across space and time.

Alongside this, road cones, a common sight on Christchurch streets post-quake, became horizontal objects for sound magnification. They created acoustic hot spots, where audiences could explore particular frequencies and resonances.

Remains. Reuben Derrick’s soundscape work, Remains, captured the sounds of the abandoned suburb of Bexley after the quakes.

The wind is ghostly as his journey takes him past Seabreeze Close. Hearing seagulls call on an otherwise empty estuary is haunting.

Body Waves. Jo Burzynska, aka Stanier Black Five, and Melbourne sound artist Malcolm Riddoch collaborated to create Body Waves. The pair used frequencies to transform a recording from the February 22, 2011, earthquake into music you can feel, that resonates.

Live infrasonic performances at shows in Wellington and six disused cement silos on Auckland’s waterfront were given using Riddoch’s low- frequency electroacoustic feedback.

Notable mentions

The Day the Earth Stood Still – the Damned Evangelist; Trouble I’m In – The Unfaithful Ways. Little Heart – Delaney Davidson; Tremendous Heart – Thomas Coffey and the Grinders; The Origin of Slaves – Cairo Knife Fight supported the Foo Fighters at their Auckland concert to raise money for Christchurch; Fledge Collective; Ariana Tikao’s album From Dust to Light.

Simpletons – The Bats, shot in the CBD red zone; Christchurch (My Home Town) – James Beck (this uplifting video shot around the cordon of Christchurch’s CBD was an instant online hit); Ping Pong – Factories, who released an EP titled Operator’s Service Handbook in May 2011, followed up by another last year titled The Supreme Cosmic Consciousness Births a Star Child Into Negative Space at Absolute Zero. The video for Ping Pong was shot at Christchurch’s Table Tennis Stadium just weeks after the February 2011 quake, then sliced and and synced to the beat of a ping-pong ball.

Latest sounds

Check out the latest release from Christchurch collective MIC (Melted Ice Cream) titled Sickest Smashes from Arson City, which offers a compilation album drawn from Christchurch bands Ipswich, X-Ray Charles, Christian Rock, BnP, Salad Boys, Transistors, ShackLock Meth Party, Wurld Series, The Dance Asthmatics, Thrill Collins, Log Horn Breed, Plastic Paco and 83 Girls. See