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Alastair Galbraith

Alastair Galbraith

Alastair Galbraith’s Biography

Last Updated:
16/05/2019, 3:33 pm
Sound Musician
Arts Foundation Laureate 2006
Alastair Galbraith is an experimental musician based in Dunedin and is one of the most admired musicians in the 'underground' music scene worldwide.

Born in 1965, Alastair Galbraith employs amongst his instruments, violin, bagpipes, softly spoken lyrics, organ, and backwards-guitar to create what has been described as "otherworldly" and an "unerringly emotional" sound. Noted American critic Byron Coley has said "his work is filled with beautiful darkness, worthy of classic designation".

His long, consistent career began in the early 1980s, as leader of The Rip, who recorded two EPs for Flying Nun. He later joined other prominent South Island musicians Peter Jefferies, David Mitchell and Robbie Muir to form Plagal Grind, whose self-titled EP is regarded as a masterpiece of extra-academic experimental music.

Alastair's solo work has gained a growing international reputation and is known as a benchmark of excellence for the independent, idiosyncratic mode it operates in. His works have been heralded in critical journals and documented by recordings on prestigious American labels. In his recent work, alongside solo recordings, Alastair collaborates with Bruce Russell in the improvisational group, A Handful of Dust, and with Matt De Gennaro, with whom he creates distinctive 'wire music', using piano wires in a site-specific installation.

His 2004 Radiant CD with Dino Karlis, has been described as "a monstrous collaboration between two of New Zealand's most vital underground musicians". In 2006 the prestigious North American label, Table of the Elements, archivers of such twentieth century musical geniuses as Charlie Patton and Tony Conrad, gave Alastair's solo work the status of contemporary classics by reissuing his albums Morse/Gaudylight and Talisman.   Alastair's album of song-based material, the 20-track Orb, was released on his own label Nextbestway, via Global Routes, early in 2008 and received a glowing full-page review in the February edition oficon UK magazine The Wire.

Alastair received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award in 2006. The Laureate Award is an investment in excellence across a range of art forms for an artist with prominence and outstanding potential for future growth. Their work is rich but their richest work still lies ahead of them. The Award recognises a moment in the artists' career that will allow them to have their next great success.

In 2008 the New York Label Azul Discographica released his collaboration with Bruce Russell - (under the moniker Handful of Dust) - the album Panegyrics.

Alastair is presently constructing a glass 'armonica', an instrument invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin. He sourced his materials locally and has given several performances on the not-quite-complete instrument. He is also designing his second "glass tube fire organ". The first is in the collection of the Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui. The 3 1/2 octave flame organ includes 44 burners which will be mechanically controlled from a keyboard, to produce notes in borosilicate Rijke tubes.  The team involved consists of Anne Ryan and Greg Kerr (glass-blowers), Tim Duval-Smith (mechanical engineer) and Alastair Galbraith (musician). 

Alastair released his album Mass in July 2010, and it made The Wire's top 50 records of 2010.

Alastair lives at Taieri Mouth near Dunedin with his partner and son.