Last summer, Thomas went on a wild journey to New Zealand and Australia with the aid of a post-graduate traveling fellowship from Columbia University. He traveled there to do ethnomusicological research on the little-known composer Alfred Hill (1869-1960), who was New Zealand's first professional composer of art music and frequently looked to Maori music and culture for inspiration. Hill was, in effect, doing in Oceana what the so-called "Indianist" composers in the United States were doing at the same time: attempting to incorporate indigenous melodies into a Western classical framework.
Thomas is currently completing an extensive research paper on Hill's use of Maori themes in his String Quartet No. 1 in G Minor (c. 1911). While researching this work, he stumbled upon a fragmentary manuscript of an earlier quartet dating from Hill's years as a student in Leipzig in 1893. It turned out that this fragment was the missing piece of an incomplete manuscript held with Hill's other papers in Sydney. With the aid of professor Donald Maurice, and Allan Stiles, a publisher and academic based in Sydney, Thomas reconstructed the early quartet in question, allowing for a recording and performance of the work for the first time since Hill was a student in Leipzig. It's a beautiful little work – even for those who don't know Hill's work and are simply fans of late Romantic-era music. The recording, by the Dominion String Quartet, who has recorded many of Hill’s chamber pieces for the Naxos label, can be heard here.