Thank you Nelson, for inviting us to play at Marchfest. We really did have a fantastic time. Not least because of the wine, the weather, the location, the atmosphere, the landscape, the festival and the food… and an extremely loquacious taxi driver who took us on a tiki tour and told us the value of every single house in the city. It was a pleasure!
Today we had our final rehearsal, prior to the premiere of Toi Huarewa. It’s been an amazing process and, as usual, I’m anticipating the performance with a mixture of excitement and terror.
There really is something surreal about spending so many months immersed in a project, and then seeing all of that time and care finally being concentrated into a single moment in time – having it travel into the ears and memories of other people. In a way, it’s like watching water rushing down a plug-hole… it might seem to be draining slowly at first, but in the end it disappears quickly and violently.
There’s a part of me that hates to finish a piece – I have a beloved collection of unfinished pieces at home and every now and then I revisit them, write a bit more, change things, remove things… and generally revel in the fact that, until I decide otherwise, their final form is plastic and unknown. Perhaps it’s because so much of my musical life is spent working to deadlines, but I don’t know if I’ll ever come to terms with surrendering my more private music to the outside world.
Writing a commission has a great freedom to it… you can present anything you want… but there is the small matter of the piece needing to be finished for the performance.
Which is not to say that I’m not looking forward to it! The music couldn’t be in better hands than those of the dexterous and sympathetic NZTrio and Horomona Horo, who have been the happiest and most inspiring of performers and collaborators.
Here’s a link to a lovely article that William Dart wrote about Toi Huarewa in todays New Zealand Herald. To read it, click here.
The day of Toi Huarewa’s premiere draws ever closer. You can book tickets HERE. Altogether too exciting!
I had another wonderful rehearsal with NZTrio and Horo this week, where we incorporated some of the ideas for Toi Huarewa that we talked about in February – and which have been brewing in my mind since then. Only 9 days until the premiere on the 24th.
If anyone is keen to hear the Trio play before then, please head along to the Auckland Art Gallery tomorrow night for the Auckland Arts Festival White Night series – and experience the pure genius of David Downes in a performance of his piece for NZTrio and film, Kingdom.
There will be two performances – 8pm and 9pm. Make a night of it. What could be better?… Oh yes… it’s FREE!
Our next performance is at Marchfest in Nelson on the 6th of April. The last time the Bellbirds played there, I was about 3 weeks away from delivering twins, so I stayed in Auckland to be on the safe side. (It was the right decision… I was the size of a house and I probably wouldn’t have fit behind the keyboard.) So it will be wonderful to present a complete line-up this time around and we’re very much looking forward to being in such a gorgeous part of the world.
(In the absence of any new official band photos – I took these after a recent gig.)
I’m thrilled to announce that the phenomenal NZTrio have commissioned me to compose a 20 minute work for Piano Trio and Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori instruments). It will be premiered on the 24th of March as part of NZTrio’s ‘Convergence‘ programme at the Auckland Arts Festival, 2013.
Horomona Horo (Nga Puhi / Taranaki / Ngati Porou), master practitioner and composer of Taonga Puoro, will perform with the trio – and he is collaborating with me as a composer for this work, along with my friend Tim Worrall (Ngai Tuhoe).
I’ll write more about this piece as it progresses, because I’m exploring many new worlds and delving, not just into the richness and mysticism of the Maori tradition, but the origins of the Western one that I’ve been communicating in and taking for granted for so long. Exploring ways in which these two very different musical languages can meaningfully occupy a shared space has been a fascinating and illuminating process for me.
Over the years I’ve spent composing soundtracks, I’ve come to truly appreciate the collaborative nature of film and the incredible opportunities that music can be given by the objective (and sometimes very subjective) influence of different people and disciplines.
Composing contemporary classical music (for want of a better term) is a more isolated pursuit, where the composer has singular authority over their work and doesn’t necessarily seek the input of others. When I return to classical music, I have to confess that I sometimes feel quite lonely without the voices of collaborators there to feed back into my work. Having said that, silence – no matter how uncomfortable it sometimes feels – is a place to search for your own truth and I love the honesty and vulnerability that working in isolation can reveal.
Working with Maori music – which is an aural tradition and inextricably interwoven with communal, material and spiritual things – is another world again. It isn’t just other people who enter into the world of your music when you collaborate, but Gods, ancestors, places, elements, animals and plants.
I’ve been so inspired by this approach that I have begun to develop Toi Huarewa into a multi-media collaboration, calling upon friends Jon Baxter and Robin Rawstorne - who work in the theatrical and audiovisual worlds – to step into the mix. It will be a while before this comes to fruition, but it feels like a natural step for the project.
For the time being, I’m very excited to be collaborating with Horo and Tim. Their contribution and wisdom isn’t exclusively musical… sometimes their ideas come in the form of abstract concepts, technical details and cultural perspectives… sometimes they come in the form of tangible sounds and musical gestures. But in this combined world, the balance between the tangible and the abstract isn’t always fixed – just as Te Arai, the veil that separates us from our ancestors, isn’t always impenetrable. At the right time, under the right circumstances, we can see beyond it and perhaps even venture through.
This work has been made possible by the generous assistance of Creative New Zealand.