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.