Composer - Farr/Nunns, Gareth/Richard

Nga Kete e Toru for piano trio and taonga puoro (NZTrio commission – premiered January 2010) – 20′

Nga Kete e Toru was commissioned by NZTrio in 2009, and is a conversation between the instruments of Māori and Pākehā cultures. The original composition, for piano trio and taonga puoro player, features a group of traditional Māori instruments called the Pūmotomoto – instruments characterised by having only one finger hole resulting in a pitch range that is much more limited than other Māori wind instruments such as the Koauau and Pūtorino. The Pūmotomoto playing technique includes manipulation of embouchure (mouth position) to create edge tones, high harmonics, and bending of pitches.

The seven sections of Nga Kete e Toru are inspired by various aspects of the story of Tane and his ascent to the heavens to acquire the three baskets of knowledge – Nga Kete e Toru. The Pūmotomoto is mentioned many times in the story, and as such it becomes a key character in the narrative of this epic journey.

Prelude – Te Ao
The Pūmotomoto Tawhirirangi (Ostrich bone) is the soloist of the prelude, with the trio providing an atmospheric bed of string harmonics, resonant piano chords and textures. Just as the movement draws to a close, the Pakuru Whakatangi Tanguru (sticks) can be heard, signifying the insects that attack Tane on his ascent to the heavens, heralding the Battle of Whiro.

Movement 1 – The Battle with Whiro
The spotlight turns to the trio for this movement, with battle calls from the Pūtātara (conch shell) and Pūmotomoto Tutu alternating with their tumultuous sounds in sharp bursts and staccato figurations. The Tokere (stones) are heard before the Purerehua, which evokes the wild winds that blow the attacking insects away from Tane.

Interlude – The Fontanelles
Briefly departing from the story of Tane, this movement focuses on another aspect of the Pūmotomoto. Featuring the Pūmotomoto Ewe (with its carving of the image of the foetus) it highlights the traditional use of the Pūmotomoto for imparting knowledge to the unborn child through the belly of the mother, and up until the fontanelles close after birth. The music is a variation of the Prelude. This section also features the Hue Puruhau (Gourd).

Movement 2 – Nga Kete e Toru
The centrepiece of the work, this movement features the Pūmotomoto Toroa (albatross bone), the most melodically flexible of all the Pūmotomoto. Along with the Putorino (an instrument shaped and representing a Cocoon), both instruments play throughout the movement, weaving themselves in and out of the sinuous melodies of the violin, cello and piano.

Interlude 2 – Tane
Once again, we visit the music of the Prelude in another incarnation – this time with the Pūmotomoto Miro and Koauau Koura (crayfish claw) as soloists – evoking the incantation of the god’s blessing that allows Tane to approach the 12th heaven.

Movement 3 – The Guardhouse of the 12th Heaven
The finale signifies the heroic success of Tane reaching the 12th heaven. The Pūmotomoto Tawhirirangi and Putorino alternate with the trio, as in the first movement. The Koauau appears again, before the Pūmotomoto Tutu returns to finally be joined by the Pūmotomoto matai.

Postlude – Te Ao
The Pūmotomoto Tutu is played like a Pūtātara (conch shell) or Pukaea (wooden trumpet) into the resonating strings of the piano, and the Pahu Pounamu is struck.

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