Composer - Kelly, Victoria

Toi Huarewa/The Suspended Way for piano trio and taonga puoro (2013) – Composed in collaboration with Horomona Horo, NZTrio and Tim Worrall – 20′

Sono for violin, cello and piano (2000) – 12’


A way to reach the highest level of heaven – sometimes described as a web that hangs down from the heavens, sometimes described as a whirlwind path.

Victoria writes: When I began writing this piece, I wanted to create a musical world where Maori and Western musical traditions could communicate in the same language.

The Taonga Puoro form part of an aural tradition that is deeply entwined with Maori culture and absolutely unique to the Maori people. Western music, on the other hand, has evolved into a written tradition that encompasses the collision, intersection and evolution of many cultures. In this way, the two traditions couldn’t be more different.

To unite these two distinct voices, I decided to create a myth to act as a musical form. Maori mythology is fundamental to the Taonga Puoro and many other mythologies exist at the ancient heart of Western art – so this felt like a natural starting point.

Every instrument of the Taonga Puoro has a spiritual guardian (Kaitiaki) and a complex ancestral lineage (Whakapapa). The Kaitiaki are the Atua (Gods) of the materials from which the instruments are made. The Whakapapa of the instruments are made up of: the Atua and their descendants, the performers and their ancestors, the instrument makers and their ancestors, the places where the materials for the instruments originated, the materials themselves, the elements through which they’ve passed in all their various forms. Their tikanga is a beautiful interweaving of spirituality and science.

As I’ve explored this idea, I’ve come to imagine whakapapa as a virtually infinite series of pathways that lead everyone and everything back to the place where we all began – and the Taonga Puoro as voices that can communicate along these pathways, transcending time and space to connect us to our origins.

The concepts of guardianship and ancestry also apply to the instruments of the Piano Trio, who can find their own Kaitiaki amongst the Atua of the materials from which theyʼre made – whether those guardians and ancestors are from Aotearoa, or the many other places from which Western culture is derived. They too give voices to their ancestors and connect us to our origins and each other.

As this piece has evolved and I’ve collaborated with Horomona, Tim and the Trio – who have all been so generous with their knowledge – other themes have revealed themselves and become fundamental to the music. The most important of these are concepts of transformation, transition and illumination.

In Te Ao Maori, there is a state that exists between life and death, earth and sky, light and dark. It’s the point where the spiritual and physical worlds intersect. I’ve drawn my own, personal comparisons between this idea and some of the beautiful theories, about parallel universes and multiple dimensions, that occupy the minds of physicists.

These kinds of spaces are where I imagine the mythological Toi Huarewa to manifest, places full of mystery and wonder that all of us, regardless of our culture, seek to access or understand in our own ways.

Click here to read about the collaborative process on Victoria’s Blog.

Click here to watch a short documentary about Toi Huarewa.

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