7 Dec 2023

Asian Composers League: Te Hau - Alistair Fraser and Bridget Douglas

From Music Alive, 3:01 pm on 7 December 2023

In this Asian Composers League concert you’ll hear works by composers from Aotearoa, Hong Kong, and Denmark.

Wood close-up

Wood close-up Photo: James Gardner

This Asian Composers League concert is entitled Te Hau, Te Reo Maori for human Breath. A fitting name for a concert featuring taonga pūoro and flute, played respectively by Alistair Fraser and Bridget Douglas.

Flutist, Bridget Douglas and taonga pūoro player, Alistair Fraser

Flutist, Bridget Douglas and taonga pūoro player, Alistair Fraser Photo: Supplied

Alistair Fraser has been a creator and taonga pūoro practitioner for many years, involved with projects across the performance and research spectrum. Flutist, Bridget Douglas is Section Principal Flute of the NZSO, as well as a founding member of contemporary music ensemble Stroma where she is actively involved in performing and commissioning New Zealand composers.

In this concert you ’ll hear Fraser and Douglas perform works by New Zealand composers Philip Brownlee, Gareth Farr, Josiah Carr and Briar Prastiti, Hong Kong composer Alice Hoi-ching Yeung, and Danish composer Kristian Blak.

Listen on RNZ Concert in Sound Lounge, Sunday 10 December at 9pm. Or here now.

Kristian Blak: Taonga Pūoro - Sounds

Kristian Blak

Kristian Blak Photo: Supplied

Danish composer Kristian Blak has been based in the Faroe Islands since 1974, and has worked with sounds from Faroese nature in several compositions.

In this work, 'Taonga Pūoro - Sounds', he uses a backdrop of six different field recordings of sounds from the natural world: Fish; Coast; Láturpípa (a Faroese leaf instrument); River;Drunnhvíta (storm petrel); and Wind.

Different taonga pūoro were chosen to be played over each of the recordings, including pūtōrino (double flute), pūtātara (conch); kōauau ponga ihu (nose flute); Pūtātara, Te Waihīhī o Ngā Tai Parirua
(Kohatu) (”bird” whistle); tumutumu (stones and vocal); and pūrerehua/gārara (bull roarer).

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Philip Brownlee: Te Hau o Tāwhirimātea

Philip Brownlee

Philip Brownlee Photo: Isobel Brownlee

'Te Hau o Tāwhirimātea' by Te Whanganui-a-Tara composer Philip Brownlee was commissioned by (and is dedicated to) Richard Nunns and Bridget Douglas. Ana Tapiata provided advice on te reo Māori."

Philip writes, "The music aims to create a space in which the musicians, and the voices of their instruments, may speak together. The musical space is flexible, encouraging spontaneous dialogue between the various instrumental voices. Tāwhirimātea, the wind god, child of Earth and Sky, represents powerful elemental forces, but he is also capable of gentle playfulness. Te hau refers also to human breath, the force which animates the wind instruments. From the mingling of breath, sweet voices are brought into being."

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Alice Hoi-ching Yeung: Reveal Terra Firma

Alice Hoi-ching Yeung

Alice Hoi-ching Yeung Photo: Supplied by the composer

Hong Kong composer Alice Hoi-ching Yeung composed Reveal Terra Firma in 2019. And it’s inspired by meditation.

Alice says, “Human beings drown themselves in the midst of busyness, no longer opening up, cutting off the connection with the earth. If everything is shut out, everything would be dull. Meditation is the best way to reconnect and restore intimacy with the earth, understanding the relationship between the world and life and communicating with

"The first section of the piece is meditative, led by the flute, creating dialogue with taonga puoro, In the second section, the flute mcreates a transparent atmosphere while various Taonga pūoro were used to extend the space of the music."

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Gareth Farr: Silver Stone Wood Bone

Gareth Farr

Gareth Farr Photo: supplied

Gareth Farr has been working with taonga pūoro in combination with different western music ensembles for nearly three decades now, often in collaboration with the late Richard Nunns,  in what he calls "a fascinating journey of musical and cultural revelation."

About this 2019 work, 'Silver Stone Wood Bone', he says, "Working now with Alistair Fraser for the first time has been fascinating, as his approach (like musicians of all types) is unique—his sound is unique, and his extensive collection of instruments were all new and unfamiliar to me. My first task was to spend an afternoon with Alistair exploring these new sounds and deciding which I would use—only a handful out of dozens. The next step was figuring out what the relationship between the flute and the taonga pūoro would be.

"They have more similarities than any other combination involving taonga pūoro I've created before, and so that's what I focused on immediately. I love the fact that the instruments can imitate each other—and occupy the same sonic space, either complementing or contrasting. I decided to use many flute techniques that I've never used before, to achieve the flexible and very human tones that the taonga pūoro create - and conversely I asked Alistair to echo the exact pitches that the Bridget is creating—thus drawing her flute into the world of taonga pūoro, rather than sitting apart from it. Silver Stone Wood Bone is a piece about breath and human expressiveness."

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Josiah Carr: Tihei mauri ora

Josiah Carr

Josiah Carr Photo: Supplied by the composer

In Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland-based composer Josiah Carr's work, 'Tihei mauri ora', flute and taonga pūoro weave amongst one another, blending and inhabiting the same sound world.

The composer writes, “Tihei mauri ora means to breathe life into something. It’s fundamentally the shared breath of both musicians that innately connects them with one another…. As each performer imitates and takes on characteristics of the other, they both breathe life into the melodic line shared between them, as it grows and develops until reaching a natural climax.”

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Briar Prastiti: Terra Firma

Briar Pastiti

Briar Pastiti Photo: Supplied by composer

New Zealand composer Briar Prastiti’s work is called Terra Firma. The idea for the work came about from Briar’s solo journey of moving to Greece. This experience - initially at least - made her feel like a sense of support from outside and inside herself was pulled from under her feet.

She writes "Terra Firma is a Latin phrase literally meaning ‘firm land’. But it carries a more specific meaning: the land in which one is grateful for reaching… after departing it. In a poetic sense, ‘terra firma’ can mean homecoming, landing, or a trusted support in any form.”

Bridget Douglas plays the bass flute in this work.

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

Producer / Engineer: Darryl Stack

Technical assistant: Alex Harmer

Music Alive / Sound Lounge producer: Ryan Smith

Recorded at the Great Hall, Arts Centre, Christchurch.

The 2022 Asian Composer’s League Festival took place in Ōtautahi/Christchurch.

This Festival is held in a different country in the Asia-Pacific region every one to two years, and features music by innovative Asia-Pacific composers, written predominantly in the last decade, performed by many of New Zealand’s top performers and ensembles. 2022 was Aotearoa’s turn to host the festival again, and it was held in conjunction with the ISCM World New Music Days Festival, the first time this international festival has been held here.

First broadcast in Sound Lounge on RNZ Concert.