In the following pages, I present the twenty-one taonga pūoro in the Muriwai series made between July 2018 and July 2019. I discuss their materials , traditional uses, adaptations, playing techniques, individual voices and essential qualities as a way of introducing each instrument. Audio examples are also supplied.

Pūkāea Pānguru
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Recordings

Pūkāea Pānguru Drone & Sing.wav

Materials

A fallen pohutukawa branch from the 300-500 year old tree in front of our house

Traditional Use

The pūkāea was used to signal the coming together of people for important events: The planting of crops in times of peace and the assembly of defensive or aggressive war parties. Words, including insults were also shouted down the instrument to antagonise enemies.

Adaptation

The natural curvature of the branch is followed which produces an irregular harmonic series. A large bore was used for the purpose of producing a deep (pānguru) drone.

Playing Technique

It is tempting to play the instrument like a digeridoo; however, this is to be avoided in my view, as the sound-worlds are non-compatible. Standard trumpet embouchure is employed to access the fundamental and partials.

Voices

• Deep drone with little change in timbre. Circular breathing techniques are difficult on this instrument and might be avoided altogether as this adds to the digeridoo-like sound quality. The tone of the drone is variable within a minor second.

• The instrument might be sung through while droning at intervals of a 5th, an octave, an octave and a 3rd and an octave and a 5th.

• First and second partial trumpet sound (near the octave and the upper 5th). The first partial is quite strong, and both might be used to end a playing session

Essential Qualities

I find it most effective to play this instrument in a meditative style with an extended outgoing breath, with or without simultaneous singing. This allows me to concentrate on, and enter the sound I am producing. I aim for continuity, stillness and relaxation. The fluctuation in pitch (around a semitone) seems to correspond with my internal tensions, and I am reminded that I need to enter a state of deep relaxation to allow the instrument to truly speak. The physicality of playing the instrument produces strong vibrations, which are also an essential element of the experience.

Pūkāea
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Recordings

Pūkāea Drone & Sing.wav

Pūkāea Trumpet 2nd Partial.wav

Pūkāea Trumpet 3rd Partial.wav

Pūkāea Flute 4th & 5th Partials.wav

Pūkāea Flute 6th & 7th Partials.wav

Materials

A fallen, insect-eaten pohutukawa branch from a tree in our garden. The log had been there for some years, and was used for garden verging. Full-length square leather binding.

Traditional Use

The pūkāea was used to signal the coming together of people for important events: The planting of crops in times of peace and the assembly of defensive or aggressive war parties. Words, including insults were also shouted down the instrument to antagonise enemies.

Adaptation

The natural curvature of the branch is followed which produces a slightly irregular harmonic series. The shape of the mouth of the instrument is also unusual.

Playing Technique

A standard trumpet embouchure is employed to access the fundamental and partials. Side-blown technique is used to access flute partials.

Voices

• Deep-Mid drone with subtle changes in timbre together with  vocal drone of a 5th. Circular breathing techniques are relatively easy to achieve on this instrument and should be used to ‘take breaths’ in between singing drones to produce a continuous sound. The embouchure of vocal drones might vary from an ‘O’ shape to an ‘R’ shape to access different upper harmonics. Fluttertonguing might also be used in combination.

• First, second and third partial trumpet sound (octave, upper 5th, upper octave). First and second partials can be played quite softly, while the 3rd requires a little gusto.

• Side-blown technique produces a full harmonic series from a flat 3rd to the 7th partial.

Essential Qualities

This is a highly meditative instrument. It requires both focus and good playing technique together with an ability to ‘relax into’ the playing style required. With practise the playing techniques become transparent, which allows a process of deep listening to emerge. It is an instrument responsive to ‘droning’, which is useful in transcendental styles of meditation. It may also be used to ‘announce’ things in a raucous fashion, and with some subtlety in the 1st and 2nd partials. The player must ‘have something to say’ before attempting to produce these sounds. The 4 or 5 different flute-like harmonics are beautiful, but due to limitations in accessibility may be better suited to use in acousmatic contexts.

Pōrutu Pūkāea
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Recordings

Pōrutu Pūkāea Drone & Sing.wav

Pōrutu Pūkāea Low Flute.wav

Materials

A fallen, pohutukawa branch from the large tree in front of our house at 397A Motutara Road Muriwai. The tree God is made from a sapling branch cut from the base of the living tree. The instrument is bound with square leather and harakeke trim.

Traditional Use

This instrument is a hybrid of a pōrutu and a small pūkāea. Pōrutu are a long version of the kōauau and are renowned for their ability to ‘speak mouth words’. They have associations with romantic love, and are used to accompany waiata. Pukāea were used as indicated in the previous entry.

Adaptation

The natural curvature of the branch produces an irregular harmonic series. The interval between the drone and the 1st partial trumpet sound is an octave and a diminished 5th. 

Playing Technique

Standard trumpet embouchure is employed to access the fundamental and partials. Side-blown technique is used to access flute partials. The instrument also has finger holes for changing notes. 

Voices

• Pōrutu: Deep flute sound and 1st partial higher flute sound accessed by breath pressure. The fingerholes provide a range of around a minor 3rd. Lowest notes may also be bent down.

• Pūkāea: mid drone with subtle changes in timbre together with vocal drone of a 5th or dim 5th. Circular breathing techniques are very easy to achieve on this instrument and should be used in combination with singing to produce a continuous texture. Fluttertonguing might also be used in combination. 

Essential Qualities

This is a highly expressive and meditative instrument. Its dualistic qualities allow diversity within a single meditational/musical session. Melodic techniques should be coupled with karakia or pepeha, while trumpeting techniques require a statement or announcement to be made.

Pōrutu Ihu
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Recordings

Pōrutu Ihu Low Voice.wav

Pōrutu Ihu High Voice.wav

Materials

A fallen, pohutukawa branch from the large tree in front of our house at 397A Motutara Road Muriwai. Paua inlay and harakeke binding.

Traditional Use

Pōrutu are a long version of the kōauau and are renowned for their ability to ‘speak mouth words’. They have associations with romantic love, and are used to accompany waiata.

Adaptation

In this case the instrument is played with the nose - which is highly irregular.  

Playing Technique

The instrument has two main registers and should be played with the right nostril blocked. The lower register requires minimal nose pressure and blowing out the mouth can help regulate this. The upper  can also be overblown to produce two upper partials completing the series of fundamental, 1st, 2nd and 3rd partials. A lower sound still might be produced through bending down or covering the exit hole.  

Voices

• As it is played with the nose, the player should concentrate on the qualities of the breath, and attempt to capture the wairua of the moment.

• Bass register is particularly evocative and might be managed as a gestural statement.

• The upper register might be augmented by overblowing to the higher harmonics.

Essential Qualities

The instrument has an unusual and fragile voice – particularly in the lower registers

Pūtōrino Ihu
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Recordings

Pūtōrino Ihu Low Female Voice.wav

Pūtōrino Ihu Nose Piece.wav

Materials

A fallen pohutukawa branch from the 300-500 year old tree in front of our house

Traditional Use

The Goddess of flute music Hine Roukatauri. Played as a flute, it has a crying voice and is used as such on appropriate occasions. Played as a trumpet, it summons people or announces that something is about to happen. The instrument also has close associations with the kōkako. 

Adaptation

The natural curvature of the branch is followed but in this case a regular harmonic series is retained. The instrument is a hybrid  that combines pūtōrino and nguru nose piece designs

Playing Technique

An extremely versatile instrument with 5 ways of playing. The innovation adds a 6th.

Voices

• Deepest flute sound played upside down from the top with the māngai blocked. Releasing the nose hole create an interval of a 5th

• Higher flute sound played right-side-up from the top. Three notes are produced with open end, normal wide flute embouchure. Harmonics a 5th and M6th above may also be produced with holes closed and māngai open respectively.

• Expressive lower flute sounds within a range of one octave may be produced by the māngai using the side-blown technique taught by Jason Phillips, with the instrument held on a 45% angle with the large opening facing down.

• Singing melodies and words through the end and tapping the māngai produces one of the traditional sounds described by Richard Nunns as a disembodied voice bubbling up through a spring.

• Trumpeting through the end with the hand cupped over the māngai produces the male voice. Both tone and pitch are controlled by the hand. This instrument is limited to a range of around a semitone. Singing and flutter-tonguing techniques can be used to augment the male voice.

• The instrument also produces a large range of notes when played from nose piece. With the right hand holding the instrument and blocking the right nostril, the left hand is free to jump between the māngai and the top. Three notes are produced per position with different pressures: with the māngai closed D, A, D (harmonic series), with the top closed, Eb, G, C (cm chord), with both open D, Bb, D (Cmm7). From open to closed top it is easy to bend down from Bb to G. Blowing out the mouth to reduce pressure, two additional low notes (Bb and F) may be produced. Bb may also be bent down by closing the top.       

Essential Qualities

The most exceptional sounds produced by the instrument are arguably the nose piece sounds. Using meditative techniques, these can be perceived as natural breaths, wind or waves.

Pūtōrino
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Recordings

Pūtōrino Female High Voice.wav

Pūtōrino Female Māngi Voice.wav

Pūtōrino Male Voice.wav

Materials

A high pohutukawa branch that came down in a storm (from the tree next to our house)

Traditional Use

See pūtōrino ihu entry

Adaptation

The natural curvature of the branch is followed which produces an irregular harmonic series.

Playing Technique

An extremely versatile instrument with 5 ways of playing.

Voices

• Deepest flute sound played upside down from the top with the māngai blocked. Releasing the nose hole create an interval of a 4th

• Higher flute sound played right-side-up from the top. Three notes are produced with open end, normal \ wide flute embouchure. Harmonics a 5th and M6th above may also be produced with holes closed and māngai open respectively.

• Expressive lower flute sounds within a range of one octave may be produced by the māngai using the side-blown technique taught by Jason Phillips, with the instrument held on a 45% angle with the top facing down.

• Singing melodies and words through the end and tapping the māngai produces one of the traditional sounds described by Richard Nunns as a disembodied voice bubbling up through a spring.

• Trumpeting through the end with the hand cupped over the māngai produces the male voice. Both tone and pitch are controlled by the hand. This instrument is limited to a range of around a tone. Singing and flutter-tonguing techniques can be used to augment the male voice, which is associated with the spirit voice.      

Essential Qualities

The most exceptional sounds produced by the instrument are arguably the female and māngai voices produced by ‘saying something with intent’. The samples listed below document these sounds.  

Kōauau
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Recordings

Kōauau Chant.wav

Materials

Made from the trunk of a small kowhai tree.

Traditional Use

An instrument associated with romantic love. A number of legends (love stories) accompany it. It was also used to ease pain during childbirth. 

Adaptation

The bark of the tree and a small branch is retained in the instrument. Traditionally the instrument has three holes, but in this case it has none (which is also fairly common traditionally)

Playing Technique

Standard side-blown technique together with cupping over the end of the instrument to bend the notes down.  

Voices

•  Single bent long note (meditative technique)

• Declaration of love through speech and melody.

Essential Qualities

The instrument is loud and strong. It reflects a great love for my partner and baby. Ahoha nui.

Kōauau Ponga Ihu (Rākau)
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Recordings

Kōauau Ponga Ihu Rākau Deep Note.wav

Kōauau Ponga Ihu Rākau Melody.wav

Materials

Made from mānuka from fallen branch collected from Goldies Bush while walking there with my partner Sheridan. It was during a time when we were making a lot of new plans for the future. The wood is rock hard and was very difficult to work.

Traditional Use

Performed only with the nose, the instrument makes use of spiritually pure breath that is untainted by words. Snoring, hongi, breath, tangi, spirit are all associated with this instrument.    

Adaptation

Kōauau ponga ihu are normally made from gourds. This one is made from manuka. The adaptation creates a rich deep woody tone.

Playing Technique

Play with the left nostril with the right index finger blocking the right nostril

Voices

• Single deep bent tone produced by single breath (meditative technique)

• 4-note waiata tangi. A song for loved ones departed

Essential Qualities

The deep tone of the instrument immediately arrests the spirit. For me, it is the embodiment of masculine wairua – strong and loving, deep and pure. I think of my son Xavier when I play.

Kōauau Ponga Ihu (Matapaia)
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Recordings

Kōauau Ponga Ihu Like Wind.wav

Materials

A mix of New Zealand clays, purchased from and fired at the Auckland potter’s guild. Potassium oxide glaze

Traditional Use

Performed only with the nose, the instrument makes use of spiritually pure breath that is untainted by words. Snoring, hongi, breath, tangi, spirit are all associated with this instrument. Maori legend also states that the first humans were sculpted out of clay 

Adaptation

Kōauau ponga ihu are normally made from gourds. This one is made from clay. It also has a large 3rd hole at the base of the instrument, which increases the range to around a Major 6th.

Playing Technique

Play with the left nostril with the right index finger blocking the right nostril

Voices

• Single deep bent tone produced by single breath (meditative technique)

• multi-note waiata wairua with bends. A song of love for the spirit

Essential Qualities

Slowly bending down by coving the large hole creates a sound that for me, has associations with the wind.   

Nguru (Rākau)
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Recordings

Nguru Rākau Māngai Melody.wav

Nguru Rākau Māngai Chant.wav

Nguru Rākau Ihu.wav

Materials

Totara with manuka hoe inlay and paua fingerhole inlays. 

Traditional Use

The association with breath from the nose – untainted by words spoken from the mouth is important for these instruments. There is therefore strong associations with tangi and the spirit world.

Adaptation

This instrument is the embodiment of a conversation that took place between myself, Sam Palmer and Tamihana Katene at a taonga pūoro wānanga held at Mt Cook School in Wellington on 6th July 2019. Nguru that feature a small hole drilled from the back are generally not designed to be played from that end. Small-bore nguru, such as the one in the next entry may be played from the māngai with either the mouth or the nose, but instruments with large bores are more difficult to play with the nose. This design follows a school of thought that some instruments may have been played with both the mouth and the nose from opposite ends. To achieve this the nose piece must be hollowed out under the blowing hole, and in this instance this has been realised by drilling a large hole in the end and inserting a paua inlay.

Playing Technique

A suitable karakia might first be chosen before playing with the mouth. The 3 finger holes must be used with care, as the large hole releases a lot of air. The 4th hole might also be blocked to bend the instrument down creating a range of around an octave. A meditative state might first be induced before paying with the nose. Bends can easily be produced with breath pressure. The righthand middle finger should be inserted into the māngai and the thumb might be used to block the right nostril. If it is desirable to block the 4th hole, the thumb can be temporarily shifted for that purpose.    

Voices

• With the mouth: start with all holes closed and recite a karakia for a loved one lost. Range should be limited initially.

• With the nose: try to tune into how your spirit is feeling. Do not try to play tunes, but rather try to respond sonically to the question: how are you feeling?

Essential Qualities

The nosepiece produces a very high harmonic like a boiling kettle – which is sonically interesting. The wind-rich sounds of blowing with all holes closed is also arresting to the spirit.

Nguru (Matapaia)
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Recordings

Nguru Matapaia Ihu Melody.wav

Materials

A mix of New Zealand clays, purchased from and fired at the Auckland potter’s guild. Potassium oxide glaze

Traditional Use

See nguru (rākau) entry

Adaptation

The instrument is made from clay, and the māngai is kept intentionally small so it can be played with either the mouth or nose.

Playing Technique

The instrument sounds best when played with the nose (in my view). It has deep associations with wairua and must be ‘felt’ to be played effectively.  

Voices

• A series of loud breathy high tones can be produced by playing with the nose

• Melodies blown from the māngai

Essential Qualities

This is an instrument that can sit above others in a complex spectral texture. The piercing and breathy quality ‘cuts through’ even when played in a solo capacity.

Nguru (Whakatū)
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Recordings

Nguru Whakatū.wav

Materials

Made from clay found at the top of the Aniseed Valley (where my parents owned a farm) and fired in a kiln owned by my mother in the farm shed.

Traditional Use

See nguru (rākau) entry

Adaptation

The materials provide me with a special connection to this instrument.

Playing Technique

The instrument can only be played with the mouth, and is difficult to voice due to its construction. Played with the end hole open, three or four tones can be achieved

Voices

• Blow loudly with all holes open, while evoking all the memories and images of working and living on the farm.

Essential Qualities

This is an instrument rich with memories. It should be approached with respect and creative imagination. 

Karanga Manu Ihu
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Recordings

Karanga Manu Ihu Weka.wav

Karanga Manu Ihu Rūrū.wav

Karanga Manu Ihu High Note.wav

Materials

Made from a fallen pohutukawa branch that I found in the garden with paua inlays

Traditional Use

Richard Nunns states that dialectical differences between different colonies of birds were well known. This voice sounds a little like the rūrū that call outside our house at night.

Adaptation

The small karanga manu uses a nosepiece to access the higher sounds.  

Playing Technique

May be played with either the nose or the mouth, and should be used imitatively to mimic bird calls

Voices

• A weka-like call

• A rūrū-like call (the upward glissandi)

• High and long nose blown notes

Essential Qualities

This type of calling requires a very good ear and a great deal of study. Calls might be more accurately mimicked through studying field recordings of local birds  

Pūpū (Ataata)
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Recordings

Pūpū Ataata Single Note.wav

Materials

A cats-eye sea snail found at Tāwharanui. Sanded and polished to reveal the mother of pearl beneath. 

Traditional Use

The instrument has loose associations with pūpū harakeke – which would often play in the wind unaided. There was also a low pitched squeal associated when the animal draws itself back into its shell that was said to warn the villagers of an impending attack.    

Adaptation

I originally made this instrument for my daughter Francesca. She discarded it eventually, but for me the association with her remains. 

Playing Technique

I think of my lovely and daughter when I play this instrument. I might even say her name as I play it. Imitative sounds of the ocean may also be fruitful. The instrument can deliver a range of a 3rd with the aid of practiced embouchure techniques. The shrill quality of the instrument can be reduced through expressive playing techniques

Voices

• Single tones bent through embouchure techniques

Essential Qualities

The special quality of this instrument is its association with the person it was made for.

Pūpū (Korikawa)
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Recordings

Pūpū Korikawa Single Note.wav

Pūpū Korikawa Bends.wav

Materials

A polished Korikawa shell found at Ruby Bay Nelson while visiting my parents.

Traditional Use

The instrument has associations with the sea – the domain of Tangaroa

Adaptation

Two holes are drilled in the top to create an extended range of around a 4th

Playing Technique

Standard side-blown technique together with advanced pitch control through embouchure

Voices

• Single bent tone

Essential Qualities

Imagine the sound of a deep blue ocean - rolling up and down in pitch (like the waves)

Pōrotiti
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Recordings

Pōrotiti.wav

Materials

Made from a fallen pohutukawa branch found in our garden, and paua inlay.

Traditional Use

A very significant instrument, that was used to intone waiata mōteatea. The voice of the gods (like rosery beads). It also has strong associations with children, as it was often used as a toy.   

Adaptation

The air holes in the instrument provide it with a louder voice than solid pōrotiti  

Playing Technique

Getting a good long spin is the trick.

Voices

• Play smoothly - like a gust of wind.

Essential Qualities

Playing near a microphone amplifies the slower vibrations into deep tones. Sounds might be used effectively as abstract textures in acousmatic works

Pūrerehua 
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Recordings

Pūrerehua.wav

Materials

Made from a fallen manuka branch gathered from Goldies Bush with kotakota ngū (rams horn) shell inlay

Traditional Use

Used with matters of the spirit (wairua). Its voice and shape is intensely female. It is a summoner of tears (gentle rain). Also used to mourn the loss of loved ones.

Adaptation

The shell inlay represents the coming together of bush and sea. Where the winds are. The shells also represent the 4 winds. The shape of the instrument is irregular (it is wider than usual), which produces more of a fluttering sound when played at low speeds.

Playing Technique

Play gently, feeling the spin of the intrument,

Voices

 • Gentle fluttering

•  Elongated bass tone

Essential Qualities

The voice of this instrument is strong but difficult to record. This ‘not really there’ quality is an essential quality of the instrument.

Ipu Kōrero
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Recordings

Ipu Kōrero Rustling Leaves.wav

Materials

Made entirely from harakeke that was gifted to me by my kaiako Jason Phillips.

Traditional Use

Used to recite and punctuate whakapapa. Similar in nature to the poi. 

Adaptation

None

Playing Technique

Strike against legs, hands and body, Tickle with fingers

Voices

• The struck sounds might be used to punctuate other musical textures

• The ‘tickled’ sounds might be used to mimic water or the rustling of leaves in the trees.

Essential Qualities

The high delicate percussive ‘tickled’ sounds might be used in a number of sonic arts contexts

Hue Puruwai
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Recordings

Hue Puruwai Watery.wav

Hue Puruwai Struck.wav

Materials

This gourd was grow in a planter box over the 2018/19 summer period. So far it has taken 6 months to dry and is still green. Apparently they take a year or more to fully dry out

Traditional Use

For percussion and punctuation of kōrero  

Adaptation

None

Playing Technique

The seed rattles around inside the instrument. Can be used in a similar way to a casaba.

Voices

• A shook percussive sound (sharp)

• An extended rain-stick-like sound

Essential Qualities

The instrument produces a water-like quality that can be very useful in sonic arts contexts

Rōria Tumutumu
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Recordings

Rōria Tumutumu Speaking.wav

Materials

Made from a fallen pohutukawa branch and a striker found at Maukatia Bay Muriwai. The place where Sheridan and I were married in October 2019.

Traditional Use

Used in combination with intimate singing and speaking. A very inward, contained instrument. Also has associations with children’s toys. Also see entry for tumutumu.

Adaptation

Playing percussion while using the mouth to change pitch is slightly unusual

Playing Technique

Place the cupped side of the instrument against the cheek with mouth open, and change the internal dimensions of the mouth to change pitch  

Voices

• An upward percussive pitched series

• A downward percussive pitched

Essential Qualities

The instrument may be used to ‘speak’ percussively

Tumutumu
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Recordings

Tumutumu Rubbed.wav

Tumutumu Struck.wav

Materials

Volcanic stone from Rangitoto Island

Traditional Use

Used to punctuate chant such as the 4-tone creation chant. The materials used are significant, as they reference the creation of Tāmaki Makaurau 

Adaptation

None

Playing Technique

Strike one stone with the other while opening and closing the hand to change pitch

Voices

• An upward percussive pitched series

• A downward percussive pitched series

Essential Qualities

The instrument may be used to ‘speak’ percussively