2013 Music

Out the window breath, bone, feather

Chamber ensemble (2-7 players), Collaborations, Dance

For cello, flute and clarinet

Out the window breath, bone, feather was commissioned with funding from Creative New Zealand, and supported by Carol Brown’s research award through the University of Auckland NICAI’s Faculty Research and Development Fund.

About the work

Choreographer Carol Brown and I devised Out the window breath, bone, feather — in collaboration with 8 exceptional performers, dramaturge Fiona Graham, photographer Solomon Mortimer and performance designer Kasia Pol — while I held the 3‐month University of Otago Wallace Residency at the Pah Homestead in Auckland. A performance on 21 October 2013 was the culmination of the residency — the music was performed by Luca Manghi (flute), Katherine Hebley (cello) and Andrew Uren (clarinet).

It is a site-specific piece in which the audience is led through Auckland’s Pah homestead from the portico to the crater behind the building. Working with sung and spoken text, dance, original music and working with the evocative paintings of Star Gossage, the piece allows glimpses into the history of the land, the house and its inhabitants.

It references prehistory with the dance of the moa, the use of the site as a Pah, the building of the house and the first family, the subsequent use of the building to house immigrants, as a boys’ home and as a convent. Today it is an art gallery and park for the people of Auckland.

Scores and recording

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Out the window breath, bone, feather — SOUNZ

Hear and watch a recording of the performance at the Pah homestead.

Out the window breath, bone, feather  — video


Before a season at the 2015 Auckland Festival, Carol Brown and I were interviewed on RNZ Concert.

Carol Brown and Gillian Whitehead: Pah — RNZ

Thin ice

Choral music, Vocal duets and ensembles

For soprano, mezzo-soprano and percussion

Text by Claire Beynon and other poets

Thin Ice was written to celebrate vocal ensemble Halcyon’s 15th Anniversary in 2013. They gave the first performance on 23 October 2013 at the NIDA Parade Theatres in Sydney, Australia.

About the work

Thin Ice is a setting of 2 poems.

The first, ‘Thin Ice’, by Claire Beynon is only 4 lines long, but has a world of meaning and defines creativity exquisitely.

The second, ‘It is all one water’, sees the ocean in various ways, but above all as exhilarating, calm, and linking those separated by distance. It is a collaborative poem, edited by Claire Beynon and created by poets from several countries — Marylinn Kelly (USA), Kay McKenzie-Cook (NZ), Pamela Morrison (NZ) , Elizabeth Hanscome (Australia) , Therese Clear (USA), Scott Odom (USA) and also Claire Beynon.


The percussion parts are scored for vibraphone and resaresa (1 player). This work could be performed by a women’s choir.


Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Thin Ice — SOUNZ


Solo voice

For soprano

Text by the composer

The first performance was given by Ramonda te Maiharoa Taleni on 10 February 2013, to the accompaniment of penguins.

About the work

On 10 February 1913 the Terra Nova, returned from the Antarctic to telegraph news to Britain of the death of Scott and his polar party. Tōrea was written for, and performed at the centenary celebrations of that event in Oamaru.

Tōrea is the red-billed gull, and the conversational sound of the bird represents to Māori a warning that an unfortunate event will befall humans.


This work is unavailable for performance.

Because of the child

Solo voice

For mezzo-soprano

Poem by Fiona Farrell

The first performance of Because of the Child was given by Ana Good in March 2013.

About the work

Because of the child was written for the launch of Sir Alan Mark’s risk assessment project, which invites the parties of government to join forces and consider the risks facing Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly from climate change.


You can borrow or buy the score from SOUNZ.

Because of the child