Music for 2 to 6 Instruments

At night the garden was full of voices (1977) - 3 minutes (Price Milburn Music)

4 recorders (SSAA or TTBB)

Published in Price Milburn Music’s Recorder Book 2, ed. Steve Rosenberg.

This short piece was commissioned for recorder consort by Price Milburn Music for Steve Rosenberg's second recorder book.

Okuru (1979) - 15 minutes (SOUNZ)

Violin and piano

Okuru was written in 1979, while I was composer-in-residence for Northern Arts and a Fellow of Newcastle University. On one level the composition is a four-section working out of a complex mensural canon, and on another is my response to the arrival of spring after a particularly rigorous winter, spent in an isolated cottage on the Northumbrian moors, north-west of Newcastle.

Bright Forms Return (1980) - 25 minutes

Mezzo and String Quartet

Bright Forms Return, written in 1980 while I was composer-in-residence for Northern Arts (UK), is one of the first pieces I wrote that is concerned with landscape (and sea-scape). I was living in Northumberland, on the moors north of Newcastle, very near the house where the poet Kathleen Raine had spent her childhood. When I was asked to write a piece for the Cumbria Quartet and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Lamb, Raine's poetry was an obvious choice, as its northern imagery was very familiar to me. The first performance was in the historic church in Grasmere on June 11th, 1980, during the Lake District Festival. Although the piece is designed as a single entity, the quartet falls into four clearly-defined sections in its setting of the four short poems. The vocal writing is relatively simple (rhythmically at least), and the writing for the quartet sometimes reflects the poetic imagery or mood, and is sometimes derived from the formal structure of the poems. The text, which comes from 'The Oval Mirror' published by Hamish Hamilton, is used with the kind permission of the author and her publishers.

Ahotu (O matenga) (1984) - 18 minutes (SOUNZ)


Ahotu is the sixth in a series of instrumental pieces based on the phases of the moon, and refers to the seventh day of the cycle. The text of the entire thirty-day cycle has been used as one of the rhythmic generators of the piece, with vowels and consonants translated into durations to provide the apparently irrational rhythms, which are contrasted in a series of short ensemble or solo sections with either proportionally defined or regular rhythms.

The two longest sections are centrally placed. The first, featuring trombone and percussion, presents the language-based material in the percussion; the second, starting with the long piano solo, begins a mensural canon based on the proportional material. However, half-way through this canon, recapitulatory material begins, and subsequent appearances of the canon occur in continually shorter blocks, each transformed very differently.

O Matenga, in the title of the piece, refers to the Māori custom, found also in many other civilisations, of providing sustenance for the spirit to the next world after death and the piece is dedicated to my father.

Ahotu (O matenga) was commissioned by the Flederman Sextet, with funding from Australia Council

Manutaki (1986) - 10 minutes (Wai-te-ata Music Press)


Commissioned by the Australia Ensemble with funding from PAB of AC First performed by Australia Ensemble, Chamber Music New Zealand Tour, 1986.

Programme Note to come.

Moon, Tides and Shoreline (1990) - 15 minutes (Wai-te-ata Music Press)

String quartet

In this work, inspired by Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast - 'home' during the composer's six-week residency at Victoria University in 1989 – the relationship between music and environment is particularly strong. The cello's low repeated D, which opens the piece, is the fundamental pitch heard in the sea and the restless semi-quavers evoke the continuous movement of waves crashing on the Paekakariki shore. Whitehead's fascination with mediaeval philosophy and music, incorporating natural cycles, is reflected both in the title and in the compositional process, where magic squares were used to generate the background structure. (Emma Carlé and Jack Body).

Moon Tides and Shoreline was commissioned by the Queen Elizabeth 2 Arts Council for the New Zealand String Quartet.

Hine Raukatauri (1999) - 10 minutes (SOUNZ)

Duet for flutes (picc/concert/alto) and taonga pūoro

To listen to audio, click here

In the tradition of the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, Hine Raukatauri is the goddess of music and dance. She is embodied in the form of the female case-moth, who hangs in the bushes and sings in a pure, high voice to attract the male moths to her. Her hair is a fern, the hanging spleenwort, and her voice is heard in the sound of the pūtorino, an instrument known only in Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand). The pūtorino is an instrument that can be played in various ways – as a flute, as a trumpet and as a means of enhancing or altering the human voice.

Hine Raukatauri is written for two performers, one playing conventional flutes (piccolo, C and alto), and the other for taonga pūoro (traditional Māori instruments). The score features three different pūtorino, which, like all taonga pūoro, (and also the songs and chants) have a small pitch range, rarely exceeding a fourth, which varies from instrument to instrument. Three pūtorino are used in this piece – one made of albatross bone and two of wood, and both the flute and trumpet voices are used. Other instruments used are a karanga manu (bird-caller), a pūrerehua (swung bull-roarer) and tumutumu (tapped instruments.) The flute player’s part is notated, but the music for the taonga pūoro is improvised; there are areas when the flute player is encouraged to improvise with the taonga pūoro.

Hine Raukatauri was written for Alexa Still and Richard Nunns, who gave the first performance at the Atlanta Flute Convention in 1999.

Taurangi (1999) - 10 minutes (Wai-te-ata Music Press)

Flute and piano

To listen to audio, click here

I began writing this piece in the shadow of both the East Timor crisis and the death of my good friend and sometime mentor of many years, the musicologist and historian John Mansfield Thomson. These events modified both the original formal ideas and the detail of the piece. William’s A Dictionary of the Māori Language gives four meanings for the word taurangi: “unsettled”, “changing or changeable”; “incomplete, unsatisfied, unfulfilled”; “to grieve for”; and “wanderer”.

Taurangi was commissioned by the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts, during which it received its first performance by Bridget Douglas and Rachel Thompson.

Hine-pu-te-hue (2001). duration 22 minutes (SOUNZ)

String quartet and taonga pūoro

Hine-pu-te-hue is the name of the Māori goddess of peace; goddesses, or wahine atua, in pre-European times may have been on a par with the gods who are still influential today, but, because the ethnomusicologists in the early nineteenth century (when Aotearoa/New Zealand was colonised by the British) were male, as were most of their informants, relatively little knowledge of the wahine atua exists today. They are acknowledged by many iwi (tribes), but are not recognised by others, although their names occur in the older traditional chants.

The piece is written for string quartet and taonga pūoro (Māori instruments), which have had a renaissance in New Zealand in the last thirty years. The instruments, made of wood, shell, bone, gourd and pounamu (jade) were blown as flute or trumpet, or struck, shaken or swung. Instruments, the only non-natural sound to be heard in pre-European environment, were used for signalling or ceremonial occasions, to attract birds, to aid memory in the performance of chants, for healing purposes, and to mediate between tohunga (learned men) and the gods, as well as to accompany song or dance.

One of the attributes of Hine-pu-te-hue (literally, the woman of the sound of the gourd) is the gourd, and in this piece, a number of the instruments are made from gourds – the poi awhiowhio which occurs shortly after the opening of the piece, a very quiet instrument, is swung around the head, the large hue puru hau is blown across its open neck, there are gourd rattles played by the quartet, and the tiny koauau ponga ihu, or nose flute, which concludes the piece. Two other instruments, frequently made from gourds, are also used – the nguru (here made from a whale’s tooth) and the ororuarangi (maire wood).

There is a similarity between the stringed instruments and the gourds, in that both are made from plant material, with the sound emitted through sound holes. Another link is with the use of the ku, the only stringed instrument known to Māori, which is a small musical bow, played like a jaw’s harp, using the mouth as a resonating chamber. Other taonga pūoro are the pūtatara (conch shell trumpet), used for announcements and signalling, the pū kaea (war trumpet), the pūmotomoto (a very quiet, breathy wooden instrument associated with birth), the pupu harakeke (flax snail), associated with danger, and tumutumu (tapped resonant stone, bone or wood). The idea of ororuarangi, which can be translated as spirit voices (or as double stopping in a different context), has had some influence on the piece as in the parallel movement of the strings.

Richard Nunns, who plays the taonga pūoro, is an improvising musician, and all four string players are asked to improvise from time to time, as well as playing gourd rattles at the beginning and tapped stones at the end of the piece.

Hine-pu-te-hue was commissioned by the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts, with financial support from Creative New Zealand

Tom’s Serenade for Ann Morris (2001) - 12 minutes (SOUNZ)

Ob, vln, vla, vlc

At an Auckland Philharmonia fund-raising auction in 2000, one of the orchestra’s most generous sponsors, Dr Tom Morris, bid a substantial sum for a short ensemble piece to be written by the composer-in-residence. His was the choice of ensemble and title; the world premiere was given at the orchestra’s 21st birthday celebrations by the Ensemble Philharmonia in the Auckland Town Hall, where it was played as a surprise for Ann Morris, whose birthday it also was. Serenade for Ann Morris spans four sections in one movement, of which the second is for strings alone, and the third is an oboe cadenza.

Quintet (2003) - 16 minutes (SOUNZ)

Ob, clar, hn, bsn, pno

Because of the limitations of range of the instruments (only the piano has extremes of range), their different tuning systems and the fact that only the clarinet among the wind instruments has possibilities of extended techniques. this piece explores more "classical" ideas than some of my other recent pieces. The work uses a set of six notes as its basic idea: sounded together they have a restless quality, but the structure of the set provides both diversity and connection between the sound worlds of the piece. Quintet is in a single movement with several sections.

At the outset, a variety of ideas and textures are presented, not unlike moment form, but not using the extremities of 20th Century moment form. A second section, over a piano pedal, initiates an exchange between the bassoon and other instruments. This leads to a rapid scherzo-like section, with a monodic trio. It is closely followed by a slow movement, based on a close-range melody that is a tribute to Hirini Melbourne, who died during the writing of this section. The oboe cadenza which follows is the structural centre of the quartet, and is followed by a reworking in reverse of the material already presented. The ending leaves the piece unresolved. Quintet was commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand, with funding from Creative New Zealand, for The Brisbane- based Southern Cross Soloists

Piano Trio (2005) - 20 mins.(SOUNZ)

Violin, cello, piano

One winter morning, a short walk from the marae at Waihi, on the southern shore of Lake Taupo, I stood on the shore to watch the sun rise. Behind me, a waterfall led to a small stream that flowed into the lake, imposing its own patterns on those of the lake. The water was uniformly grey, but as the sun rose, for a moment the tops of the ripples were golden, with darker valleys between, before the whole area was flooded with light. So the ideas behind this trio have to do with the changing perspectives of patterns in water - in the bubbling of streams, the tumble of a waterfall, in the spiralling eddies where stream meets lake at sunrise. In the opening movement, a group of short themes and ideas initially form a mosaic-like section, which recurs in developed and varied forms around more reflective passages. The second movement reverses the first, in that slow, sustained sections are interrupted by more energetic material, and the final movement draws all the previous ideas together. The trio is dedicated to the members of the NZTrio - Justine Cormack (violin), Ashley Brown (cello) and Sarah Watkins (cello) - who commissioned the piece with Creative New Zealand funding.

Puhake ki te rangi (2007) - 16 minutes (Wai-te-ata Music Press)

String quartet and taonga pūoro

To watch video, click here

Pūhake ki te rangi, which translates as 'spouting to the skies' is a celebration of whales, and was written late in 2006 for the New Zealand String Quartet and Richard Nunns as a project undertaken while I was the CNZ/NZSM/Jack C Richards composer-in-residence, living in the Lilburn House in Wellington. (The catalyst was the decision by Japan to break the moratorium on hunting whales.) Although one section is based on a transcription of whale song, there is no programme to the piece - no confrontation with humanity, for instance. The guiding principles were the extreme range of whale song, the changing patterns of their song, and the image, given me by the late Tungia Baker, of a whale in Campbell Island waters allowing seal pups to slide down her flanks over and over, until, tiring of the game, she flipped them gently away.

The taonga pūoro (Māori instruments) used in this piece are all made from whalebone or the bone of the albatross, the whale's avian counterpart. In the order they are played, the taonga are: the percussive tumutumu, made from the jaw of a pilot whale washed up on Farewell Spit, a karanga manu (bird caller) made from an orca tooth, two nguru (flutes) made from the teeth of two sperm whales that stranded (one in Tory Channel and one at Paekakariki), two pūtorino koiwi toroa (pūtorino have different voices, and are played either as a flute or a trumpet), made here from the wing bones of a wandering albatross from sub-Antarctic islands and a young royal albatross from the Chatham Islands, a nguru made from the cochlea of a hump-backed whale and finally another pūtorino koiwi toroa, specially made for this piece from the rib of a right whale that beached at Cable Bay.

The taonga pūoro sections are improvised. Mostly the quartet parts are fully notated, but sometimes one of the players are required to improvise. The quartet also play percussion instruments – tumutumu and tokere (castanets)

Clouds over Mata-au (2010) - 10 minutes (SOUNZ)

String quartet

I was fortunate to hold a residency at the Henderson House, built by the Austrian architect, Ernst Plischke, in Alexandra, a market town in Central Otago, in the South Island of New Zealand. Central Otago is technically desert, rocky and redolent with the scent of wild thyme in summer, with spectacular snow-covered mountain ranges in winter. A great river, the Clutha or Mata-au, to give it its Māori name, flows through the area, and the house was built high above the river, which for me was the dominating feature in the landscape.

Clouds over Mata-au is a short piece in one movement, based on traditional quartet forms, alternating solo and concerted textures.

Dedicated to Margaret Clark and Vera Egermayer, the first performance was given by the Stamic Quartet at the Jine Pohledy (Other Outlooks) Festival in Prague in 2012.

Tōrua (2011) - 4 minutes (Boosey and Hawkes, in preparation)

violin, piano

Tōrua, translated from the Māori language of New Zealand, has several meanings – it signifies a change in wind or current, it is the name given to a weaving pattern, and in its third meaning of 'twofold' or 'double thickness' suggests the idea of duet. Tōrua was written in the wake of the destructive Christchurch earthquake in February, 2011. Tōrua was commissioned by Hilary Hahn for her Encores (2010) Project.

No stars, not even clouds (2012) - 10 minutes (SOUNZ)

string quartet

I wrote this piece at a time when several friends of mine were seriously ill, and at the forefront of my mind. Juanita Ketchel, who lived in Dunedin, was both diagnosed with cancer and died within the short time-frame in which the piece was written. She had a profound interest in the arts, and was frequently seen at concerts; the title No stars, not even clouds came from a story she wrote some years ago. The piece is written to her memory.

The piece draws on traditional quartet forms, opening with a phrase which I realised only retrospectively echoes the same shape and rhythm that pervades Tōrua, written for violin and piano in the immediate aftermath of the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch. Both pieces draw on the Otago accent of the korimako or bellbirds that seem to sing vociferously every time I sit down to write. No stars, not even clouds is written in a single movement, but has elements of a tripartite structure within it.

No stars, not even clouds is dedicated to the wonderful players of of the Enso Quartet, who toured it for Chamber Music New Zealand who commissioned the piece.

First performance: Enso quartet, Christchurch

Venetian mornings (2014) - 10 minutes (SOUNZ)

fl, bsn, pno

To watch video, click here

This piece was commissioned by University of Waikato's School of Music, and given its first performance by the Donizetti Trio. It is dedicated to Jack Body, in celebration of his seventieth year, and reflects our first encounters in Venice, where we used to meet for breakfast.

Poroporoaki (2015) - 5 minutes (SOUNZ)

String quartet

This piece was written for the New Zealand String Quartet to play at the Zhejiang Conservatory in Hangzhou during at festival celebrating the work of Jack Body, focusing on transcription and col-laboration.

Poroporoaki, which translates as calls of farewell from Maori, transcribes the sounds of taonga puoro (musical instruments of Maori), as played by Richard Nunns. The instruments transcribed are the putatara (shell trumpet), karanga manu (bird caller), nguru (flute), tumutumu (percussive), poi awhiowhio (whirled gourd - bird caller) and putorino.

Poroporoaki is dedicated to Richard Nunns

Shadows cross the water (2014) - 16 minutes

Oboe, piano, string quartet

Shadows cross the water was written for an outstanding ensemble of Prague musicians - Vilem Veverka (oboe), Patricia Goodson (piano) and the Stamic String Quartet, who gave the first performance at the EuroArts festival in Prague on 9th December, 2014.

Shadows cross the water, formerly called Tamariki rerenga, was commissioned by the ensemble with funding from Creative New Zealand.

Three Sephardic Songs (2016) - 6 minutes

Mezzo, recorders (2 players - descant, alto, tenor, bass), guitar, spinet, violin, bass viol.

Arrangements of three Sephardic songs - Shluf mein Tochter, Leg ich mir mein kapele, Zum zum.