Rob Thorne, M.A. (Ngāti Tumutumu)

Composer, Performer, Improvisor, Collaborator, Anthropologist, Specialist

New Zealand Māori composer, performer and anthropologist Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) is a diverse and original explorer in the evolving journey of Taonga Puoro (traditional Māori instruments), fusing these ancient voices with modern sounds and technology. His debut solo album Whaia te Maramatanga (Rattle Records) is a deeply felt and highly concentrated conversation between the past and the present - a musical passage of identity and connection. 

Using modern looping technology and traditional Māori flutes and horns made from stone, bone, shell and wood, Rob creates a transcendent aural experience that touches the soul with timeless beauty. Every performance of "Whāia te Māramatanga" is a stunning and very personal exploration of the spiritual and healing qualities of an ancient practise. 

Rob’s combined musical and academic experience and skills are multitudinal. A musician with over 25 years performance experience in bands and solo, predominantly within alternative rock, free noise, experimental, and improvisational sound art, his work since 2001 with traditional Māori musical instruments (taonga puoro) has seen him complete an MA in Social Anthropology, and since 2008, incorporate this diverse experience to create long, beautifully transcendent, ambient compositions using loops, intelligently blending the modern with the ancient: a format that is now being picked up and utilised by many taonga puoro players.

His journey of identity has seen him travel the country to research museum collections, teach and lecture, present as keynote, demonstrate, collaborate and perform, working academically and musically with both traditional and sonic masters including Richard Nunns and Phil Dadson. His Post Graduate Diploma research became a museum exhibition "Kōauau: The Music Within", which successfully toured New Zealand regionally for 5 years and awoke many to the natural ease with which the instruments can be made and played.

In 2012 he received Creative New Zealand funding, and recorded his debut taonga puoro album “Whāia te Māramatanga” with Steve Garden of Rattle Records. He recorded with sonic artist Campbell Kneale, and also with producer and beats master Benny Tones under the moniker Uenuku. He participated in a New Zealand Pacific Studio cultural exchange and performance series as a Resident-at-Large with Korean dancer & drummer Saes Byeol Cha and Italian born guitarist Lorenzo Buhne, was awarded Manawatu Student City Musical Artist of the Year and opened Palmerston North's Christmas in the Park in collaboration with Warren Warbrick.

2013 included working with director Vanessa Stacey on her acclaimed Summer Shakespeare show 'The Tempest'; performing with Richard Nunns at Voices of Sacred Earth conference; recording for Dudley Benson's 'Forest' remix project; composing and performing for several theatre productions; and being invited to participate in Phil Dadson's exclusively curated, inaugural, island sound-art exploration "Sounding Tiritirimatangi”. He also travelled to the Peruvian Amazon to research and experience ancient indigenous sound-healing techniques. While in Lima he performed solo, collaborated with jazz drummer Steve Cournane, and lectured on his work with taonga puoro. 

In 2014 he released Whāia Te Māramatanga on the renowned Rattle Records label to critical acclaim, was nominated for Best Traditional Album at the Waiata Maori Music Awards, received nomination in the Taite Music Prize, and completed a highly successful NZ national tour. He collaborated by invite with NZ icon Phil Dadson & Chilean musician Enrique Sique in "X-Current" on a North Island tour, presented & performed at WINTEC SPARK Festival and performed & collaborated again with Phil Dadson in the second “Sounding Tiritirimatangi”, with taonga puoro master Richard Nunns, sonic pioneers Michael Morley and Stanier-Black 5, with singer Dudley Benson, and experimental saxophonist Jeff Henderson.

2015 saw Rob working collaboratively with Samin Son & Sarah Bingle as Fire Nation, other taonga puoro artists Ariana Tikao & Alistair Fraser in ARA, and Kent Macpherson and Joe Citizen at the Hamilton Fringe Festival in the dance production “{presence}”. In June, Thorne travelled with Charlotte Yates and Gil Eva Craig on a NZ Arts On Tour funded nationwide tour.

2016 was an outstanding year, seeing Rob travelling by invitation to compose and perform a commissioned world-premiere collaborative work with electronic revolutionary Fis at CTM/Transmediale Festival and record at Red Bull Studios in Berlin. A stunning sunrise and sunset performance at the Hamilton Gardens Festival in the traditional Māori garden Te Ara Whakatauki, and a return to Hamilton Fringe with Kent Macpherson, this time with NZSYO cellist Yotam Levy in the audio-visual extravaganza The Unseen Mechanised Eye. He was published in the Cantabrian Society for Sonic Artists print journal "Writing Around Sound: In Whose Tradition" alongside kiwi sonic luminary Bruce Russell, with an article that discussed past, present and future traditions. Through the year he worked closely with award winning composer Salina Fisher on her transcription based composition "Tōrino: echoes on pūtōrino improvisations by Rob Thorne" which was premiered by the NZ String Quartet in September, and went on to win the SOUNZ Contemporary Award at the national Silver Scrolls Awards in 2017. In October he took part in Melbourne's Liquid Architecture "Why Listen To Animals" project, performed at Monash University Museum of Art for the opening of the prestigious exhibition "Life Inside An Image", and participated in a group effort at The Unconformity Festival in Queenstown, Tasmania. In November he was the keynote lecture at the NZ Musicological Society conference, and returned to Tasmania by request of Brian Ritchie to perform five shows at Hobart's renowned MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) for the opening of their new On the Origins of Art exhibition.

Early 2017 he returned to Europe to release the much anticipated collaborative Fis album Clear Stones (Subtext Recordings on vinyl and CD) to stunning critical acclaim, performing at the experimental Borderline Festival in Athens Greece, Cafe Oto in London, Superbudda Creative Collective in Torino Italy, and Mondo Muzak Festival in Milan. While in Greece he recorded with pianist Tania Giannouli and only in London for one day and night he also managed to present at Westminster University, and record with Greek hip-hop artist Stereo Mike Exarchos. 
Mid-year he took up the highly-regarded position as the Jack C. Richards Composer-in-Residence at the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University in Wellington. While there he devised “Te Koki”, an electro-acoustic acousmatic composition that sonically imagined a pre-colonial Aotearoa/NZ dawn chorus with Kent Macpherson which was presented to full houses. His work with students at NZ School of Music has included composing and recording for film, and performing and recording both scored and improvised ensemble student works involving saxophone, double bass and drums, electric guitar, percussion and vocal quartet, live electronics, field recordings, analog synthesizer, and strings.
In October 2017 he attended WOMEX in Poland as an artist delegate supported by the NZ Music Commission, and in December presented a joint paper at the NZ Musicological Society conference ‘Performing History’ with Stereo Mike Exarchos on their collaborative glitch-hop/taonga puoro work.

Commissioned for 2018 by the New Zealand String Quartet to write a new collaborative work with taonga puoro, and by the New Zealand Festival to devise a show, he composed “Tomokanga”, a ten minute piece for pukaea, putorino, putatara and string quartet which was premiered in early March that year by the NZF to a full house at the stunning St Mary of the Angels Cathedral. The concerto styled show also included works by composers Gillian Whitehead, Gareth Farr and Salina Fisher, and poetry by Maori language expert Dr. Vincent Olsen-Reeder.
Also for March 2018, Fis and Rob Thorne were invited to showcase at SXSW Festival in Texas. In April, Rob collaborated with Austrian sonic pioneer Elisabeth Schimana in her renowned Virus project, before  completing his year long residency at NZSM/Victoria University in June. In July he travels to Darmstadt Summer Courses to perform in the 3-hour commissioned show “Tautitotito” with New Zealand composers Celeste Oram and Alex Taylor. The highly anticipatedstunning new album “Rewa” that was recorded with Tania Giannouli in 2017 is set for release on June 21, and is greatly anticipated to be released mid year on Rattle Records.