Robert L. Thorne (Post-Graduate Diploma, Master of Arts)

koauau drill.jpg

(Re)constructing the kōauau: traditional and modern methods in the making of kōauau rākau. Thesis for Master of Arts in Social Anthropology.

Until recently written work on the koauau has remained hidden within ethnographic accounts and anthropological analyses of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Descriptions regarding the traditional construction methods of the wooden koauau, a traditional, short, open-­-ended, tube flute played using the oblique embouchure, are often brief and second-­-hand, usually describing the object as it is physically rather than the process by which it was made. As yet, very little has been done academically on the process of construction: the making of koauau. Interest in taonga puoro (traditional Maori musical instruments) within academic discussion has been increasing alongside the pragmatic revival of a musical practice motivated by a small group of high-­-profile, respected exponents. By collecting oral tradition and combining ethnographic evidence with structural knowledge from existing museum artefacts for purposes of reconstruction and re-­-enactment, these people have been revitalising and reviving the traditional practice of taonga puoro. Situated within an ethnomusicological framework of fieldwork-­-based research this thesis incorporates interviews, practical reconstruction, the study of museum artefacts, and a thorough survey of ethnography in a comparative analysis that considers the possibility, validity and probability of different techniques. Focussed specifically on traditional methods, one technique in particular, that of using a hot coal to burn the central bore that runs through the length of the shaft of the flute was central to the research. In total eighteen instruments are presented that were created during the research by methods that included cord drill, gouging of pith woods, ‘found sound’, tunnels made by moth grubs, and fire.

In "New Geographies" with CTM Festival 2016

Jumping The Gap: The Distance Between Taonga Puoro and Experimental Music

Originally published in SoundBleed Journal by Audio Foundation

Experimental music is about innovation and the revival of taonga puoro (traditional Maori musical instruments) is about tradition. Yet a large part of reclaiming, re-learning, rediscovering and reviving the traditions of taonga puoro has come out of improvisation. Improvising construction, improvising playing methods and styles, improvising how something should sound according to specific memories of people present and passed, improvising whole instruments from scant and rare, or singular, historical descriptions, and sometimes even improvising on knowledge when large parts of accounts have been mislaid/covered over (lost).


The Vesica Piscis of Past, Present and Future Tradition

Published in "Writing Around Sound #2 – In Whose Tradition?" by The Auricle & CSSA

“Where I physically stand right now in history is all a matter of timing. I have the privilege of both hindsight and analysis. Nothing can exist in a vacuum with these tools. As a Māori I have access to whakapapa, and knowingly walk backwards into the future with my past laid out before me. Adding to this, as a modern academic I am further afforded the privilege to seemingly pick and choose what I believe, though idealising and materialising yet more choices does not make the act of choosing easier. My internalised being is the product and the cause of the choices I make, and with these I externalise and then materialise.”