In his solo presentation of traditional instruments (taonga puoro), Richard Nunns introduces his audience to the ancient sound world of the Mäori of Aotearoa New Zealand. For each presentation he chooses from among fifty different instruments - mainly percussion or flutes and trumpets. Made from materials such as wood, bone, stone and shell, many of the instruments are carved in exquisite detail.
The voices of the traditional instruments had rarely been heard since the early nineteenth century. Nunns's musicality and facility in playing the instruments are underpinned by his extensive scholarship and research. In a report of a recent workshop, Tewe Eru (Tuwharetoa) said “It's sad that so much of this traditional knowledge has been lost to us, so I’m here to learn. Richard is an encyclopaedia and I can’t get enough of it!”
This presentation is interwoven with stories about the instruments and their functions within the rituals and ceremonies of a traditional community.
'Richard Nunns, who has dedicated a lifetime to understanding, playing, making and recording Maori instruments… must surely be named a national treasure' Music in New Zealand 1998
This is a part of the 2011 City of London Festival. The other lectures in this series are:
Culture and Resistance by Michael Walling
The Relationship between Music and Sounds from the Natural World by David Matthews
Emerging Markets and Climate Change by Dr Cameron Hepburn
Percy Grainger: Australia's Greatest Composer by Malcolm Gillies
Richard has a long history of personal commitment to researching and presenting/ performing the traditional musical instruments of the Maori, and to organising this body of knowledge into a form which is immediately understandable to people in general, particularly Maori who have lost contact with such knowledge.
As well as his ethno-musicological expertise, since Richard first began public performances on taonga puoro (Maori musical instruments), he has developed an amazing international profile, both with the diversity of his recorded work, along with performing with a wide variety of people in many differing settings and circumstances.
Richard works across a wide range of musical genres.
He has toured with Maori artists - Moana Maniapoto, Deborah Wai Kapohe - free jazz improvisors - Evan Parker, Jeff Henderson - pianists - Judy Bailey, Marilyn Crispell, Paul Grabowsky, Mike Nock - and flutists - Alexa Still, Bridget Douglas, Ingrid Culliford.
Richard has had a number of performances of contemporary classical works, written specifically for him and his instruments, including performances with New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and New Zealand String Quartet.
One of the most recent of these was Puhake ki te Rangi (Spouting to the skies) composed for Richard and the New Zealand String Quartet by Gillian Whitehead while she was composer-in-residence at the Lilburn House in Wellington.
More recently Richard has been working in the electronica field with Paddy Free of Pitch Black, and has performed with the Australian Art Orchestra.
His improvisation work is truly cross cultural and has seen him performing with Performers from Iran, Australian Aboriginal, First Nation America, Korea, Bolivia China, Turkey, Germany, Finland, Scotland – a global impact.
He is continually in demand for recording with a wide range of musicians.