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Tōrino – echoes on pūtōrino improvisations by Rob Thorne (2016)
for string quartet
duration: 11'
Commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand for performance by the New Zealand String Quartet
Programme Note


Discovering the music of taonga pūoro artist Rob Thorne has been the most deeply moving listening experience in my recent memory. I was mesmerized by the many powerful and haunting voices that Thorne could produce through one instrument in particular, the pūtōrino, and felt compelled to explore further and respond musically.

The pūtōrino is a purely Māori instrument, and is unique in that can function both as a ‘trumpet’ and ‘flute’. This results in two distinct voices: the deeper, mournful kōkiri o te tane (male voice), and the eerie, more agile waiata o te hine (female voice). An elusive third voice can be achieved by blowing across the māngai (central opening). Thorne ventures further, finding a fourth ‘humming’ voice, as well as percussive sounds. The instrument’s shape is based on the New Zealand case moth cocoon and embodies Hine Raukatauri, the atua (goddess) of music.

It became especially apparent when I had the chance to improvise alongside Thorne on violin, that the pūtōrino shares many musical elements with string playing, particularly in terms of registers, likeness to the human voice, breathy timbres, and flexibility in pitch. Tōrino (meaning ‘spiral’) is my exploration of this, based on transcriptions of recordings of a pūtōrino that Thorne himself had a hand in making.

My sincerest thanks, Rob, for your incredible openness, generosity, knowledge, support, and guidance through this beginning of a very special journey.

Mā te rongo, ka mōhio

Mā te mōhio, ka mārama

Mā te mārama, ka mātau

Mā te mātau, ka ora.



Score available at Wai-te-ata Music Press

View Score Sample


Chamber Music New Zealand Interview with Rob Thorne

Rob Thorne, pūtōrino improvisation

RNZ Concert Upbeat Interview 

Audio player not displaying? Listen here

Performance History

Fri 28th Feb, 2020

Land's End Ensemble at the Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary (Calgary, Canada)

Thu 24th Oct, 2019

German premiere, New Zealand String Quartet in the 2019 Sonnenalp Chamber Music Festival (Allgäu, Germany)

Thu 4th Oct, 2018

US premiere, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (Los Angeles, USA)

Tue 6th Mar, 2018

New Zealand String Quartet, New Zealand Festival (Wellington, New Zealand)

Sun 19th Nov, 2017

Jade String Quartet at the Pah Homestead (Auckland, NZ)

Sat 4th Nov, 2017

Canadian premiere, Emily Carr String Quartet, ISCM 2017 'World Music Days' Festival (Vancouver, Canada)

Sat 17th June, 2017

New Zealand String Quartet (Porirua, New Zealand)

Fri 16th June, 2017

New Zealand String Quartet (Wellington, New Zealand)

Sat 1st Oct, 2016

New Zealand String Quartet at Auckland Town Hall (Auckland, New Zealand)

Fri 30th Sep, 2016

New Zealand String Quartet at MTG Century Theatre (Napier, New Zealand)

Sun 25th Sep, 2016

New Zealand String Quartet at Glenroy Auditorium (Dunedin, New Zealand)

Sat 24th Sep, 2016

New Zealand String Quartet at Charles Luney Auditorium (Christchurch, New Zealand)

Thu 22nd Sep, 2016

New Zealand String Quartet at Theatre Royal (New Plymouth, New Zealand)

Sun 18th Sep, 2016

New Zealand String Quartet at Old St John’s Church (Nelson New Zealand)

Sat 17th Sep, 2016

World premiere, New Zealand String Quartet at Michael Fowler Centre (Wellington, New Zealand)

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