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Toroa (2022)
for taonga puoro & violin
duration: 8'
Commissioned by Forest & Bird
Programme Note


The Antipodean albatross/toroa is New Zealand’s most critically endangered seabird. These majestic birds make their journey from the subantarctic Antipodes Islands over the Pacific Ocean, and sadly many never return. As warming sea-surface temperatures make their prey scarce, they are having to forage further north and are coming into contact with commercial fishing vessels. Over the past 16 years, more than half of the female population on Antipodes Island has disappeared at sea, needlessly caught and killed on longline hooks. Without urgent action to mitigate seabird bycatch in both New Zealand and international waters, these special creatures are on track for extinction. This piece for taonga pūoro and violin explores the deep intertwining of two voices, reflecting the toroa’s lifelong commitment to its breeding partner. It incorporates sounds of the toroa itself through its bone (kōauau toroa), as well as sounds of the ocean through the voices of shells: pūtātara (conch with wooden mouthpiece) and karanga karoro (cockle). The ‘found sound’ approach and improvisatory nature of taonga pūoro is reflected in the violin part, with the score allowing much room for interpretation, creativity, and conversation on the part of the performers. The violin is altered in pitch; a loosening of strings that allows the kōauau toroa to thrive.

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