WORD Christchurch 2018: Free Radicals

Free Radicals, with Dr Erin Harrington

Erin-Harrington-600x600A musical exploration of Women in the history of Science and Technology, Free Radicals is held together by the narration of Dr Erin Harrington of the University of Canterbury’s English and Cultural studies department. It is through Dr Harrington’s engaging presence that the stories and inspiration behind the diverse music presented are illuminated, and the ostensibly disparate threads of sound and performance are tied together. The song cycle moves deftly from melody to dissonance, with instrumentation from traditional Māori instruments through to prepared piano, digital synthesisers and computers.

The show begins at the melodic end of the musical spectrum on display, with the taonga pūoro or traditional Maori instruments of Ariana Tikao’s Behind the Black opening the musical proceedings before the exquisite vocal harmonies of The Swan Sisters. Through discussion of Rosalind Franklyn’s crucial, but systematically under-appreciated and overlooked contribution to the understanding of the double-helix structure of DNA, the ideas and tension that influence the performance begin to be unpacked.

From delicate beginnings, the concert moves deftly through Jazz influenced sounds towards contemporary composition from Glenda Kean and electronica from Misfit Mod. There is joy and beauty here for the audience, alongside challenging sounds and music, contemplation and experimentation. Melody and dissonance seem to be in constant tension throughout the song cycle, and this is evocative of the purposes of the concert as a whole. The stories here of the women who have contributed to our understanding of the universe are a celebration of their achievements, while New Radicals also seeks constantly to illuminate the extraordinary misogyny which these women have had to contend with, and the unending nature of that struggle against the short-sighted and oppressive behaviour of the men who have acted as gatekeepers to knowledge.

The show’s finale, In Femenia Forma by Rosa Elliott was performed by a number of vocal performers joining together in a choral circle, some facing the audience and some with their backs to us, all facing each-other. The final song in the cycle moves between beauty and chaos, and draws the range of ideas and feelings evoked by the diverse parts of the concert together into one piece. The performers showed the singularity of purpose in-spite of opression which those whose stories are told here have had, while showing solidarity and strength through their communality and identity as Women.

A limited number of tickets are still available for the repeat performance of the show tonight on the 30th of August.

Reviewed by Brett Johansen on behalf of Booksellers NZ

Free Radicals 2 is performed tonight from 6pm

Book Review: Te Ara Puoro – A journey into the world of Maori music, by Richard Nunns with Allan Thomas

Available in bookstores nationwide.

I was excited to rip into this book, which arrived at my house wrapped in cardboard due to its size and weight. Te Ara Puoro is large, stunning and hugely informative – an engaging read cv_te_ara_puoroand visually brilliant.

When wanting to discover more about taonga puoro (Maori musical instruments), Pakeha school teacher Richard Nunns asked Rose Pere what she knew, and it wasn’t until a year later she responded while he played the flute, “You make those instruments speak like people. You remember you asked me about our traditional instruments? Well, if you are meant to find out you will.”

Te Ara Puoro chronicles Nunns’ journey to rediscover his musical passion, and uncover and learn more about Maori instruments. Going through the instruments, Nunns covers all types of materials: bone, wood, stone, gourds, and even leaves and reeds. Nunns gathered knowledge from elders all over New Zealand over the last 40 years to help him to revive, understand, recreate and master taonga puoro.

Te Ara Puoro is wonderfully illustrated throughout with fantastic photography (I wouldn’t expect anything less from Craig Potton Publishing), and comes with a CD. The images and CD themselves tell a story, giving the reader a real insight in to what taonga puoro looks and feels like.

This book is far more than just a coffee table book. It is highly specialised, and as such may not appeal to everyone. I think the publisher says it well – “[this book] will undoubtedly be the most important written resource in existence on the subject.”

It should be in every school, and every library, allowing everyone with an interest in Maori culture access to taonga puoro and Richard Nunns’ substantial and invaluable work in this area.

Reviewed by Kimaya McIntosh

Te Ara Puoro
by Richard Nunns, with Arthur Thomas
Published by Craig Potton Publishing
ISBN 9781877517785