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Early in 2010 I wrote Me he korokoro tui for a choral festival. The text of that work made reference to singing and the tui. A native bird of New Zealand. the tui is noted for it’s wide repertoire of song, and the proverb “Me he korokoro tui” means “as sweet throated as the tui”. For that work I sourced some examples of tui song from a pioneering book on New Zealand birds by Johannes Andersen.
In his book Bird-song and New Zealand song birds Johannes Andersen notated around seventy distinctive calls of the tui. He noted: “He sings at all times…by day and by night; at rest and on the wing…”, and also commented that “…the notes of this most versatile bird are different in different parts of the islands; and even in the same locality they vary from season to season, new notes being sounded in addition to old ones repeated…”.
Tui begins by quoting two of Andersen’s notated tui songs, and through the remainder of the work some others are briefly quoted as well. These tui songs were the starting point for a piece which explores varying textures and shifting tonalities, within a strictly rhythmic setting. The music is generally tonal but with an emphasis on harmony rather than melody. The music is quiet throughout and never rises above mezzo-piano, ending in reiterated chords like mist rolling in. The challenge with this piece was to avoid a texture that became too thick or heavy.
“Tui” was written at the suggestion of a former student of mine, Judy Lee. Judy was playing with a group of fellow students at Auckland University, using repertoire for 2 pianos (8 hands) as chamber music study.
Dedicated to Judy Lee, Somi Kim, Lorelle McNaughton, and Cindy Tsao