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Pepetuna “Ghost Moth”

for piano and taonga puoro

Year:  2022   ·  Duration:  5m 20s
Instrumentation:  piano and taonga puoro (putorino, purerehua)

Year:  2022
Duration:  5m 20s
Instrumentation  piano and taonga puoro (put...

Composer:   Helen Bowater

Composer:   Horomona Horo

Films, Audio & Samples

Sample Score

Sample: first two pages of score

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The Puriri moth is NZ’s largest moth native to the North Island with a wingspan of up to 15 cm. While it exists as a grub and caterpillar for several years it lives as a moth just briefly — about 48 hours — as it poisons itself without any means of excretion.

The moth flies at dusk and at night, mostly navigating by moonlight, and has been considered in Maori tradition to be a spiritual messenger or ghost of ancestors returning to visit descendants.

The piece articulates the transformation and flight patterns of moths — the beating/whirring of their wings — which ultimately communicate the transience of living things.

The Purerehua “bull roarer” invites tears to farewell the dead while the voices of the Putorino lead this lament. As a cross-blown flute, the Putorino projects the voice of Raukatauri — goddess of flute music — who changed herself into a case moth so she could live inside the Putorino. The male voice sounds when it is blown like a trumpet. The performer also sings into the Putorino in the first part of the piece underlying the personal sense of lamentation. The 3rd voice of the Putorino sounds from blowing across the central opening — Wheke’s voice. She is the daughter of Raukatauri and her sounds are those of the forest.

The piano part both reacts to and triggers these sounds and sentiments.

Commissioned note

Commissioned by Sharon Joy Vogan with the assistance of Creative New Zealand