Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) (Wellington based)

Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) (Wellington based)

Rob Thorne is a Taonga Puoro composer, performer and anthropologist
Rob Thorne is a Taonga Puoro composer, performer and anthropologist

Rob Thorne is a Taonga Puoro composer, performer and anthropologist. Rob (Ngāti Tumutumu) was the recent Creative NZ / Jack C. Richards Composer-In-Residence at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University, Wellington. He has travelled, performed and presented at a number of overseas events and gatherings including Womex on a number of occasions.

Rob is a profoundly original voice in the evolving journey of Taonga Puoro. Using modern loop technology and traditional Māori flutes and horns made from stone, bone, shell and wood, Rob creates a transcendent aural experience that touches the soul with timeless beauty. Every performance is a stunning and very personal exploration of the spiritual and healing qualities of an ancient practise.

Porotiti Mindfulness Workshop & Performance Meditation Example:

The porotiti is a traditional Māori musical instrument also known to be used in traditional healing.

Suspended by a cord and spun with both hands in front of the body, it is renowned as a children’s toy and was known to be medicine for the respiratory system, the chest and spine, the spirit and the mind.

The simple act of playing the porotiti is a meditation. Students will come to experience the simplifying but empowering effects of improvisation within performance that will translate into everyday living and identity. It also gives students the opportunity to develop an understanding and appreciation of the arts as well as the creative process. The opportunity for students to perform alongside a professional musician will contribute to the development of emerging young artists at your school.

In this modern world, we can struggle to connect our bodies and minds in a way that is healthy. Anxiety and stress seem to pervade almost every part of life today, as does the act of performance brought on by the internet, socialisation, schooling and work. Pressure is an inherent part of our success and achievement culture. Mindfulness and meditation practices and theories abound, and it can be difficult to find ways to connect fully into these in a way where we are confident that we are achieving the purpose of the practice. Our minds can become distracted with the pressure of performing the practice correctly and successfully and the benefits of the practice become compromised.

In this workshop, the participants learn and achieve both a moving and a breathing meditation that also incorporates a sonic meditation made by the instrument. The act of playing the porotiti allows the mind and body to subconsciously align through breath, action and sound and because the body is busy the mind is free to flow.

Participants also learn about traditional Māori musical instruments (taonga puoro), and how to play an instrument (the porotiti). They are also given the opportunity to consider the value of traditional practices and other ways of knowing and being.

The workshop incorporates discussion on what defines performance, and the consideration that behaviour and action are types of performance. When we acknowledge all the ways we exist in a performance state in relation to social stressors and anxiety we can begin to consciously observe and assess and alter how we respond and cope.

The final full performance with the larger school or in a public space or event is in fact a participatory meditation workshop where the performers and the audience are united as one through the act of meditation. This would also flow on with the groups from each school at the public performances. The beauty of this is that Rob can produce the porotiti so that each participant or school can keep the instruments for future use whether it be in amongst Kapa Haka, meditation & mindfulness or just the joy of making music and sounds that come from our land.

Workshop and Meditation

A 60–75-minute workshop with students up to sixty per session (with accompanying participating teachers recommended at this number). The workshop consists of: 

  • Brief introduction to taonga puoro.
  • The porotiti, its tradition, its functions, its potential.
  • Mindfulness and meditation as a practice of wellness,
  • Mechanisms of meditation: self, extended repetition, mantra, mindfulness, flow.
  • Performance as action with purpose and narrative.
  • Learn to play the porotiti.

A 40–45-minute presentation and performance-meditation with whole school consists of:

  • Brief introduction to taonga puoro.
  • The porotiti, its tradition, its functions, its potential.
  • Mindfulness and meditation as a practice of wellness.
  • Performance as action with purpose and narrative.

This guided meditation has students playing porotiti and Rob playing other instruments alongside his looping technology including a solo demonstration piece that is 5-10 minutes in duration.

The workshops are ideal for senior primary students years five upward but can be for all who are interested (all ages to senior secondary, adults, and teachers) and it will focus on teaching people about the relationship between culture and sound while exploring within the fluid gap between traditional and modern perspectives. 

More about Rob Thorne:

See Rob Thorne’s upcoming events and when he might be in your region. Contact us to find out more about Rob visiting your school.

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