You are on page 1of 7

First Essay.

Helen Fisher is a New Zealand composer who is very enthused about the Maori culture, Maori sounds and loves creating Maori compositions, like Ponamou. In Ponamou, Helen used a SSAATB choir and (originally) a ute to accompany the choir. I believe that Helen would have chosen to use the ute because the ute can resemble the human voice in the way that it portrays an airy sound. Also, the ute is Helens favorite instrument! Richard Nunn has referred to Ponamou as a collaboration.. a collaboration that is going through many metamorphoses Richard Nunns to Cheryl Camm, October 1999 this quote can be taken in two different ways.. You can take it as a work in progress, or you can take it as a masterpiece just with performers adding their own twists and playing styles to it. Helen Fisher always had the thought in her mind that performers would add in their own techniques and styles, it is up to the performers interpretation of the piece. Because different performers can have a different interpretation of the piece, performers will play with different timbres and some with different instruments! Richard Nunn is a performer of authentic Maori utes and in his performance version Richard is recorded playing Ponamou on a Kauau (the Maori equivalent to a ute). Richard Nunns version of Ponamou, using the Kauau sounds like a totally different composition for a number of reasons, the rst is because of the Kauaus small range, the performer has to play the composition roughly a minor third beneath what is written. The other reason why Richard Nunns version sounds like a whole new piece is because the Kauau blends in more with the vocals and acts more like an accompanying instrument whereas the ute (although written as an accompanying instrument) sounds more like a solo instrument with accompanying choir. As I have said in my opening sentence Helen Fisher is very enthusiastic when it comes to the Maori culture, and something that Helen is frenzied about, is the correct pronunciation of Maori vowels, and something unique to Ponamou, is that there are very few Maori words that the choir actually sing, most of the composition is written using Maori vowels. Helen is so strict with the correct pronunciation of these Maori vowel sounds that on the back of her Ponamou composition there is a page entitled Composers Notes and on this page, there are notes from Helen describing to the performers how each vowel should sound. Here is an example E as in bed (short vowels)pet. Although I have said most of the composition is written in vowels for the choral part, the choir also sing a Maori waiata which reads: Kia hora te marino, kia whakapapa ponamou te moana, Kia tere karohirohi i mua i tou huarahi Even with Helens precise instructions of how to pronounce the Maori words, the different cultures (such as Japanese) that have used this piece will most likely struggle to pronounce the words purely because of the language barrier.

When the choir sing the Maori waiata, the choir sing it as if it were a chant, giving a dominant effect. This is one of the most important parts of Helen Fishers composition because the waiata is telling a story, the Maori waiata translates into: May calm be spread around you, May the sea glisten like greenstone and the shimmer Of summer dance across your path. Ponamou, was written with this waiata in mind and Helen Fisher did an amazing job at portraying the waiata. The waiata line that (translated) reads May the sea glisten like greenstone and the shimmer must have had that one stanza for Ponamou which glued in her mind. She composed the sparkling sound of the ute and the high pitched choral voices of Ponamou (orgreenstone as written in the waiata) creating a shimmering sound from it. There are a few compositional techniques that really give Ponamou its shimmering sound, the use of high voices, a high ranged choir (two sopranos and two altos). The choir often sing pedal notes one after the other creating a wave like effect. They also use acciacaturas and trills. The dynamics also give a wave effect as they regularly rise and fall in phrases like the sea. This all creates a sparkling, shimmering effect because it creates an image (at least it does in my mind) of the sun shining down on a beach and the water reecting the sunlight in a random sparkly pattern. The ute is also played in a high pitch range and also has many trills and great use of triplets and fast quavers. Bars 112 and 113 After listening to Ponamou, reading through the score and then reading what Helen Fisher (the composer) and Richard Nunns (collaboration composer) had to say about the piece I understand how hard it was for Helen Fisher to release her composition because there can be so many different interpretations of Ponamou. Even the Japanese have taken Ponamou and created their own interpretation of it using a shakuhachi (the japanese ute).

Second Essay.
The rst published score of Ponamou is one of Helen Fishers Kiwiana type composition written for the ute and later the Koauau (the maori ute) and choir. The piece sounds very authentic to the Maori culture, Helen has truly captured the Maori sounds. When listening to her composition Ponamou you feel like you have gone back in time to where there were Maori kings and Maoris were ruling Aotearoa. There are two published recordings of Ponamou the rst, using a ute and the second, using the Maori ute the Kauau. There are two scored versions of Pounamou that include the ute and the kauau. The two versions sound very different. In the ute version, the ute sounds like the dominant instrument with a backing choir. And then, when you listen to the Kauau version of Ponamou (the authentic Maori sounding version) your perspective of the piece changes entirely! The kauau adds a whole new dimension to the piece, because the kauau is a small wooden instrument it cannot produce the same level of sound or the same range of notes (the kauauas range is much smaller) that the ute can produce and therefore the choir dominates over the top of the Kauau. In the performances I have listened to there are some performance techniques used that differ between the two different pieces. For example, on the score of the ute in Ponamou there is a written trill The rst bar of Pounamou however the performer, Uwe Grodd plays this trill as a pitch bend (the performer uses his lips to bend the pitch of the note this is a choice of performance technique interpreted by the person playing). Kaua example There are different timbres and articulation used in the ute recording than what is written in the score, the different timbre and articulation adds to the performers emphasis on the piece which is exactly what Helen wanted to happen to Ponamou, she wanted the piece to be adapted by different performers and different environments. examples Pounamou has been performed and recorded in many different places, from meeting house, to concert halls even to outside. Each of these venues will have different acoustics giving a different moods and effects The sounds of Ponamou differ a lot between the Kauau and the Flute. Even though the pieces are basically the same. The timbre of the instrument totally changes the sound of the piece for example, the ute sounds like a ute with accompanying choir, whilst the

Kauaua sounds like a choir with accompanying Kauau. The mood of the piece changes totally purely because of the timbre used. The Kauau also sounds approximately a minor third lower than what is written. the Kauau part is more improvised than read from the score because of its limitations equally Uwe Grodd does improvise on the written notes in order to create atmosphere for Ponamou. My personal preference of the pieces is the Kauau version because to me it sounds a lot truer to what it is Helen Fisher wanted to portray, it is using specic and an authentic Maori instrument. In Ponamou Helen Fisher has written quite a few trills in and in my opinion these trills sound a lot better on the Kauau. The timbre of the Kauau really makes me imagine a traditional Maori dance out in the bush. The piece conveys an atmosphere that seems magical and this portrays the natural emphasis of Ponamou, or more commonly referred to as Green Stone, which is said to give magical powers and mana.

Third Essay.
Ponamou, written in 1989, was Helen Fishers rst composition to be selected for performance in the 1990 asian music festival in Japan. That was a huge achievement for a New Zealand composer. To start with. Who is Helen Fisher? Helen Fisher (1942), is a well accomplished New Zealand composer from nelson. Helen Fisher has done all of her study in life throughout New Zealand. Her rst years of school (primary, intermediate and high school) were all completed in her home town of Nelson. In 1964 Helen graduated from Christchurch university with a BA in english. After graduating with her BA in english, Helen went on to teach english, french and music in New Zealand and Canadian schools. Remembering that Ponamou was Helen Fishers rst real kiwiana composition, she denitely managed to capture the Maori essence in Ponamou. Since Ponamous rst performance, the piece has taken on so many different transformations, then when Helen Fisher decided to team up with Uwe Grodd, an entirely new element was added to Ponamou (as well as some new bars that were added to the end of the rst version of Pounamou). Pounamou, being such a signicant piece in Helen Fishers portfolio has still managed to go through many different variations, as each performer takes on Pounamou different articulations are added and others are lost. Not to mention different cultures taking the piece and making it their own and changing the instrumentation. As Pounamou was written, there were many parts that were changed after Helen Fisher had listened to Richard Nunns playing different Kauau. Just small things changed as time went on but a Helen Fisher says in an interview As a composer in the Western world, we are used to have control of absolutely everything, every note that happens. But in this version, with the improvisation that Richard uses I have had to let go Helen Fisher to Cheryl Camm
August 1999

The word Ponamou is not exactly your everyday word so what is Ponamou? Ponamou is the Maori word for Greenstone. Greenstone is very similar to a highly valued Jade. Ponamou is generally found in rivers as nondescript boulders. Ponamou has a huge amount of meaning to local Maori culture as Ponamou is considered a treasure in the Maori culture. Back when New Zealand was commonly known as Aotearoa, Maoris made

tools, ornaments and weapons out of Ponamou because they believed that the Ponamou has its own mana (Mana is described in english as prestige or power) and for this reason a lot of Ponamou has been handed down through families as heirlooms and is still valued today. One of the Maoris traditions regarding greenstone (or Ponamou) is that it is never bought for yourself, it is always gifted, to you or from you.

Fourth Essay.
Ponamou is like a huge collaboration of many different performers interpretations as well as Helen Fishers own interpretations. There is no single word out there to describe the way that Ponamou makes me feel. Ponamou is denitely an interesting composition at rst listen, however after you realize the lengths that Helen Fisher had gone through to get Ponamou sounding as authentic to the Maori culture as possible, your appreciation for the piece changes entirely, it now feels like you are sitting there with a Maori tribe, celebrating and gifting Ponamou to your loved ones. Helen Fishers Ponamou has taken on many different personalities because of the numerous performers interpretations as well as Richard Nunns contributions. For example, different performers use different performance techniques such as pitch bending instead of trills. Another contributing factor to the different personalities of Ponamou is other cultures taking the piece and using it in their culture, such as Japan. The Japanese have taken Ponamou and have altered it so that it can be played using a shakuhachi (a Japanese ute) not to mention the language barrier, can you really imagine a Japanese singer pronouncing words like Kia Hora?. In saying that, different cultures performing Ponamou can add new inuences with the mispronunciation of words (although Helen Fisher may not like this as much which could be why in the back of the Ponamou score there is a guide that shows the performers how to pronounce the words!).

My personal preference of Helen Fishers Pounamou is denitely the Kauau version with Richard Nunns, I nd that this version of the piece sounds a lot more authentic to the Maori culture. There are some very cool se Depending on which version of Ponamou you listen to will change your rst opinion on Ponamou my rst opinion on Ponamou (I listened to the ute version rst) I thought the piece was extremely instrumental and portrayed the Maori aspect extremely well. The ute trills (and pitch bends added in by the performer) really added to give an authentic Maori sound. Then you get some recording techniques that added to the authentic sound, such as reverb, which made us as the audience feel like we were in one of New Zealands native bushes listening to an authentic Maori performance.

Ponamou Essays Music 2011


Chris Street