Composer Michael Norris wins third SOUNZ Contemporary Award in a row

Associate Professor Michael Norris has won his third SOUNZ Contemporary Award in a row at the APRA Silver Scrolls for Mātauranga (Rerenga), a composition for orchestra, taonga puoro, and live electronics.

“I’m deeply honoured by this award. This piece was the beginning of a journey for me into te ao Māori and taonga puoro (traditional Māori musical instruments), that started back in the 1990s when I attended workshops by Richard Nunns,” says Associate Professor Norris, from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music—Te Koki (NZSM).

Associate Professor Norris teaches composition, sonic arts, and post-tonal music theory. He is also editor for Wai-te-ata Music Press, and co-director of Stroma New Music Ensemble.

The piece was commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, featuring taonga puoro soloist Alistair Fraser, and live electronics realised by the composer. It was selected by a panel of independent industry representatives including an international judge Frank J. Oteri from the United States.

Associate Professor Norris envisaged this piece as a tightly integrated soundworld between the taonga puoro and the orchestra, noting that to create this, he decided to use “custom-built live electronics to transform the sounds of the taonga puoro in real time into wavelike textures which the orchestra would then imitate and develop.”

Receiving the award, he said, “I’d like to contribute to the continuing development of these instruments, so I’m going to donate my prize money to Haumanu, a collective of taonga puoro performers who are developing these unique voices in contemporary Aotearoa.”

The awards were held online on Wednesday 28 October. SOUNZ Executive Director Diana Marsh says, “The winning work—Mātauranga (Rerenga)—demonstrates the high quality of New Zealand composition which the award has been recognising for more than two decades. Michael’s orchestral work incorporates taonga puoro and live electronics, creating a beautiful soundworld.”

The SOUNZ Contemporary Award | Te Toha Auaha is now in its 23rd year, and recognises New Zealand compositions that demonstrate outstanding levels of creativity and inspiration. This was Associate Professor Norris’s seventh nomination for the award, and fourth win. There were 48 works by 39 composers in this year’s award.

Another NZSM lecturer, David Long, also won an award on the evening, taking out the APRA Best Original Music in a Series award for his work on international co-production The Luminaries(published by Native Tongue Music Publishing). It was Long’s second win at the APRA Screen Awards.

Performance of Mātauranga (Rerenga)by Alistair Fraser (taonga puoro) and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Carlos Kalmar, cond.), with live electronics by the composer

The Radio NZ Sampler of David Long’s compositions from The Luminaries