This compact disk, released by the Oceania Center for Arts and Culture at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, presents an interesting, eclectic, and imaginative range of contemporary musical possibilities for the nose flute, a traditional instrument historically found throughout Polynesia. The disk is a collaborative effort between composer-performer Calvin Rore and well-known writer and scholar Epeli Hau'ofa. Each of the fourteen tracks on the album features the nose flute performing with other instruments in a wide range of musical styles and textures. In the brief liner notes, Hau'ofa explains the limited usage of the nose flute today in Tonga and Hawai'i and his hope that the project will give the instrument "a new breath of life." This album is the first of its kind to feature the instrument in new compositions and is therefore an important contribution to the contemporary arts of Oceania. All tracks on the disk are original compositions by Rore; two are collaborative creations between Rore and Hau'ofa. According to the notes, the music was "inspired by the sounds of Oceanic music of another era."
In general, the compositions are characterized by evocative sounds, ambient textures, and some techniques of minimalism. The eclectic quality of the music derives from the combination of the nose flute with various instruments including acoustic guitar, violin, didgeridoo, shell trumpet, mouth harp, recorder, electronic keyboard, as well as vocal textures and some percussion, especially shaker and drums. The resulting works were engineered by Newsounds Studio, as is evident by the inclusion of one or two performers' names in the notes for compositions with multiple instrumental tracks. Listeners may find that the nose flute, with its soft breathy sound, works well with some instrumental combinations but is perhaps slightly awkward with others. For example, the flute's delicate sound does not seem to blend as smoothly with the picking acoustic guitar (eg, track 7, "Ngoda"), as it does with the sustained sounds of strings (track 8, "Totorou") or didgeridoo (track 9, "Molatiro"). Due to the transparent and gentle sound of the flute, the unaccompanied solo sections are quite beautiful (eg, in tracks 5 and 9). While most tracks present the lyrical quality of the instrument, the flute is also effective in playing quick and ornamented melodic figures, such as in track 6, "Wainadoi It Is." The adjustment of a few minor details such as awkward internal transitions (in track 13) and abrupt and cut-off endings (eg, track 2) could have improved the overall quality of the album. The indigenous names of the compositions are quite interesting, but listeners may wish for further explanation beyond the few words offered.
Overall, this compact disk provides a wide variety of new and imaginative musical ideas for this rarely featured [End Page 265] instrument. The development of contemporary performing arts in Oceania would greatly benefit from more projects of this kind that seek to breathe a new voice into the vibrant performing traditions of the Pacific.
Federated States of Micronesia