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Voices of the Land

Voices of Land
Nga Reo o te Whenua 2014


Richard Nunns has been a primary figure in retrieving taonga puoro, the traditional instruments of the Maori, from the silence of the museum. Archivist, researcher, composer and performer, he has worked - first with the late Hirini Melbourne, and here with Horomona Horo - to reinstate lost performance traditions. For Nunns, the sounds of the instruments 'sit somewhere between the sounds of the natural world and the human voice': the performer enters and joins the soundscape of nature. As the two men engage in musical conversation with a number of remarkable South Island locations, director Paul Wolffram and editor Annie Collins orchestrate the artistry of cinematographer Alun Bollinger and sound designer Tim Prebble to render the experience sublimely cinematic. We also meet master carver Brian Flintoff who works on intricate new flutes. Performances are interwoven with tributes - many of them musical - to the value of Nunns' discoveries and dedication. As Nunns contemplates his own failing body, the film's attunement to natural forces - ebbing away and then resurgent - summons the spirits that have found renewal through him.

"Sublimely Cinematic..."

Bill Gosden, Director NZIFF

Paul Wolffram's film melds sounds from noted musicians Richard Nunns and Horomona Horo, recorded in spectacular locations around New Zealand, to demonstrate that the sounds of the natural world are a form of music too. Nunns is a renowned expert in taonga pūoro - traditional Māori instruments like wood and bone flutes. Debuting at the 2014 Wellington Film Festival, Voices of the Land pays tribute to Nunn's role in their revival, while Wolffram's powerhouse creative team use image and sound to show ways "landscape and the voices of the land can be heard".'s the bedrock. It's the bones, it's the ribs, it's the stuff of music. It's the needle of the compass. – Richard Nunns

(Richard) says it’s hard for Westerners to even conceive of what Māori were trying to do with these instruments. When Europeans arrived here, we’d already had such strong musical traditions of set patterns and notes and pictures, that were determined to such an extent that if it was half a tone out from what it should be, everybody thought of it as wrong. So for the Western mind to begin to understand how music can exist out of those confines is still a challenge today. – Director Paul Wolffram, in an interview with Lumiere, 19 July 2014

Traditional Māori instruments are being used as cultural markers all around us, with fragments of it on television screens and radiowaves, and in performances with a wide range of musicians nationally and internationally. They are the soundscape of New Zealand, now. People think they won’t know them but they do. They are sounds that could only have come from Aotearoa. – Richard Nunns on traditonal Māori instruments, on his website


Producer, Director, Paul Wolffram

Cinematographer, Alun Bollinger

Editor, Annie Collins

Producer, Catherine Fitzgerald



2014 Rialto Channel NZ Film Awards (The Moas)
Nominated for Best Documentary
Nominated for Best Director - Documentary: Paul Wolffram
Nominated for Best Cinematography - Documentary: Alun Bollinger
Nominated for Best Editor - Documentary: Annie Collins