Rob Thorne (of Ngati Tumutumu) is a Maori musician and anthropologist from Palmerston North, New Zealand. He has been researching and performing on taonga pūoro, or traditional Maori instruments such as the pūkāea, (wooden trumpet), pūtōrino (bugle flute), and pūtātara (conch shell trumpet) since 2001.
Thorne’s own compositions, praised as arbiters of 21st century naturalism, operate around the belief that tradition is both fixed and fluid. In his own paper, “Jumping The Gap: The Distance Between Taonga Puoro and Experimental Music”, Thorne describes taonga pūoro’s incorporation of improvisation to work “laterally”. His music fuses ‘modern’ experimentation — Thorne performs with a boss RC300 loop station in tow — and traditional Maori musical conventions. These conventions, deeply informed by a conceptual geographical framework and archaic local orientation, are indebted to and inseparable from the New Zealand terrain.
Rob Thorne’s album, Whāia te Māramatanga (Rattle Records), released in 2014, was described as a “modern eye on stone, wood, shell and bone… reflect[ing] the beauty and splendour of the natural landscape of Aotearoa” (Martin Pepperell, VanguardRed).