Riki Gooch and the sounds of tapa

Music and museum exhibitions haven’t always gone together – all part of the old idea that a museum should be a solemn and silent place.

Today, sound compositions in exhibitions are being used as part of the visitor experience. They offer a different way to approach the things on display – one in which the music speaks more to the heart and the emotions, than the intellect.

For the exhibition Paperskin – the art of tapa cloth we asked local musician and producer, Riki Gooch (aka Eru Dangerspiel) to create a sound composition in response to these wonderful tapa pieces from the Pacific.

Riki Gooch, musician and producer, in the Paperskin exhibition

Riki Gooch, musician and producer, in the Paperskin exhibition. Copyright Te Papa, 2010.

We asked him for a contemporary response - in line with the exhibition’s presentation of tapa as artworks, rather than tapa in its cultural context. We really wanted to avoid anything overly “ethnographic” and to steer away from Pasifika cliches such as endless Pacific drumming sounds…

Listen here to a sample of Riki’s composition:

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Three sketches for Harp, PVC pipes, Moog synthesiser and Voice
PVC pipes and Moog synthesiser by Riki Gooch, voice/loop effects by Victoria Shontelle-Parsons, harp by Natalia Mann

When we asked Riki how he approached this he told us that he was drawn to the colour tones in the tapa, where 3 or 4 colours are used in each piece, and that the symmetry of the works suggested strong musical motifs to him.

The instruments he uses are not what you might expect – jandals used to play PVC pipes, a harp, and a synthesizer. Riki says he chose these instruments as a deliberate contrast to the tapa works.

The biggest challenge was to write music which doesn’t get in the way of people viewing the works, and complements the tapa, “so it feels like a partnership between the tapa and the music”.

Riki enjoyed the project, especially learning more about tapa, its heritage and cultural significance. It was also a great experience for Riki and the team at Te Papa to share ideas and shape the overall work.

Why not visit the exhibition (it closes Sunday 12 September), listen to Riki’s sound composition and tell us what you think. Does it work for you?

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