The flute-playing couple Dominique Hunziger and Anne Utagawa had a flute group Les joueurs de flûte comprising all sizes from piccolo to subcontrabass – all very good players. Dominique asked me for a piece which they would also take on tour. I visited him in his atelier (he is also a painter) in Aarau where I could see and hear most instruments – especially the very big one which is mounted on a stand and can only be played standing. What especially delighted me were the air sounds which the larger instruments can produce so well.

I decided to make a transcription of my tape piece Dapple Metal, for these 8 players, many of whom played several instruments. The group would stand in a long line across the stage and special effects (sounds moving from left to right and back again) would be a feature of the work. Although the white and pink noise was very easily imitated on these instruments, many of the other sounds were almost impossible and so I had to invent other material to replace these sounds – one example of the new material being the speaking of (Māori) texts through the flutes.

The first performance was on Sunday, 27. September 1998 in Wetzikon. It was a thrilling performance and our Müeti (Brigitte’s mother), who also came, said she thought it should be called “die Entstehung des Klangs” (the birth of sound). This struck me as a very good description, since the progression from “noise” to melodic sound (the transcription of a whale song, with which the piece ends) is a major component of this 10 minute long piece.

The name Kōauau (a Māori flute) came only after the piece was finished. It seemed to me appropriate, since the work contained flute sounds and Maori poetry (Rimu-rimu).

Les joueurs de flûte - http://www.joueurs.ch/

Anne 3rd from left and Dominique 5th from left with a contrabass flute

Kōauau