In our Composer Spaces series, we ask composers to share a bit about their working environment and to give us a brief insight into their process. This week we present composer Ariana Tikao.



I usually go for a walk or run in the morning. Routines vary though! After that is breakfast, tidying up, and then either working with others or spending time in my working space.


I’ve just set up our spare room as my music and study room. I have my taoka puoro and other instruments in there, an amp and mics etc. It is in our garden which is quite bushy and wild. We used to call it ‘the jungle’ until the neighbours chopped all their big trees down, so now it has weeds and some smaller natives fighting back. It’s great to have my own space now for composing and practising.


I usually record ideas on my phone and write down lyrics in a notebook or whatever paper is available. Many of my composition ideas come to when I’m out roaming, so capturing them when they come to me is important. I have lots of books in my music room too, which is important to me for ideas, and inspiration. Particularly historical books which include pūrākau and kōrero from my iwi and whānau.


My composition process involves working with either lyrical or sonic phrases, and either building upon them or layering them (if I have the technology available to do this). I’ve recently got a simple loop pedal so am working on developing ideas using this. With my waiata though, it is often built up from a simple phrase and melody, and then added to. I work mainly with my voice to do this. It’s fairly intuitive!

If I am working on a collaborative piece with others who have access to recording equipment, we will often work on layering ideas in the studio which I really enjoy, as it is so immediate. This approach allows me to stretch myself in terms of ‘what else is in me?’ to keep trying out new ideas.


I’m mainly working on deepening my knowledge of my taoka puoro. Just sitting with them and spending more time getting to know them. I’ve also been getting more into sound healing lately, so am experimenting with ideas for this. I like to play outside also, so will often go out to the garden and interact with the birds and sounds around me.

I have a few collaborative projects I’m working on, but they are generally happening in other spaces.