Natalia Lagi’itaua Mann is a harpist, composer and resonance artist. Internationally respected for her unique creative approach, she works at the intersection of free improvisation, classical music, indigenous culture and contemporary art. Her projects are deeply collaborative explorations of the present moment and environment.
Mann's art is explorative, testing the boundaries of reality. Her diverse work is united under the concept Weaving of Perceptions, stemming from the indigenous philosophy that a Truth is more dimensional, more resonant, for being seen from not one but many perspectives. The world being a sonic place, and we sonic creatures, she discusses the nature of resonance and environmental harmony as an extension of the musical activity.
Natalia Lagi'itaua Mann was born in New Zealand in 1975, of Samoan Chinese, English Scottish descent. She began studying classical music at the age of four when her family lived in Los Angeles, her primary instruments being harp and piano. She continued her studies in New Zealand, and at age sixteen began playing for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, new music ensembles, opera, ballet and theatre. Her main harp teachers were NZSO harpist Carolyn Mills (Lucille Lawrence) and later Xanya Mamunya (Alice Chalifoux) with whom she obtained her degree in classical music perfomance at the Victorian College of the Arts (Australia).
Curiosity led her to explore other forms of music, and she realised her passion for improvisation. In 1996 She moved to Melbourne, Australia where she immersed herself in the vibrant international folk and roots music scene. She collaborated with various artists in meditation music, pop, jazz, hip hop, lounge, experimental, abstract, and other contemporary styles. Celebrating her Pacific Island heritage in the process, she co-founded the award winning Samoan trio Suga, and the Brown Roots Pacific arts collective. She was an original member of the Turkish groups Gece and Unified Gecko, and avant-garde improvisation trio Shima.
From 2005 - 2013 Mann lived in Istanbul, Turkey, working closely with virtuosic percussionist Izzet Kizil. She performed alongside Turkish classical master and composer Göksel Baktagir in their Tellerin Arasinda (Between Strings) project, a meeting of harp and kanun featuring the two musicians. During this time she was inspired to pen her own compositions and released her first collection of pieces as the album Pasif.ist on the Rattle NZ label in 2011, which reached #4 on the NZ album charts while on national tour with Bic Runga. The Natalia Mann Trio with Dine Doneff (Greece/Macedonia) and Izzet Kizil (Turkey/Kurdish) was brought together in during that recording, and later performed at the Istanbul Akbank Jazz Festival 2013.
Cultural exchanges included residencies and tours in Noumea, New Caledonia, International Womens Day (2014) and Fames Croisees (2017), working with Tyssia Wahnawe, Ela To’omaga and Marie Tamole, Kalaga’la, Association Siapo and the Femme Funk Festival (2004). The NZ-Irish show 'Greenfire Islands' took her to Ireland working with leading cultural musicians (2013). In Marseilles, France she performed in various projects with Leda Atomica Musique and Alice Orchestra (2007-2013). Winter (2011) in Skopje, Macedonia, she studied jazz with composer/guitarist Toni Kitanovski, while acting principal harpist for the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra.
In abstract and conceptual music, Mann has worked with sound artists David Long, Ros Bandt and Erdem Helvacioglu and ethnomusicologist Robert Reigle. Work and performance with mentor Richard Nunns and taonga puoro, soundworld of the Maori, enrich her perspective of this field of music, and its relationship to culture and the earth. Her project Illuminations on Consciousness explored synaesthesia and collective consciousness in relation to art and nature. Inspired by the philosophical approach of John Cage, her first installation Space Harp no.1 (2013) is based on his compositional processes. She exhibited her first lightscores for resonance music Musique Concrete (2014) in Wellington, NZ.
In contemporary dance she has been composer-performer for Bonemap (2017-19), Get A Move On (2018-19), Neil Ieremia - Black Grace contemporary dance company (NZ 2011).
Mann engaged in an experimental residency at Kickarts gallery, Centre of Contemporary Arts, Cairns (2016), playing the resonance of artworks every Thursday. Inspired and convinced by her findings, she launched the Resonance Art Ensemble (2017), a project devoted to development of the Resonance Music artform.
Her artist residency The Sonic Earth (2019) explored the foundations for Resonance Music development by studying the resonance of trees at the Tanks Arts Centre and Cairns Botanic Gardens, engaging a crew of forty people.
Recognition & Support
Mann was recipient of the Iosefa Enari Award for Music from the Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Board (2013), and has been awarded grants from Creative New Zealand in support of the Pasif.ist album (2010), the Natalia Mann Trio (2013), and the Utterance album (2017) with David Long and Richard Nunns.
She was selected nationally in Australia for Screenworks APRA/AMCOS Bootcamp (2019) mentorship for emerging screen composers with Rhonda Davidson-Irwin. The Resonance Art Ensemble and The Sonic Earth artist residency were funded by Cairns Regional Council Multicultural Arts, and RADF Regional Arts Development Fund.
Natalia gives workshops in improvisation, compostion and resonance music. Locally, Natalia is an active harp teacher and harp community member, helping to bring together the Cairns Harp Connection (2015 - present). She has taught harp improvisation throughout NZ, (NZ Harp Society 2019), Virtual Harp Summit (2016/17), and presented at the World Harp Congress in Sydney (2014).
Natalia's volunteer work at the Mental Health Unit in Cairns Base Hospital (since 2016) has helped to establish a weekly music therapy program.