San Polyphony (1998/1999)

for organ

African Journal No 24
Dedicated to Gerrit Jordaan
Commissioned by the National Arts Council of South Africa
Bardic Edition Score BDE 802
Duration: 20'00"


First performance: Sunday 27 September 1998; South Africa; Gerrit Jordaan organperformance details.

Programme note

The organ piece requested in 1997 by Gerrit Jordaan started taking shape soon after I returned to South Africa to live early in 1998, and represents my first work begun and completed on home soil in more than twenty years. It received its first performance on 27 September 1998 in Commemoration Church, Grahamstown by Gerrit Jordaan. I began work on it around the time that I acquired some new recordings of San music and I was reading an article entitled Bushman Counterpoint written in 1967 by the ethnomusicologist Nicholas M. England which describes the often quite elaborate counterpoint that is present in San vocal music. But apart from the title, San Polyphony was not really influenced in any way by this music; rather it owes a debt to the music of the 'mbira dza vadzimu', though it does not refer to the music of any one mbira piece in particular.

San Polyphony was commissioned by the National Arts Council of South Africa for Gerrit Jordaan to whom it is dedicated. It lasts about 20 minutes.