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Mazwi

2000/2018
electronic music (6 channels)
12:15 min.

In the Shona language, common in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Mazwi can mean both words and voices. This polysemy is characteristic of speech sounds that convey both meaning and voicing.

The piece is inspired by an inscription of Paul Klijnsma (1915-1995), a former missionary and voyager throughout Africa. It summarizes his view of life after years of residence in Zimbabwe. First we just observe rows of letters but on closer inspection a clearly running text emerges. A single sentence is repeated in different languages.

Mazwi’s sound sources are recorded native speaking voices articulating the first six sentences (in English, French, German, Dutch, Swedish, Italian). To achieve a harmonizing spectre of timbres, Germanic languages are spoken by female voices and Romanic languages are spoken by male voices.

The musical character of part 1 is designed by temporal stretching, interaction and crosswise transformation of the six voices. These transformations become manifest in changes of timbre and position at the same time because any two voices transformed into each other are swapping their channels respectively. In contrast, part 2 is built on cyclical rhythms that are juxtaposed with shifted and retrograde variants of themselves. Both pieces thus develop and emphasise different aspects of spoken language with musical means.

first performances: The Hague, May 10th, 2000 (part 1), Cologne, December 2nd, 2018 (part 2)

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