Tombeau de Mosoeu Moerane (2011)

for soprano birbyne and 5-track (or 2-track) tape

Written for Darius Klysis
Tape made at Alpha Studio, Visby, Sweden
Duration: 13'36"


First performance: Tuesday 29 September 2015; ISCM World Music Days, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Ljubljana, Slovenia; Valentina Štrucelj clarinetperformance details.

Programme note

Born 1909 of Sesotho parents in the Eastern Cape, Michael Mosoeu Moerane was one of the foremost composers working in South Africa from the 1930s till his death in 1981. Though mostly disregarded by the white academic composing community, he has had a far-reaching influence on subsequent generations of young black composers in South Africa.

Tombeau de Mosoeu Moerane takes ‘DNA’ samples from three of his most loved choral pieces, and synthesises them into a new music, while retaining essential elements of his musical language. A composer very much ahead of his time, he may well have composed music like this himself, had circumstances in apartheid South Africa allowed it.

The work was requested by birbyne player Darius Klisys, who I first met in 2008 in Cuba when we both performed at ‘Spring in Havana’. The five-track tape was created in August 2011 in the Alpha Studio in Visby, Sweden.


The official South African selection for the festival, Michael Blake’s Tombeau de Mosoeu Moerane, was one of the few programmed works that moves within this ambit, developing fragments of Moerane’s work in an electronic context. This sets up three layers of cultural context—Moerane’s Sesotho origins, his Western concert music training, and Blake’s reinterpretation of both through his own cultural lens. Scored for clarinet and 4-channel tape, the human performer (Valentina Štrucelj) was remarkably able.
Chris Jeffery, NewMusicSA Bulletin, 2015