Leaf Carrying Song (1991/2002)

for violin and harp

Date transcribed: 2011
African Journal No 12c
Requested by Yasutaka Hemmi and Takayo Matsumura
Bardic Edition Score and instrumental part in preparation
Duration: 8'30"


First performance: Wednesday 1 February 2012; South Africa; Yasutaka Hemmi violin, Takayo Matsumura harpperformance details.

Programme note

Leaf Carrying Song is something of a companion piece to the earlier Honey Gathering Song (1989; rev. 1999) for flute and piano. Both belong to my loosely collected African Journal, containing all of the African-inspired music I wrote during the two decades I lived in Europe (1977-1997). South African guitarist Simon Wynberg, now artistic director of ARC in Toronto, wanted a piece he could perform with his oboe (and flute) duo partners on both sides of the Atlantic; he also wanted a piece that exploited the sonority of the 10-string guitar. While I chose the oboe d’amore as the melody instrument for Leaf Carrying Song specifically because of its gentler overall sound and its dark lower register, the piece can be played on the standard oboe as well as the flute, just as the guitar part may be played on a standard 6-string guitar. While the guitar sometimes accompanies, more often than not the instruments are treated as equal participants in the musical narrative. Like a number of my pieces since the early 1990s, this one uses a Stravinskian mosaic type of structure built up from varied interlocking materials; and it has a similarity to the fractured narrative found in the novel and in film, for example.

Pieces with titles like Leaf Carrying Song (or Honey Gathering Song) can be found among the music of the pygmy communities in Central Africa, but while I do make use of African materials and compositional techniques, generally filtered or paraphrased, there is no direct reference to pygmy music in this piece. Although I wrote the work in 1991 it was never performed at the time; in 2002 I revised the work for a possible premiere performance in Canada. The first performance eventually took place on 2 November 2008 in the ZK Matthews Hall, Pretoria, with Kobus Malan (oboe) and Michal George (guitar). Leaf Carrying Song was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain for Simon Wynberg, to whom it is dedicated. While working in Sweden last August, I made this transcription at the request of my good friend Yas Hemmi. The piece lasts about 9 minutes.