Instrumental solos


Dedicated to Justinian Tamusuza
Duration: c. 10'00"


First performance: Sunday 27 January 2019, 11h00; Hoofstraat Conceptual, Riebeek-Kasteel, South Africa; Marietjie Pauw alto fluteperformance details.

Programme note

I think the flute came into its own in the 20th century, when it embarked on a new life as a solo instrument. While there had been some solo pieces in the 18th century, Debussy’s Syrinx, Varèse’s Density 21.5 and Berio’s Sequenza 1 redefined the instrument’s unique palette of colours and opened up new soundworlds for modern composers. Notable among these is Justinian Tamusuza (b. 1951, Uganda) whose Okwanjula Kw’ Endere – the first part of An African Festivity for Flute – is probably the most significant solo flute piece by an African composer. It was this piece that inspired me to write a solo work for alto flute, but whereas Tamusuza found his customary inspiration in the Kiganda traditional music of Uganda, I found mine in the bow music of the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape. Overtones, which are a feature of this music, became the essence of my piece titled Umngqokolo. ‘Umngqokolo’ is a style of gruff overtone singing researched and documented by Dave Dargie in his 1988 book Xhosa Music, the most important source of information about ‘umngqokolo’.  

Mister Turner His Folie

Commissioned by and dedicated to Richard Turner
Duration: c. 6'30"

the richter scale

For Kálmán Richter on his 60th birthday
Duration: c. 3'00"


First performance: Saturday 17 December 2016, 18h00; Kunstsalon Hürth, Hürth, Köln, Germany; Friedrich Gauwerky cello, Daan Vandewalle pianoperformance details.

Programme note

the richter scale is a four-note row, derived from the musical letters of Kálmán Richter (A-C-H-E), and used in all possible permutations. It was a gift to Kálmán Richter for his 60th birthday in July 2015, remembering many happy times spent exploring new music together in the 1970s.


Dedicated to Christine Lucia
Written for Friedrich Gauwerky
Bardic Edition Score and part
Duration: c. 14'15"


First performance: Sunday 24 February 2013, 11h00; Nirox Foundation, Johannesburg, South Africa; Friedrich Gauwerky celloperformance details.

Programme note

Pentimenti began as a concertante work for cello and small ensemble for Friedrich Gauwerky to play at the dance-themed Johannesburg Mozart Festival in February 2013. When the festival director got cold feet, the work morphed into a piece for solo cello and imagined accompaniment, with some of the pentimenti (visible traces of earlier painting beneath the paint on the canvass, as often found in Matisse for example) of the original accompaniment still evident in the score. Pentimenti marks the centenary of the riotous premiere in Paris, on 29 May 1913, of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps. In the spirit of Sacre I wanted to compose a real dance for the cello (not just a stylised dance movement or suite - music history is crammed full of those), in which "figures" - chords (including the final cello chord in Sacre) and melodic fragments - are choreographed into continually changing patterns on the musical plane ("the stage"). The constant alternation between arco and pizzicato - from the opening chords, through the allusion to Stravinsky's pounding Sacrificial Dance, to the final "duet" - makes enormous demands on the player, but writing for Gauwerky meant that no challenge was impossible. Pentimenti was a birthday present for my wife Christine Lucia, and Friedrich Gauwerky gave the work its premiere at the Nirox Foundation, Sterkfontein, South Africa on 24 February 2013.

Patterns in a Heptatonic Field

Written for Willem Muller
Duration: 2'00"

Tombeau de Mosoeu Moerane

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


African Journal No 20c
Bardic Edition Score BDE 1019
Duration: 5'30"

Programme note

Kora is a transcription of the First Dance of French Suite for piano, which paraphrases music of the kora (West African harp-lute) and the mbira dza vadzimu (thumb piano from Zimbabwe).  I made this transcription for the brilliant young harpist Héloïse Carlean-Jones who wanted to include a South African piece in a recital she gave in Paris. 




Marimba Etudes

  1. Etude No 1 (c. 3'00")
  2. Etude No 2 (Merce Cunningham died yesterday at 90) (c. 3'00")
  3. Etude No 3 (Jean-Pierre meets Mauricio Kagel) (c. 2'35")
  4. Etude No 4 (for three mallets) (c. 2'20")
  5. Etude No 5 (c. 2'10")
  6. Etude No 6 (Some ancient music received orally) (c. 2'30")
Dedicated to Magda de Vries (1, 2, 4, 5), Jean-Pierre de la Porte (3), Noelene Kotzé (6)
Commissioned by SAMRO Endowment for the National Arts
Bardic Edition Score BDE 1047
Duration: c. 16'00"

Three Venda Children's Songs

  1. Counting Song (0'40")
  2. My Bullroarer (0'50")
  3. Singing Game (1'05")
African Journal No 16
In memory of John Blacking
Commissioned by Trinity College London for the Examinations in Guitar Grades 1, 2 and 3
Bardic Edition Published individually by Trinity College London and collectively by Bardic Edition Score BD 0799

Programme note

When Charles Ramirez was overhauling the guitar syllabi for the Trinity College grade exams he asked me if I would contribute pieces for the first three grades, and expressed the wish that these would have something of an ‘African’ aesthetic. I turned again to John Blacking’s transcriptions, this time those of Venda Children’s Songs, and chose three pieces that I felt would translate well into guitar music which was technically elementary but musically challenging. They were commissioned by Trinity College London who first published them in 1997.

Birthday Fanfare

Written for the 75th anniversary of Rhodes University Music Department, Grahamstown
Bardic Edition Score BD 0813 in preparation
Duration: c. 2'30"


First performance: October 1999; Beethoven Room, Grahamstown, South Africa; Bruce Stevens tubaperformance details.

Programme note

I wrote this fanfare for four tubas (or tuba and tape) to mark the 75th anniversary of the Rhodes University Department of Music in 1998, while also demonstrating some of the resources of its newly-opened electroacoustic music studio. I wrote the piece for Bruce Stevens, who having recorded all the parts for the tape was subsequently indisposed at the performance, so he gave the world premiere in absentia. It took place in October 1998.

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