Tombeau de Moerane (2011)

for soprano birbyne and 4-track (or stereo) tape

Written for and dedicated to Darius Klišys

Tape made at Alpha Studio, Visby, Sweden

Publisher: Bardic Edition

Score BDE 1229

Duration: 13 minutes, 36 seconds


First performance: Tuesday 29 September 2015; ISCM World Music Days, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Ljubljana, Slovenia; Valentina Štrucelj clarinet and Neven Smolčič sound diffusion.

Programme note

Born 1904 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 1980. Though mostly disregarded by the white academic composer community, he has had a far-reaching influence on subsequent generations of young black composers in South Africa.

Tombeau de 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 Klišys, who I first met in 2008 in Cuba when we both performed at ‘Spring in Havana’. The 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 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