African Notebook No 4
Dedicated to June Schneider
Duration: c. 11 minutes
First performance: Sunday 24 July 1977; Market Theatre, Johannesburg, South Africa; Moonchild, Michael Blake conductor.
The first and third parts of this work were written in early 1977 for Moonchild who gave the first performance that July under the title ‘A Speck of White Moon’. The title and basic material are derived from the opening bars of ‘Der Mondfleck’, the eighteenth number of Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire Op 21’. The second part presents the piccolo, clarinet, viola and cello with fragments of music and options for performing them, a kind of musical equivalent to the mobiles of Calder. The third part incorporates a music box, ideally one that plays a Chopin Nocturne, inviting the players to respond to the material. A set version with the E minor Chopin Nocturne played on celeste was performed on the occasion of the premiere.
“Hierdie komposisie het ‘n sterk indruk agtergelaat. Dit is effektief vir die instrumente geskryf, maak suksesvol gebruik van die klanke van avant garde-musiek, is vormtegnies goed georganiseerd en druk die atmosfeer van die maanlig en die nagtelike dans voortreflik uit. Michael Blake is ‘n musicus met talent en inisiatief en met die potentiaal om tot ‘n vooraanstaande komponis in die Suid-Afrikaanse musieklewe to ontwikkel.”
“This composition left a strong impression. It is effectively written for the instruments, uses the sounds of avant-garde music successfully, is formally well-organised and expresses the atmosphere of the moonlight and the nocturnal dance exquisitely. Michael Blake is a musician with talent and initiative and the potential to become a prominent composer in South Africa’s musical life.”
— Arthur Wegelin, Oggendblad, Pretoria, Wednesday 27 July 1977
— Translation: Giel Swart