Performance "Antjie in Berlin" recorded at the Barney Simon Theatre (Market Theatre complex), Johannesburg, South Africa, 06.10.12, Jill Richards: piano & Shaughn Macrae: electronics.
"Antjie in Berlin" takes the audience on an aural journey based on a number of letters written by Antjie Krog while on a residency in Berlin and included in her recent book "Begging to be Black". Part sound installation, part concert performance, the composition builds on the music concealed within the spoken word, creating a space for reflection within a landscape of loudspeakers that take on a nearly sculptural aspect.
Recordings of Antjie Krog reading aloud the letters originally written to her mother, form the main point of departure for the piece. The letters themselves cover topics from simple descriptions of daily life in a foreign town to deeper reflections on global issues and moral questions. It is however the particular quality of Antjie Krog’s specifically South African voice that plays a crucial role in the composition. How much atmosphere does a voice carry with it and what kind of melodies does it contain? What kind of music could it lead to?
The speech melodies and rhythms of Antjie's distinctive readings are transformed into piano music, unfolded and commented on within a sound environment based on field recordings made in Berlin. Vocal fragments migrate from one end of the space to the other, bringing her voice close to the listeners and providing a counterpart to the piano performance - an exploration of the sense of both presence and distance that can characterize communication over long distances, of the movement between inner and outer worlds.
Antjie in Berlin comprises of seven sections - one for each of the letters selected from Begging to be Black, unfolded in chronological order - from her arrival in Berlin early October until a letter written late December.
The piece consists of three layers:
1. Voice recordings of Antjie Krog reading aloud letters from her book Begging to be Black.
2. A solo piano part based around the vocal readings.
3: An ambient sound ‘environment’ of field recordings made in Berlin and electronic sounds.
The piano (with lid removed) and desk for the sound technician are placed in the centre of the performance space.
The seating for the audience is loosely arranged around the piano using a map of Berlin as a template. (This map may also be projected from above or marked on the floor in some way.) This inclusive, somewhat looser arrangement of the seating contributes to a highly individualized listening experience in which there is no ‘ideal spot’.
For the sound distribution of the recorded letters 12 loudspeakers are placed amongst the audience (loosely arranged according to the end-points of the Berlin underground). It is intended that the loudspeakers are present as objects in their own right - almost as if they too were members of the audience.
In each corner of the performance space a stack of larger loudspeakers (including sub-woofers) is placed for distribution of the ‘ambient’ sounds.