n Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe - Stimulus en afstand in die komposisies van Stefans Grové : ter wille van 'n stilistiek van die Suid-Afrikaanse komposisiepraktyk

Volume 53 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0041-4751


This article is an initial result of my research visit in 2011 to the composer Stefans Grové. In the academic study of music literature, whether in ethno-musicology or historical musicology, we frequently find ourselves confronted with issues of identity. We typically couple investigation into compositional identity with a glance to change and adaptation over time; i.e. we observe, document and are curious about how, for example, communities respond to change; how traditions are borrowed and preserved; how urbanization affects culture; and yes, how an individual composer responds, adapts and gives voice to change. Stefans Grové sees himself "between the West and Africa, ...in an in-between state...".
The question of Grové's positioning in the South African music landscape poses several further questions: A composer in Africa? A composer of Africa? An African composer? A South African composer? There's a difference - between adapting Africa, and adopting Africa; between being in Africa and being of Africa; and from a compositional perspective, being out of Africa, or not of Africa.
Grové sees a clear difference between what the British composer William Walton attempted in 1952 in his commissioned work for the city of Johannesburg, and what he himself accomplishes in his compositions. His feeling is that when composers are not from Africa, actively attempt to incorporate an African element, they frequently do it by having Africa floating on top of the music's surface, without being integrated into the overall texture of what he calls the spirit of musical sensibilities.
While not purposely drawing on pre-existing African melodies, Grové nevertheless composes his own melodic devices, in the spirit of African typical melodies. Listening to Grové's musical compositions one becomes aware of a composer who has been exposed to, immersed in and surrounded by African expressive culture since a very early age. To a certain extent Africa, in the form of African music, has, in his own words, "entered his system" so that it has become a co-extensive and integral part of his musical sensibilities.
Grové feels that as an artist, he reacts to a stimulus, makes it his own, and then through his compositions he shares the original stimulus with others. As a composer he does more than skim the surface of the African landscape. His roots are in fact firmly planted in the African soil, so that he cleverly both consumes and produces African music. Thus the initial question that motivated my research interest - Is Grové a composer in or of Africa - is rendered insignificant in the larger scale of the composer's vision. The distance between the original musical object, the stimulus, and the re-performings, if you will, of that object, forces a rethinking of what it means to be a cultural musical interlocutor in the South Africa of the twenty-first century.
Grové makes clear compositional choices - calculated, but often unpredictable musical choices - and has done so throughout his career. These choices have thankfully taken us all in a musical direction that we can now point to as a critical moment in the history of integration of South African musical cultures.

In die akademiese studie van musiekliteratuur word mens gereeld gekonfronteer met sake rakende identiteit. 'n Tipiese ondersoek sou die kompositoriese identiteit benader deur kennis te neem van verandering en aanpassing oor 'n periode heen, dit wil sê waarneming van die invloed van verandering op gemeenskappe, hoe tradisies geleen en bewaar word, en ook hoe die individuele komponis reageer op, aanpassings maak en uitdrukking gee aan verandering. Stefans Grové se siening van homself as "tussenstaatlik", tussen Westers en Afrikaan, laat vrae ontstaan soos: 'n Komponis in of van Afrika? Grové sien 'n verskil in byvoorbeeld William Walton se benadering tot "Afrika-musiek" in sy destydse opdragwerk (1952) vir die stad Johannesburg, en sy eie benadering. Waar eersgenoemde bloot Afrika-elemente op die oppervlak laat dryf, poog hyself om integrasie te bewerkstellig binne die geheeltekstuur van die komposisie. In dié proses het die oorspronklike afstand van die stimulus daarop neergekom dat hy sy posisie as tussenganger tussen kulture deeglik moes deurdink. Grové maak duidelike kompositoriese keuses, en het dit so gedoen deur sy hele loopbaan heen. Hierdie keuses het ons almal in 'n musikale rigting gestuur wat ons kan identifiseer as 'n kritieke oomblik in die geskiedenis van die integrasie van Suid-Afrikaanse kulture.

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