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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


LUDEMANN, Winfried. Afrikaans and Music. Notes from the Sideline. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.2-2, pp.581-595. ISSN 2224-7912.

Against the backdrop of ever present questions about the role of Afrikaans in the current South African context various apects of the relationship between Afrikaans and music are examined. To begin with, the article argues for the recognition of vocal music as a distinct linguistic domain. As the intersection between musical and linguistic forces, it is a domain that functions according to principles that differ from those present in the domains of spoken language, and which are the subject of general or sociolinguistics. To illustrate this point, a general overview of the genres and compositional techniques of vocal music is provided, from medieval times up to the present. The specifically musical characteristics of the Afrikaans language are then examined and compared to those of other languages. These include aspects such as the sound and pronunciation of phonemes, principles of accentuation and characteristics of pitch distribution. They represent musical potential which can be exploited by composers if they are sensitive to such characteristics in the language they are setting to music. They are also of interest to singers. The various challenges of setting specifically Afrikaans texts to music are highlighted. It is asked whether a century of much celebrated Afrikaans literature, including the Afrikaans translation of the Bible and the Afrikaans hymnal, has resulted in an equivalent repertoire of music. Regrettably, the overall yield is quite low, despite a number of significant contributions to the art song genre by foremost composers like Arnold van Wyk and Hubert du Plessis. Consequently, it is argued that the remarkable flowering of Afrikaans literature over this period did not lead to a concomitant production of vocal music, least of all in the area of choral music. In addition, it is shown that those composers who have produced vocal music prefer the work of poets of the older generations, and it is asked why the work of younger poets generally is not considered to have the same musical potential or to generate the same degree of musical interest. Moreover, it seems that in the minds even of intellectuals who profess to have a love for Afrikaans and have a stake in its continued existence as a language of culture, the natural musical manifestation of their language is to be found in popular music. It is lamented that the presence of Afrikaans in the genres of art song and choral music does not feature more prominently in the consciousness of speakers of the language and that composers do not provide them with sufficient suitable material to change the imbalance. An overview of the relatively small repertoire of published secular and sacred Afrikaans choral music is provided and its stylistic traits are examined. The focus is on collections of choral music published by official cultural and church organisations, because these can be seen to be broadly representative of the membership of their respective organisations. It is found that, on the whole, this repertoire of choral music is quite limited in scope as far as stylistic techniques are concerned. In the majority of examples composers do not go beyond simple arrangements of existing hymns or songs and even less do they venture into tonal territory beyond that of nineteenth-century conventions. This goes to show that composers of choral music have not yet fully realised and exploited the potential of setting Afrikaans words to music, least of all in the musical vocabulary of our time. By contrast, the current vibrant interest in choral singing amongst many young South Africans of all cultures is mentioned. This bodes well for the future of the genre. It also provides opportunities for social and cultural interaction amongst the participants and for experimentation in concert programming. Conductors, composers, organisers and sponsors should seize this opportunity to create a culture of Afrikaans choral music that can add a worthy voice to the cultural diversity of South Africa.

Palavras-chave : Afrikaans; language domains; linguistics; intersection between language and music; choral music; art song; genres of vocal music; Afrikaans music; cultural diversity.

        · resumo em Africaner     · texto em Africaner     · Africaner ( pdf )


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