Peter Klatzow’s Words from a Broken String: two cultures meet in the distant past

Published in: Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa
Volume 13, issue 1-2, 2016 , pages: 31–52
DOI: 10.2989/18121004.2016.1263907
Author(s): Bertha SpiesSchool of Music, South Africa


Peter Klatzow’s short opera focuses on the figure of the English woman, Lucy Lloyd, in his portrayal of the interaction between the Victorian and ‘Bushman’ cultures in Southern Africa in the late 19th century. Apart from concentrating on Klatzow’s use of melodic gestures to represent the cultural interaction between two very different groups, this article looks beyond the relationship between music and libretto, discussing Lloyd’s involvement with the ‘Bushmen’ (the San, who refer to themselves as the |xam). The short survey of Lloyd’s and Wilhelm Bleek’s ‘Bushman’ research deals with four men whose narratives in the opera describe their daily existence and the folklore that represents the psyche of the |xam. The empirical section of the article shows how the composer shaped the musical material in order to represent the interaction between people of two different cultures. The search for musical signification finally promotes a better understanding of the mind and soul of the |xam.

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