C0 note (16,35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

D0 note (18.35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

C0 note (16,35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

F0 note (21.83 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

G0 note (24.50 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

A0 note (27.50 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

Fokkens, Robert: Mzantsi Nights 



Basic information

  • Title: 
    Mzantsi Nights
  • Subtitle: 
    Mixed Nonet
  • Composer: 
  • Duration (in minutes): 
  • Year of composition: 
  • First performance (year): 
  • First performance (venue): 
    Written for Joel Sachs and the New Juilliard Ensemble for performance at the Juilliard School in Carnegie Hall’s UBUNTU Festival of South African music and arts, November 2014


  • Program notes: 

    Italo Calvino’s extraordinary novel If on a winter’s night a traveller provided the initial spark for this piece on a structural level – in it, a single linear narrative constantly alternates with extracts (often beginnings) of other stories, which are then abandoned abruptly after a few pages to return to the unfolding tale about books and reading. From a musical perspective, this yielded – for me, at least – a rondo-like approach, albeit one in which the initial rondo idea is constantly developing. Unfortunately, I am no Calvino – the structural idea has lost his clarity and rigidity in the course of my composing…but perhaps that is no bad thing.

    The materials themselves draw on a number of sources – as always in my work, various Southern African musics come into contact with a raft of influences from sources as various as Cage, electronica, Reich and jazz. This is all done within a pitch language learned from the traditional bow music of the Xhosa-speaking people of South Africa, which, being over-tone based, also gives rise to my usage of quarter-tones. The title reflects the South African sources (both musical and personal) of the piece – Mzantsi is Xhosa for ‘South’, and is a contraction of Mzantsi Afrika sometimes used to refer to the country informally across the broad language spectrum in South Africa today.

    Mzantsi Nights was written for Joel Sachs and the New Juilliard Ensemble, and received its world premiere in the Juilliard School’s Paul Recital Hall on 3 November 2014.

  • Technical specs: 

    1. All metronome marks should be treated as‘circa’.
    2. The movements should be performed quasi attacca – no more than a short moment’s pause for page-turns etc. should be used.

    1. Cross note-heads are sung on a short ‘HA’ sound (Brass may use a ‘TA’ sound in the third movement if this assists the transition between playing and signing)
    Octave transposition should be used as necessary to accommodate different voice-types:
    • •
    In the loud passages of I, the upper register should be used as suggested by the notation
    in the hocketting material (e.g. strings at D and preceding section in I and winds in III) the voice should be in a comfortable, low to middle register.
    2. Standard quartertone notation is used throughout.
    3. Harmonics are notated as played (not as heard) using the two standard conventions: the open/stopped string to be used is indicated either with a full note-head beneath the diamond note-heard or by a Roman numeral indicating string number.



Total number of musicians: 
Musicians1st player2nd player
E-flat soprano
Musicians1st player2nd player
Double Bass



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