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#Researchforimpact: Moerane Critical Edition Project gives voice to African composers
Author: Division for Research Development
Published: 12/11/2019

​​The Moerane Critical Edition project is a heritage reclamation project focused on preparing more than 50 scores by composer Michael Mosoeu Moerane (1904-1980) for an online, digital edition of his music. It also includes a description of this major African composer's life and work through an investigation into available biographical information, textual sources and South African history.

 The research team of six members, most of who hold Mellon-funded bursaries, is being led by Prof Christine Lucia. This kind of African textual-musical research challenges the norm in three ways:

(i) It brings a European methodology of critical editing to bear on African source material;

(ii) it views African music as a broad-based musical literature situated within a unique choral performance tradition that developed around literature that is practised throughout southern Africa, rather than the more commonly held view of African music as 'oral' or 'traditional' and tied to particular ethnicities or regions; and

(iii) It delivers an outcome not recognised by the DoHE as “research" per se. This is because, at its centre, lies a set of around 50 critically edited scores (one of which is a full orchestral score), for sale online through an arrangement made with the composer's family. This digital outcome provides community musicians throughout southern Africa with both music and an understanding of how this particular music articulates their history.

Moerane and other African composers such as Mohapeloa who wrote their music in tonic solfa notation to indigenous language texts remain, for the most part, unpublished and their work therefore unknown. Much of this music has already been lost. The research conducted as part of the Moerane Critical Edition project thus helps to preserve an important aspect of African culture, voiced both in the music and in the valuable African-language lyrics.

*The article appears in the latest edition of the Stellenbosch University Research Publication. Click here to read more. 

Photograph: Stock image – Unsplash