Simpson, Diana [Composer] (2006) Kalimba. (Soundscape). Stereo audio.


Kalimba is a series of seven self-contained movements, and at the same time the complete cycle is a journey of exploration through the process of playing a musical instrument (as opposed to the conventional musical outcome, which is usually granted most thought). The pieces are built around the core motif of a thumb piano (kalimba, although there are a multitude of other names), with references back to this sound even within the most abstract of the movements. The act of playing the kalimba is put under the microscope, with each movement mirroring different aspects of this process. Each progressively deconstructs and explores one or more of the properties of: intention, impulse, attack, material and resonance. The original unprocessed material of the thumb piano is pulled apart and stretched into disparate elements, creating distant artificial constructs. A key concept in this work is the idea of ‘human intervention’ or ‘the human hand’. In some movements this is more prevalent, with a clumsy irregularity and primitive quality. In other movement the ‘human hand’ is less identifiable, with more emphasis placed on magnified sweeping gestures which explore the nature of the physical construct of the kalimba (a wooden sound box with metal keys). With thanks to Will Menter for allowing me to record his wide collection of hand-made instruments, including his thumb-piano, and also to Robert and Karen Dickson, for sourcing a collection of metal for me.

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