Dimitri Voudouris: Npfai-Palmos

Pogus 21043




NPFAI .1- (2002) Duration :16min46sec


NPFAI. 1 – New Possibilities for African Instruments. is an electro-acoustic composition for kundi and m’bira with computer assisted processing.

Kalimba or m’bira is a finger piano made of wood and metal strips used in ceremonial music. In Western Africa this instrument is known as m’bira and in Eastern Africa it is used by the Shona of Zimbabwe who calls it kalimba.

The kundi, a bowed harp, is a ceremonial instrument originating from the Mangbetu tribe of the Congo.

My main goal in constructing this work was to create extensive percussive and organic environments whilst using the sounds of each of the two instruments so that their acoustic physiology could comfortably stand alongside the electronic sound processing generated by the computer. The natures of percussive sounds and organic environments created were from frequencies generated by the decomposition of the original sound source in the process of obtaining continuous sounds out of discontinued ones, as there is a logarithmic relationship between the increase in density and perception. The sound field below consists of 15 processed layers, each layer varied slightly from the original recording, so as to increase the magnitude of each layer. Each layer was individually manipulated until a point of change was noticed, thus increasing the magnitude of the sound field 225 times in total; however the way the final result is perceived is a change of one. Change in timbre played a very important role; each tone had a duration of 60ms or longer with a 4db change in the mid or high harmonics and 10db change in the lower harmonics

In NPFAI.1 working with each individual layer gave me better control in the change of sound characteristics as some sound phenomena changed, disappeared, and new sound phenomena surfaced, creating new possibilities.

The graphic diagram below is a result of fusing 15 graphic sketches from each of the sound layers of the score at a given time. The work reflects my interest in creating, the open intersection of multiples bringing together the African instrument which is an extension of both the African inhabitant and the African environment.

Palmos (2002) Duration: 33min34sec

As we examine ever smaller particles of matter-people made of cells, made of molecules, made of atoms, made of protons/electrons, made of quarks, etc-we eventually reach a state of reality where the smallest particles of matter, when broken further, do not yield smaller particles which we can put names on, but rather a universal energy matrix of relationships of vibration patterns .In actuality there is nothing solid in the universe at all. Consciousness itself is a vibration pattern and it is these vibration patterns that through our subconscious state of mind give one the experience of being in a sound environment that is alien and familiar at the same time.

Since the discovery of neuro-transmission it was understood that the body’s internal rhythm patterns would follow the strongest naturally occurring pulse patterns. The strongest communicating energy is exemplified as none other than a pulse that can be found as an energy source in all that exists. The originality of sound that can be routed as none other than a sine wave who’s different shapes imitate the sound of nature made me search for instruments that would allow me to explore pulse vibrations, thus trying to reach within this research a deeper state of consciousness. I chose three Western instruments—the Hammond organ, oboe and the bandoneon—whose overtones and harmonic capabilities allowed for interlocking moments to take place, a phenomenon that is ever present in African traditional music. Spectrographic analysis of sounds produced by each individual instrument were carefully monitored, which allowed for a deeper understanding of timbre [harmonic content], attack, decay and vibrato. Subtractive synthesis further allowed for the isolation of certain inaudible frequencies to be enhanced to an audible level and the elimination of others. These compositional elements allow the listener to perceive the sound as stable individual tone and noise spectra, frequently of surprising purity.


NPFAI.3 —-(2003) Duration: 13min30sec

NPFAI. 3 – New Possibilities for African Instruments.

NPFAI.3 is for African marimba and computer assisted processing.

The African marimba used in this work is a tenor marimba used traditionally as a rhythm instrument. Its keys are made of kiaat wood and have traditional buzzers with gourd resonators. The marimba is tuned in Xhosa tuning with just intonation in Eb (with added A’s) this is based on the harmonic series derived from the Xhosa Uhadi Bow suited for traditional playing. The Western marimba is very different from the African marimba, and one of the most distinctive features missing on the Western marimba—besides the different wood used for the keys and different resonators—is the absence of the buzzers. The instrument was played with traditional mallets; the recording was processed and constructed on computer. Granular, algorithmic and subtractive sound syntheses were used in the construction of NPFAI.3. These procedures were not to defamiliarize the sound of the instrument but rather to explore the deeper analogies of organic identity in the construction of micro sound environments, focusing on capturing the physical properties of the instrument and its organic sound textures. The rhythmical content of such micro environments were developed to create an interplay with the source of the recorded material. It is clear that energy sets motion to occur by creating vibrations at a molecular level; such understanding allowed for the creation of tension buildup zones and fragility in the sound. Fragility is directly related to density and pressure buildup at a given time allowing for explosive and implosive moments to occur. The different degrees in the implosive status of sound energy are sub-harmonic in nature and are felt rather than heard. The different degrees in the explosive nature of sound energy are extended to the left and right speakers in the stereo setup. NPFAI.3 has allowed me to explore electro-acoustic music in a similar way as a return to archaic origins of African music through the Jungian search of archetypes. [An inherited pattern of thought or symbolic imagery derived from the past collective experience and present in the individual unconscious]

NPFAI.3 was further scored for a 5 octave Western marimba using prepared mallets, objects, hands, vocal clicking sounds and gestures with the electronic environment created on NPFAI.3. This version is called NPFAI.3+WM. and was completed in 2004. NPFAI.3+WM extend my observations of motion into an interlocking visual and audio performance, the sounds generated on the marimba interlocking with the electronic environment in such a way that the listener would struggle to distinguish the nature of the sound source. This experience has a deeper philosophical meaning, signifying the occultation of a source, thus rendering it inaccessible to profanity.


PRAXIS - (2004) Duration: 14min30sec


Christian Orthodox Greek male choir /magnetic tape and computer assisted processing. - [four channel tape]

PRAXIS [Greek - actions] is a protest against the ongoing victimization of Orthodox Christians in Croatia. Selected by ISCM section of South Africa for ISCM Croatia 2005.

In his letter “Why a Holocaust of 50 Million Victims of the Orthodox Christian Church?” Rev Archimandrite: Nektarios Serfes states

The wars in former Yugoslavia have been disastrous for the Orthodox. The

Croatian government has liquidated the Orthodox Church in its territory,

beginning with the dynamiting of the residency and library of the Orthodox

Metropolitan of Zagreb on 11 April 1992. Following the Croatian offensive of

fall 1995 and the departure of over 200,000 Orthodox Serbs in Diocese in



In September 1999 the little church of Agion Anargiron in Sofiatown Johannesburg held a special memorial service for the victims of the Croatian genocide that occurred in the early to mid 90’s and the ongoing victimization of Orthodox Christians. I never realized until three years later that the service had been recorded. Much to the disappointment of the person who had made the two hour long recording for he had not realized at the time that the tape had been damaged. In analyzing the recording I found unique moments in the original material, such as the sound of the church bell the acoustics of the space, the distorted voice of the priest and the choir that created the foundation for this work. I created symbols for each sound, the church bell represents the distorted and the unbalanced circumstances that surround the Orthodox Christian in Croatia, the distorted voice of the priest symbolizes the way that circumstances would distort the truth for self gain. This reminds me of the similar situation in the Christian Bible were the truth was twisted resulting in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The choir represent voices of victims, the ghostly truth that has stained the Croatian landscape.

566 sound compartments were created for Praxis that ranged from 10 to 40 seconds in time duration. Although various degrees in similarity prevailed in the sound compartments, each sound compartment was constructed and manipulated individually. This is because there is a better control in maintaining individuality in the sound structures, i.e. each sound compartment may be processed at different rates of velocity resulting in a unique body of density and information The computer further allowed for the individual micro-rearrangement of pitches in each sound compartment that led to the notion of continuous macro-timbre The methods I use allow for greater control in spacial differentiation of each sound. The distorted nature of the sound source was not eliminated but was built into the composition. It has been a challenge and a huge undertaking to restore the sound quality of the tape. Clarity and depth was achieved by the use of high quality compression, equalization and reverb.



b.1961 Athens, Greece


 Obtained a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. He further studied Science of Religion, Socio-Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy at the University of South Africa.

Dimitri Voudouris started composing in the 90s. He composes for acoustic instruments, electronic sound sources, multimedia, including dance and theatre. Voudouris bases his technical and theoretical compositional approach on research of cognitive psycho-acoustic behavioral patterns in humans, and the behavior of sound in relationship to continued environmental changes These theories help to create moments of isolation allowing for the morphological study of each individual sound source, a strategic necessity that brings a degree of order and allows for the creation of various building blocks used in the construction of micro environments that intern form the backbone of his compositions. His socio-cultural interests have led him to research the survival of music in the 21st century and the impact that media and technology have on the composer.

In 2003, Dimitri Voudouris became director of electronic music for NewMusicSA, an organization that promotes contemporary new music in South Africa.

In 2004, Praxis was chosen by ISCM South Africa for ISCM 2005, held in Croatia.

In September 2005, Dimitri Voudouris pioneered Unyazi, the first electronic music symposium and festival to be held in South Africa and the first on the African continent. The multimedia theatrical work L22P08M02 (Scenes 1 and 3) was selected by ICMC [Free Sound] 2005 in Barcelona Spain and was mentioned in David Kim-Boyle’s review of ICMC 2005 for the Computer Music Journal [Volume 30 No: 2 -MIT Press]. The University of the Witwatersrand honored Mr. Voudouris by offering him a research and teaching post in electro-acoustic music.

In 2006 NPFAI.1 [New Possibilities for African Instruments] was selected by ICMC 2006 held at Tulane University in New Orleans, USA. Voudouris also collaborated with Urban Geographer Ismail Farouk and the London School of Economics in the making of the film JHB626GP that was chosen to represent the city of Johannesburg at The Venice Architecture Biannale 2006. The theme of the Biennale is Cities, Architecture and Societies and aims to examine the mass urbanization that has taken place in the world’s cities over the last century. He is currently involved the multimedia dance theatre project 4M [Mexico-City/Montreal/Maputo/Marseilles] as part of the Maputo Mozambique section of the project, conducted by Projet-Insitu [France]. The project explores living, in a city through choreographic, anthropological, visual design and music composition studies conducted on the urban intimacy of local artists.


The compositions included in this collection have been realized at

A New Music Search Studios

Composition and conceptualization by Dimitri Voudouris

Sound engineering Dimitri Voudouris except Praxis Dimitri Voudouris and AW.Sapsford

The diagrams: sound field construction from NPFAI.1, spectral analysis diagram from Palmos, extract from NPFAI.3+WM score, vector construction from Praxis by Dimitri Voudouris 2002-2004

All write-ups realized by the composer

Photo of Dimitri Voudouris: Christo Doherty

Composer’s contact details - dimitrivo@absamail.co.za