Ritual Preparation of the Performance Space

3/10/97 for any ensemble (and assistants)

Composer’s note

A conceptual piece, in the form of a text. Here is the complete score;

Ritual Preparation of the Performance Space
for any Ensemble (and Assistants)
by J. Simon van der Walt 3/10/97


This text comprises the full score for ‘Ritual Preparation of the Performance Space’, a music theatre piece devised by J. Simon van der Walt. Its focus is the normally-invisible rituals which precede the concert performance of serious music; the arrangement of chairs & stands for the performers, carrying of instruments to the performance area etc. It is to be performed by all those who usually carry out such activities. This includes, in addition to the musicians, any orchestral assistants, stage managers, roadies or other crew, who might not normally consider themselves performers. The piece is in two parts, the ritual preparation itself, and an optional coda.


One work from a concert should be chosen for inclusion within ‘Ritual Preparation…’. The platform will normally be pre-set for the first work on a programme; choose a subsequent item, one which involves a certain amount of re-arrangement of the space. Whilst performing the necessary actions involved in re-arranging the space, the performers have three additional elements to perform; these are Pulse, Chant, and Gesture.


The performers maintain a steady pulse at a moderate marching pace, crotchet = ca. 100. The pulse is audibly sustained in one of three ways; free ceplok, marching/tapping of feet, and vocally.

Ceplok is an Indonesian term for a form of interlocking hand-clapping; similar music may be found in other cultures. At it’s most basic, one body of performers clap a steady pulse, in this case ca. crotchet = 100, whilst another group clap at the same tempo exactly half-a-beat later; a hocket, if you will. By improvising syncopations, it is possible to move from one half of the hocket to another, or into a rhythmic space of one’s own; in this way the whole group maintain a steady pulse with a shifting undercurrent. I term this ‘free ceplock’.

Marching/tapping of feet is obvious; it allows participants to have hands free to move chairs, adjust instruments etc. Confident performers could attempt the free ceplock outlined above with their feet.

The option of sustaining the pulse vocally also leaves the hands free. I suggest a short, pitchless, indeterminate syllable articulated with a glottal stop. Again, rhythmic improvisation and variation is to be encouraged.

Each performer may use any or all of the above, simultaneously or successively, consistent with the other tasks they are performing at the same time.


Below is a list of abstract, phonetic chants; two should be chosen for the performance. The exact manner of their performance, in terms of pitch and rhythm, I leave unspecified; they might be chanted to a single pitch, sung, treated as sprechstimme etc. Once a rendition has been decide upon, however, all participants should adhere to it. They are to be interpolated occasionally by the performers, perhaps in celebration of part of a task completed.

Ab-ba ye oh wah!
Seleh-oh, amanata seleh
Ah-ee yata, meno
Sta heii! mah ta para
Ahuuchna betirah (uu = u umlaut)
Mas te mas, na ma

… etc, make up own if desired.


Similarly, a couple of suitable ritual gestures should be devised; bowing, a wave of the hand etc., and interpolated in like manner.

This describes the first part of ‘Ritual Preparation of the Performance Space’, which should then merge imperceptibly into the well-known ‘Ritual of Tuning Up’, followed by the performance as normal of the programmed item. At the end, there is the option of performing the coda to ‘Ritual Preparation…’


Whilst taking their bows, the musicians in the ensemble recapitulate one of the chants from the first part, as a thank-you to the audience for their applause. It might be felt appropriate for any assistants involved before to take part at this point as well.

Other points

Direction and rehearsal

The piece will obviously have to be well-worked in rehearsal. Potential participants, who may be inexperienced in performance, will need to be workshopped in the vocal and rhythmic techniques involved to build the necessary confidence. This could be undertaken by the conductor of the ensemble, or possibly by a composer-in-residence, community musician, theatrical director, etc.


The piece is performable by any ensemble, from a solo recitalist to a full symphony orchestra.


This work is copyright J. Simon van der Walt 3/10/97. It may be freely distributed by any means, provided that the text remain complete and unaltered.

Notification of performance

The performing rights to this work are assigned to the Performing Rights Society Limited, 29/33 Berner’s Street, London. Out of courtesy, please notify performances of the work to me at the address below. Please try to spell my name correctly on the programme; the initial ‘J’ must not be omitted.

Performance history

As at 18/02/2001, unperformed.


Please e-mail J. Simon van der Walt;


My web page is at;


Should this fail I can be contacted through the Scottish Music Centre, City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, info@scottishmusiccentre.com

Version 1.3



Duration indeterminate