à mMbira was begun on the 5th of December 1995. It was my first winter in Europe and outside the world was covered in a blanket of snow. The aural results of this - the stillness and quiet damped quality of the environmental sounds were new to me and made a strong impression.
The piece was begun without any idea of where it would (or should) lead and was finished some three months later in the cold grey of February.
The first seven minutes of the composition are played without the use of mallets, the players using only their hands in various positions, and the resulting sound levels are very soft.
For the first performance (which took place quite some years later at the Posthoornkerk in Amsterdam) audience was huddled around the two marimbas, sitting as close to them as possible, as if taking part in some ancient storytelling ritual. The wonderful acoustics of the venue made it possible to perform the piece without the use of amplification. In contrast to the intimate, inwardly directed sound world of the first part of the piece, the second half has a louder, more outwardly directed, projection of sound into the performance space.