Research Output

Towards a notion of cultural soundscape as an informant to original music composition - with particular reference to that of the Maltese Islands

  In this folio of compositions, which includes orchestral, chamber, electroacoustic and solo pieces, an attempt was made to capture some aspects that constitute the Maltese cultural identity in a sonic way. One of the most important factors is the omnipresence of the Catholic Church in Malta - its physical dominance of the Maltese skyline and the overriding influence it exerts on the Maltese community and lifestyle. Although no works in the folio can be said to fall under the genre of 'sacred music', there is an apparent reference to religion in some of these works. This is most notably reflected in Banda, an electroacoustic work, which includes various brass and vocal choir samples recorded during a 'Good Friday' procession in the Maltese town of Mosta.
Another point of interest that is explored in the folio to some extent is the use of language in Malta. The island boasts of having two official languages, namely Maltese and English. Code-switching is therefore a very common phenomenon. Texts in both English and Maltese are thus employed in the composer's music. Passages of Love, for voice and piano, features a selection of poems in English by Maltese poet Marco Montalto. On the other hand, L-Ewwel Xita (lit. The First Rainfall), scored for voice, cello and percussion, features a traditional Maltese nursery rhyme as well as typical snatches of conversation heard on the streets of Malta. Sometimes the two languages occur in the same work. In another example of word-setting in music called Epilogue, original words by Louis Mac Niece appear alongside a Maltese translation of one of the verses. One cannot help but notice the various contradictions present in the Maltese Archipelago. The struggle to retain Malta's unique cultural identity while submitting to 'foreign' pressures is of note here. In the folio, this is manifested by the presence of Maltese folk-like melodies in Peprina (from Fjuri, a work for piano, clarinet, violin and cello), which contrasts the forward-looking Juillet - an experimental, electroacoustic piece that was partly written at the CCMIX Studios in Paris in 2006.
Despite the 'inconsistencies' inherent in Maltese culture, the folio can be regarded as a celebration of Malta's rich and diverse history - one that saw numerous settlers leaving an indelible mark on the island and its people. The French, for instance, were amongst the many colonisers of Malta. Many of the composer's works contain techniques that are associated with fin de siecle Paris, such as orchestral Katina, for example. The title of Zammit's orchestral Kavallier (lit. knight from Ritratti) pays homage to The Order of the Knights of St John, whilst the primary musical idea of this work stems from a variation of an early nineteenth century dance by August Voigt entitled 'St. Julian's Cottage'. (St. Jullian's is a seaside area in Malta and was one of the first to be adopted by the British on their arrival).

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 June 2008

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    M1 Music

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    781 General principles & musical forms


Zammit, V. Towards a notion of cultural soundscape as an informant to original music composition - with particular reference to that of the Maltese Islands. (Thesis). Napier University. Retrieved from



Maltese cultural identity; Catholic church; electroacoustic work;

Monthly Views:

Available Documents