Drama Kata-Kata (Drama of Words)Jay Afrisando
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Drama Kata-Kata

(Drama of Words)


2-channel fixed media


Drama Kata-Kata (Drama of Words) was created to capture two phenomena: (1) we can 'find' music in languages we do not understand by listening their rhythm, contour, intonation, timbre, and overall shapes within the speech, and (2) we can 'find' music in languages we understand by listening the words in verbatim loops.


This work was inspired by the discovery of a speech-to-song illusion in 1995 by Diana Deutsch, Professor of Psychology at the University of California San Diego.


Cited from the essay “One More Time” by Elizabeth Margulis, Director of the Music Cognition Lab at the University of Arkansas, this statement—presented in this composition—explains concisely yet clearly: “If a spoken word, a phrase, a clause, and/or a sentence is repeated, our attention shifts from the meaning to the contour and rhythms of the passage.” Without any intention to sing the words at all, the illusion is consciously integrated as a compositional framework.


This work is created with the contribution of 19 speakers with 18 different languages from around the world. All the material is made with the spoken words that are digitally staged and processed using REAPER and SuperCollider.

 composition & narrative text 

Jay Afrisando

I would like to thank Terry Perdanawati and Casey Palbicki for editing the English translation text.

narrative speaker

Terry Perdanawati (Bahasa Indonesia/Indonesian)

Casey Palbicki (English—American accent)


contributors of words (alphabetical order)

Alan Roy (Ojibwemowin, a language spoken by Ojibwe ethnic, North America)

Alex Lubet (שפה עברית/Hebrew—American accent)

Bawien Lilaning Panggalih (Dayak Ngaju, a language spoken by Dayak Ngaju ethnic, Indonesia)

Bilir Kasuh (ကညီကျိ/S’gaw Karen, a language spoken by Sgaw Karen ethnic, Myanmar & Thailand)​

Christopher Rochester (English—American accent)

Darmawan Harestya (ꦧꦱꦗꦮ/Java­nese—Magelang accent, a language spoken by Javanese ethnic, Indonesia)

Gamin (한국어/Korean)

Jen Shyu (Tetum Prasa, a language spoken by Timorese ethnic, Dili, Timor-Leste)

Kakia Gkoudina (Eλληνική γλώσσα/Greek)

Maja Radovanlija (српски језик/Serbian)​

Maria Mannone (Italiano/Italian)

Mohamed Ouarani (اللغة العربية الفصحى/Classical Arabic—Moroccan accent)

Nguyễn Thùy Dung (Tiếng Việt/Vietnamese)

Renold Abdi (Baso Minang/Minang language, a language spoken by Minangkabau ethnic, Indonesia)

Shuhui Yao (日本語/Japanese)

Suci Lestari Yuana (ᬩᬲᬩᬮᬶ/Balinese, a language spoken by Balinese ethnic, Indonesia)

Yan Pang (中文/Chinese)


source of the words in Tetum Prasa

Williams-van Klinken, Catharina. Tetun Language Course. 2nd ed., Peace Corps East Timor, 2011.

source of the clause in 3'15"-3'24"

Margulis, Elizabeth. “One More Time.” Aeon, 7 Mar. 2014, https://aeon.co/essays/why-repetition-can-turn-almost-anything-into-music. Accessed 27 Aug. 2018.


the speech-to-song illusion discovery

Deutsch, Diana. “Speech to Song Illusion.” Diana Deutsch, http://deutsch.ucsd.edu/psychology/pages.php?i=212. Accessed 27 Aug. 2018.

the narrative text


A word;

satuan bahasa yang dapat berdiri sendiri;

a single distinct meaningful element of language capable of independent use;

terjadi dari morfem tunggal maupun gabungan;

composed of one or more morphemes;

perwujudan kesatuan perasaan dan pikiran;

a representation of an entity of thoughts and feelings;


dapat diujarkan dalam bentuk bebas;

it can be expressed in different ways;

diucapkan, dituliskan, atau diisyaratkan;

either spoken, written, or using sign language;


Kata yang diucapkan mengandung fonem;

A spoken word consists of phonemes;

satuan bunyi terkecil;

the smallest unit of sound;

yang membedakan satu kata dengan yang lain dalam suatu bahasa;

that distinguishes one word to another in a certain language;


Jika “kata” adalah kata;

If “word” is a word;

maka “kata-kata” adalah frasa;

then “delicate wording” is a phrase;

“Aku berkata-kata” adalah klausa;

“This is your delicate wording” is a clause;

“Aku kaku ketika diriku berkata-kata” adalah kalimat;

“I am amazed when listening to your delicate wording” is a sentence;


Namun ketika kata, frasa, klausa, dan/atau kalimat diulang-ulang;

If a spoken word, a phrase, a clause, and/or a sentence is repeated;

fokus kita terhadap makna beralih pada garis bentuk dan irama;

our attention shifts from the meaning to the contour and rhythms of the passage;


Mereka menjadi peristiwa;

They become a real happening;

menjadi drama kata-kata.

become a drama of words.

performance 2

In Situ: Festival for Electronic Music and Sound Art 2019, Moon Palace Books, Minneapolis, MN, US on 7 December 2019.

performance 1

October Meeting Contemporary Music and Musicians 2019, Tembi Rumah Budaya, Yogyakarta, ID on 23 October 2019.

© Jay Afrisando 2020