Born in South Africa, but now an Irish citizen, Kevin Volans’ musical idiom has been shaped by an unusually diverse range of experiences, including studies with Stockhausen in Cologne, field trips to South Africa to study traditional music, his own involvement with the New Simplicity movement, his collection of contemporary art and African textiles, friendships with composers like Morton Feldman and Gerald Barry, as well as a love of virtuoso piano music which he performs, broadcasts and records. While having an easily recognised, unique voice, Volans’ music resists compartmentalisation. He is as comfortable working in conventional genres as embarking on innovative collaborations with artists of other disciplines.
String Quartet No.1 (White Man Sleeps) was written for the Kronos Quartet and was first performed by them in July 1986, London.
The title ‘White Man Sleeps’ comes from a moment in nyanga Panpipe music where the performers leave off playing their loud pipes for a few cycles and dance only to the sound of their ankle rattles, to let the white landowner sleep – for a minute or two.
'In composing this piece I drew from the following sources: the first movement owes something to the style of Basotho concertina music; the second and fourth movements are drawn from traditional Nyungwe music played by Makina Chirenje and his Nyanga panpipe group at Nsava, Tete, Mozambique, recorded and transcribed by Andrew Tracey (to be found in an article entitled ‘The nyanga Panpipe dance’ in African Music, Vol.5, No.1 (1971); the third movement derives from the San bow music (recorded by Tony Traill of the University of Witwatersrand) and from Basotho lesiba music, transcribed by myself; in the fifth movement I added my own invented folklore. My approach to the original music was anything but purist – it is played in Western tuning, filtered, slowed down by a few “time-octaves”, cast into non-African metres (like the 13-beat pattern of the first dance) and redistributed between the players in several ways. I also used interlocking techniques where they were absent in the original models and vice versa' - Kevin Volans
Duration 24 minutes. Parts available: CH61205.