Kevin Volans' String Quartet No. 9: Shiva Dances was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and first performed by the Smith Quartet at the 2004 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.
Kevin Volans (the composer) notes on the piece:
In the past I have been interested in trying to go beyond historicism (1970s), beyond style(1980s) and beyond form (1990s) in my work. Looking back over the music of the twentiethcentury I was struck by the fact the nearly all of it is extremely 'busy', almost cluttered. Italmost seemed that composers felt compelled to look industrious. In the new millennium Ithought it would be interesting to try and eliminate content. I also aspired to moving frommusic (sound as art) to art (art as sound). This, of course, has already been done by a numberof composers (many from New York – Phil Niblock and La Monte Young, to name but two), butit was something I had never tried.Although I found it annoying that the label 'minimalist' was given to my African-based work,and fearing this would make the label stick, I set out to write a piece which reflected my loveof minimal painting and architecture. The Japanese have a term 'wabi' meaning 'voluntarypoverty' or 'emptiness' to describe their restrained minimal aesthetic, an aesthetic which,however, pays greatest attention to the quality of material and fine detail. I like to think thatthe lack of excessive pitch material in this piece reflects a kind of voluntary poverty.When Shiva is portrayed dancing (as Nataraj) He is depicted in a circle of flames crushing asmall figure – the ego – underfoot.You get the impression He dances on the spot, not movingaround at all. I like that.
The piece is dedicated to Pablo Pascual Cilleruelo.