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Kevin Volans

Publisher: Chester Music

String Quartet No 9 "Shiva Dances" (2004),
Chester Music Ltd
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
String Quartet
Year Composed
24 Minutes

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Programme Note
Kevin Volans String Quartet No 9 "Shiva Dances" (2004),
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 20th century I was struck by the fact the nearly all of it is extremely ‘busy’, almost cluttered. It almost seemed that composers felt compelled to look industrious. In the new millennium I thought it would be interesting to try and eliminate content. I also aspired to moving from music (sound as art) to art (art as sound).

This, of course, has already been done by a number of composers (many from New York - Phil Niblock and LaMonte Young, to name but two), but it was something I had never tried.

Although I found it annoying that the label 'minimalist' was given to my African based work [calling African music minimalist is as ludicrous as calling the pyramids of Egypt ' Art Deco'], and fearing this would make the label stick, I set out to write a piece which reflected my love of minimal painting and architecture. The Japanese have a term 'wabi' meaning 'voluntary poverty' 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 that the lack of excessive pitch material in this piece reflect a kind of voluntary poverty.

When Shiva is portrayed dancing (as Nataraj) He is depicted in a circle of flames crushing a small figure - the ego - underfoot. You get the impression He dances on the spot, not moving around at all. I like that.

The piece is dedicated to Pablo Pascual Cilleruelo

Kevin Volans

Score sample

Shiva Dances, reflects Volans' interest in minimal painting and architecture. Its thematic material is pared down almost to a single chord, yet the intensity of expression extracted across 25 minutes is compelling, with the tiniest change of emphasis or inflection assuming massive significance.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,02/11/2009
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