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Kevin Volans

Publisher: Chester Music

String Quartet No 5 "Dancers on a Plane" (1994)
jointly commissioned by BT Plc and the National Federation of Music Societies
Work Notes
dedication: The Duke Quartet
Chester Music Ltd
Works for 2-6 Players
Year Composed
30 Minutes

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Programme Note
Kevin Volans String Quartet No 5 "Dancers on a Plane" (1994)
The avant garde in the 20th century has increasingly treated the work of art as an object in this world rather than a window into another world. This is as true of music as visual art. At the same time, and somewhat paradoxically, quotation or reference to other works has become a common structural device.

The work of Jasper Johns embodies both these elements. His 1950s paintings of the United States flag are both paintings and flags, but not paintings about flags. His later work contains references to Picasso and da Vinci among others and in his painting ‘Dancers On A Plane’ he has inserted figurative references to Tantric art in the midst of abstract patterning.

Johns’ juxtaposition of abstract and concrete imagery interests me. In this piece I have inserted natural sound recordings into the dance patterns of the string quartet music. This is similar but not the same to what Johns has done - it’s rather like making windows in the fabric of the piece and inserting photographic images of the world that gave rise to the music.

The piece is just over 30 minutes long. A shorter version of the music can be heard in the BBC Sound on Film TV programme directed by Deborah May, ‘Plane-Song’.

This concert version of the piece was commissioned for the Duke Quartet, to whom it is dedicated, by the National Federation of Music Societies, with funding from British Telecommunications plc.

Kevin Volans

Score sample

Volans, in his fifth score for [Siobhan] Davies, calls on his South African background, mixing chugging rhythms and plaintive strains on strings (played live by the Duke Quartet) with recorded sounds – bird warbles, cicada hums and the voices of African villagers… Davies doesn’t go in for literal images. The calm, mutually-supportive duet for Catherine Quinn and Deborah Saxon, like the contrasted twisty one for Gill Clarke and Paul Old, and Saxon’s strange solo with knitted hands in a pool of light, are events that call for no interpretation beyond the inherent movement-logic of Davies’ choreography.
David Dougill, The Sunday Times,01/05/1995
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