• Kevin Volans
  • String Quartet No 5 "Dancers on a Plane" (1994)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Jointly commissioned by BT Plc and the National Federation of Music Societies

Dedication: The Duke Quartet

  • 2vn.va.vc/tp
  • 30 min

Programme Note

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


"Dancers On A Plane" String Quartet No.5


Score sample