• Kevin Volans
  • String Quartet No 9 "Shiva Dances" (2004)
    (Shiva Dances)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 2vn.va.vc
  • 24 min

Programme Note

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