Kevin Volans


Born: July 26, 1949; Pietermaritzburg  
As a white man born in South Africa in 1949, trained largely in Europe in the 1970s, and eventually patriated in Ireland in the 1980s, Kevin Volans has often confronted in his music the issue of identity. "Like many white South Africans of my generation, I was brought up to think I was European," Volans wrote in 1986. "I went to live in Europe and found this was not true. I returned to Africa and was disappointed to find I could not really regard Read more myself as African." It is this struggle with identity, however, that has contributed to his popular success as a composer. As multiculturalism spread into the mainstream consciousness via the world music boom during the last two decades of the twentieth century, Volans' mixture of African and European music styles (or often, stylizations) found resonance with classical music consumers eager to embrace the sounds of a "global community."

Volans received his initial musical education in South Africa, where he received a bachelor's degree from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, before leaving for Europe to undertake graduate studies. Volans spent the better part of a decade in Europe, studying composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen and music theater with Mauricio Kagel. During the late 1970s, Volans returned to South Africa several times to conduct field recordings and he returned again from 1981 to 1985 to take a teaching position and complete a doctoral degree at the University of Natal before returning to Europe. Having established himself as an important figure in the Neue Einfachkeit (New Simplicity) movement during the 1970s and early 1980s, Volans became increasingly interested in traditional African musics during his extended return to South Africa in the 1980s. A series of "African paraphrase" pieces (a term he invented but would later reject) reflected his interest in native African styles. The first of these, Mbira and Matepe (both from 1980) realized borrowed African musical ideas through four-hand harpsichord arrangements in an effort to "set up an African colonization of Western music and instruments." Another piece, White Man Sleeps (1982), augmented the harpsichord duo with a bass viol and percussion. The work, which drew on the sounds of Venda panpipes, San bow music, and Bosotho concertina playing, later met with remarkable popular acclaim when an arrangement for string quartet was released by the Kronos Quartet in 1987; subsequent projects with Kronos, Hunting and Gathering (1987) and The Songlines (1988), met with similar success. Volans began to distance himself in the 1990s from the kind of explicit multiculturalism that had brought him such broad recognition and most of his works from the last decade of the twentieth century, such as his piano concerto One Hundred Frames (1991) and his opera Man With Footsoles of the Wind (1993), avoided dealing with issues of "Africanism" in any overt musical way. The 1990s also found Volans devoting considerable attention to collaborations with choreographers and dance groups, resulting in such projects as Chevron (1990), Wanting to Tell Stories (1993), Blue, Yellow (1995), and Duetti (1995). Read less
Browse 1-13 of 13 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    First Drop / Hillier, Ars Nova Copenhagen
    Label: Cantaloupe   Catalog: 21127 Release Date: 05/19/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Howard Skempton,  Michael Gordon,  David Lang,  Kevin Volans  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Bowers-Broadbent
    Conductor:  Paul Hillier
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ars Nova Copenhagen
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  • 2.
    Volans: Violin : Piano / Alexander, Richards
    Label: Ergodos   Catalog: 20 Release Date: 09/16/2016  
    Composer:  Kevin Volans
    Performer:  Waldo Alexander,  Jill Richards
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  • 3.
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1537 Release Date: 08/11/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kevin Volans,  Hajime Koumatsu,  Dan Visconti,  Robert Craft
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  • 4.
    Explorer Series: Kronos Quartet
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 536951 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Dumisani Maraire,  Hassan Hakmoun,  Foday Musa Suso,  Lawrence JKS Tamusuza  ... 
    Performer:  Dumisani Maraire,  Joan Jeanrenaud,  Hank Dutt,  John Sherba  ... 
    Conductor:  Terrence Kelly
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kronos Quartet,  Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir,  Tuvan Singers  ... 
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  • 5.
    Minimal Piano Collection 2 / Veen
    Label: Brilliant Classics   Catalog: 9171 Release Date: 02/28/2012   Number of Discs: 11
    Composer:  William Duckworth,  Michael Parsons,  Douwe Eisenga,  Gabriel Jackson  ... 
    Performer:  Tamara Rumiantsev,  Marcel Bergmann,  Jeroen van Veen,  Elizabeth Bergmann  ... 
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  • 6.
    Dance / The Smith Quartet
    Label: Signum Classics   Catalog: 236 Release Date: 04/26/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Tunde Jugede,  Joe Cutler,  John Adams,  Graham Fitkin  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Smith String Quartet
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  • 7.
    Piano Circus - Volans, Lang, Reich, Moran
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 440294 Release Date: 08/25/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Moran,  Steve Reich,  David Lang,  Kevin Volans
    Performer:  Kirsteen Davidson-Kelly,  Richard Harris,  Michael Haslam,  Kate Heath  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Piano Circus
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  • 8.
    Volans: String Quartets 2 & 3 / Balanescu Quartet
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 440687 Release Date: 09/30/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kevin Volans
    Performer:  Nick Cooper,  Bill Hawkes,  Clare Connors,  Alexander Balanescu
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Balanescu Quartet
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  • 9.
    Making A Song And Dance - Alcorn, Hellawell, Volans
    Label: Neuma   Catalog: 97 Release Date: 06/30/1998   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kevin Volans,  Piers Hellawell,  Michael Alcorn
    Conductor:  Stephen Pickett
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sequenza Chamber Ensemble
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  • 10.
    Volans: Concerto For Piano And Winds, Etc / Donohoe, Harding, Netherlands Wind Ensemble
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 9563 Release Date: 10/21/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kevin Volans
    Performer:  Menno Van Delft,  Marieke Schneemann,  Peter Prommel,  Rene Oussoren  ... 
    Conductor:  Wim Steinmann,  Daniel Harding
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Wind Ensemble members,  Netherlands Wind Ensemble
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  • 11.
    Pieces Of Africa / Kronos Quartet
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 79275 Release Date: 03/03/1992   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Dumisani Maraire,  Kevin Volans,  Obo Addy,  Hamza El Din  ... 
    Performer:  Dumisani Maraire,  Dan Pauli,  Joan Jeanrenaud,  Hank Dutt  ... 
    Conductor:  Terrence Kelly
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir,  Kronos Quartet
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  • 12.
    Volans: Hunting:Gathering / Kronos Quartet
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 79253 Release Date: 01/16/1991   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kevin Volans
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kronos Quartet
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  • 13.
    White Man Sleeps / Kronos Quartet
    Label: Nonesuch   Catalog: 79163 Release Date: 10/25/1990   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Kevin Volans,  Ben Johnston,  Ornette Coleman  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kronos Quartet
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