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First dance


It was a request from Adrian Jack that prompted this piece. He asked me to rework White Man Sleeps (originally written for two harpsichords, viola da gamba and percussion) for a performance at the ICA. I resisted the idea at first, especially as the African tuning of the original piece would have to be dropped. It occurred to me however, that the western tuning (equal temperament) would mask the source material and make my intentions clearer. I began work.

My approach to the original music was anything but purist—it is played in Western tuning, filtered, slowed down by a few ‘time-octaves’, cast into non-African metres (like the 13-beat pattern of the first dance) and redistributed between the players in several ways. I also used interlocking techniques where they were absent in the original models and vice versa. The first movement owes something to the style of Basotho concertina music; the title ‘White Man Sleeps’ comes from a moment in nyanga panpipe music where the performers leave off playing their loud pipes for a few cycles and dance only to the sound of their ankle rattles, to let the white landowner sleep—for a minute or two.

from notes by Kevin Volans © 2011


Studio Master: SIGCD236Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 8 on SIGCD236 [4'36] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD236 track 8

Recording date
1 January 2010
Recording venue
St Michael's Church, Highgate, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Alexander Van Ingen & Tim Oldham
Recording engineer
Andrew Mellor
Hyperion usage
  1. Dance (SIGCD236)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: February 2011
    Download only
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