community of Ann Arbor, Michigan, in honor of Kronos’ 40th anniversary. volans: wHite man sleeps (1985) Kevin Volans was born in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. After completing a Bachelor of Music at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, he went on to study in Cologne, principally with Karlheinz Stockhausen (later becoming his teaching assistant), Mauricio Kagel and Aloys Kontarsky. In 1979, following several field recording trips to Africa, he embarked on a series of pieces based on African compositional techniques which quickly established Volans as a distinctive voice on the European new music circuit. During this time he was active as a concert pianist and made several trips to Ireland. His love of the country made him decide to settle in Ireland. After moving to Ireland, Volans began a productive collaboration with the Kronos Quartet. White Man Sleeps (1986), Hunting: Gathering (1987), The Songlines (1988) and String Quartet No. 8 “Black Woman Rising” (2004) were all written for them. In the 1990s, Volans gave increasing attention to writing for dance, collaborating with companies around the world. In 1999, the South Bank hosted a 50th birthday celebration of his work in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Of late, he has turned his attention to writing for orchestra and as well as collaborating with visual artists. In 2009, for his 60th birthday celebrations, there were concerts in Dublin, Madrid, London (Wigmore Hall’s “Kevin Volans Day”), and South Africa. About White Man Sleeps, Volans writes: “The light, the textures, the colors of Africa and the African landscape and the sounds of the birds and the insects are totally different from Europe. And the music draws on those elements. It’s not so much cultural as environmental. You can switch cultures, in a way, but you can’t deny your environmental background. “When Kronos asked me to do White Man Sleeps for them, I became interested in the issue of translatability. I have come to conclusion that the color of the instruments, or the color of the sound that they produce, is as important for the meaning of the music as the pitch, or the rhythms, or anything else.” White Man Sleeps was written for Kronos, and recorded on the Nonesuch CD Pieces of Africa.
ratniece: silsila (2013) Latvian composer Santa Ratniece graduated in musicology and composition at J. Vītols Latvia Music Academy, and later continued her studies at Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre with Helena Tulve, where she obtained her MA in 2007. Ratniece first came into public view in 2004 after winning the 1st prize at the 2004 International Rostrum of Composers for her work sens nacre (in the category of composers under 30). Her choir composition Saline was among the selected works in the 2008 International Rostrum of Composers, and her orchestral piece was selected in 2012. About silsila, Ratniece writes: “In silsila (‘chain’ in Arabic), we follow the Brahmaputra River downstream from Tibet, through India and Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal. It is the highest major river in the world, which starts as a tiny little spring in Angsi Glacier in the Himalayas. In the course of the piece we descend from 5,210 meters [17,000 feet] above sea level. The piece has seven undivided parts, which have titles in Tibetan. “1. ču-ri – hill of water. The river originates from the Angsi Glacier, located on the northern side of the Himalayas, southeast of Mount Kailash. A local name for the sacred mountain is Tisé meaning ‘Water peak’ or ‘River peak.’ This is where our journey begins. “2. ču-ῤrán – little river. Here the river finds its first waters as a small spring in Tibet. Sounds are almost inaudible. “3. báb-ču – descending water. The river enters India in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, where it is called Siang. It makes a rapid descent from its original height in Tibet, and appears in the plains. “4. ču-skád – voice of water. The river enters the state of Assam and is called Brahmaputra now, and becomes as wide as 10 kilometers. “5. ču rgyủn – continual flowing. In Bangladesh, the Brahmaputra splits into two distributary branches. The western branch, which contains the majority of the river's flow, continues south as the Jamuna to merge with the Padma River. Here the river loses its identity. “6. ču-gáṅ – full of water. Now we have reached the Ganges Delta, fed by the waters of numerous rivers, including the Ganges and Brahmaputra, the largest river deltas in the world.