Kevin Volans' L’Africaine for Piano solo. Duration: 22 minutes.
Most of the piano music I have written has focussed on a number of 20th century musical concerns: with complex rhythmic patterning, a- and poly-tonality, multiple layering of parts, on occasion introducing different tone colours (like playing inside the instrument or electronic modulation) – but above all, resonance.
The development of the piano in 19th century, with its increased size, pitch and dynamic range, led above all to an instrument capable of rich and full resonance, that could rival even an orchestra. All centred around the pedal – in Anton Rubinstein's words: The soul of the piano.
This time I thought it would be interesting to write a piece which pays no attention to this tradition; to write a piece from the point of view of some African compositional methods and ways of patterning – mainly interlocking parts which result in shifting downbeats. For a large part of the piece I treat the left and right hands as two complementary performers.
So, hardly any pedal, no concerns with contemporary harmony, style, structure or technology. I did slip in a slightly concealed reference to Debussy's L'Isle Joyeuse, however. The piece is roughly 22 minutes long, in three sections, and the title is a slightly tongue-in-cheek reference to Couperin.