Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Post-minimalist Composition and African Textiles ?

From an interview with the South African born composer Kevin Volans who will be featured at this years Edinburgh Festival. Entire interview here

"Progress is not a word that applies: there are no themes, no motifs, no development, no repetition and no recapitulation. It’s a non-developmental piece in that it operates in the same kind of space from beginning to end."

That could suggest minimalism, but Volans is not a minimalist composer; though there are some pieces in his oeuvre, in some of his 10 string quartets or the utterly mesmerising, which might seduce the innocent ear into thinking it was hearing a form of minimalism.

So with the litany of symphonic elements absent from the score, is the music of his new piece going to be static? "No. The images change; the focus changes. It might focus more on a complex texture, then on tone colour, then more on some kind of rhythmic structure."

The seminal inspiration behind the construction of the piece doesn’t lie in music at all. "It’s akin more to African textiles than musical models. They were the reason I had to give up serialism as a way of ordering music. They are very virtuosic textiles, woven by the men then embroidered by the women.

"They use a very dramatic method of contrasting different forms of patterning, from left to right, right to left, down to up and up to down; and they also use broken patterning. So the patterns are irregular, and there is great virtuosity in their use of irregularity within the patterning."

There is a well established literature on “offbeat” patterning in African textiles and possible links to music but Volan’s comments may provide a further dimension. He seems to be talking here about Kuba cloths from Congo but his insights are equally applicable to many other types of African textile design. Below I have posted a few of our own “post minimal” pieces. These are all sold but if this type of cloth is of interest please contact me. Click on the photos for larger images.

ewe402 Ewe woman’s cloth, Ghana, circa 1920-50
fr245 Abron/Koulango womans cloth, Bondoukou region, Cote D’Ivoire, circa 1920-50
kente179 Asante or Ewe woman’s cloth, Ghana, circa 1920-50
Asooke334d Detail of Yoruba woman’s cloth, Nigeria, circa 1920s
fr422 Abron/Koulango womans cloth, Bondoukou region, Cote D’Ivoire, circa 1920-50
kente184d Detail of Asante men’s kente cloth, Ghana, circa 1920s

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Wearing African Textiles – part two


Postcard captioned “The members of the Gold Coast cabinet, 17 July 1956.” (Department of Information Services, Accra) (Author’s collection.) Click on photos for larger view.


Silk Asante kente, 1950s. For more Asante kente we have for sale click here.