From the incompatible to the provisionally synthesised in the music of Robert Fokkens
Van Rhyn, Chris
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Tracing Lines, an album containing seven works written between 2001 and 2011 by the UK-based South African composer Robert Fokkens, was released in 2014. In this essay two works from this album, representing two important moments in the composer's development, are analysed. Irreconcilable Truths for violin and piano (2002) displays the impossibility of synthesis when different entities collide; Africa for soprano and piano (2007) contains moments in which such entities synthesise. The aim is to provide a temporal link between these trends in order to highlight the evolution of the composer's display of identity within the given time-frame. Subconscious sonic perceptions are outlined through general readings of 'plain' spectrograms, and Gestalt readings of melodic range spectrograms of the recordings of the works in question. In both Irreconcilable Truths and Africa, the 'plain' spectrograms contradict the 'seminal trends' assigned to each work. In contrast with my first perceptions upon hearing the recordings of the works, the Gestalt in Irreconcilable Truths is more pronounced than in Africa. Set theory analyses of the scores, which serve to outline the intuitive design of pitch relations in the score, are followed by a brief consideration of pitch-rhythm relations. From these relations I conclude that Irreconcilable Truths contains hidden foreshadowings of the forthcoming breakdown between different entities, and compensations for the boldness of the second entity. Africa, on the other hand, displays moments of almost unprepared synthesis of these entities, and at the same time parts with the idea of separate entities at a slower pace than expected. The results are read in the context of the composer's negotiation of a South African identity.
- Faculty of Humanities