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Meet our PhD supervisors: Dr Robert Fokkkens

Robin StowellLecturer in Composition
Dr Fokkens studied at the University of Cape Town and the Royal Academy of Music, and held the Manson Fellowship at the RAM. He completed his PhD at the University of Southampton in 2007, where he was supervised by Michael Finnissy.

The music of South African composer Robert Fokkens has been described in The Times as having its “own engaging quirkiness”. It works across established boundaries, whether of genre, style or nationality, using techniques and materials learned from traditional South African and other African musics alongside influences from a broad array of musical worlds to create a music of twisted, disrupted cycles and microtonal inflections that is by turns “hilarious”, “sad (and) strange” (Times) and “disturbing” (Guardian).

In addition to a significant body of chamber music and music for large ensembles and orchestra, he writes frequently for the voice, both in concert and dramatic contexts.

View a list of selected works online.

Meet our staff: Dr Rob Fokkens from Cardiff School of Music on Vimeo.

Rob Fokkens has seen his music regularly performed in many major venues in the UK (including the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room and Royal Festival Hall), South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, the USA and Japan, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio, Swedish Radio P2

Performers of his music include established figures and ensembles such as Pierre-Andre Valade, Ernst Kovacic, Ian Partridge, Martyn Brabbins, Tête à Tête  Opera, the South African National Youth Orchestra, as well as some of the most exciting young musicians in the UK, including Claire Booth, the Fidelio Trio, Tim Murray, Oliver Coates, Harriet Mackenzie, juice vocal trio and rarescale. His music has been published in the journal The Liberal and in Choir and Organ magazine, and recorded on the Herald and South African National Youth Orchestra labels.

What the critics say:
“…I loved Robert Fokkens’s Words, which was just that: each song a surreal deconstruction of a single word, drawn from the various native languages of this young South African.” – Richard Morrison, The Times (08.04.2009)

“Best of all was the world premiere of Glimpses of a half-forgotten future by the South African composer Robert Fokkens: sad, strange and scarcely five minutes’ worth of unquiet fragments that expressed more than anything else they had played.” - Hilary Finch, The Times (09.01.2009)

“…Fokkens has his own engaging quirkiness, and this short, two-movement work always gripped the ear. Tiny melodic motifs are constantly developed by the soloist, as intriguing orchestral textures rise or fall beneath. The music never settles in metre and style, though some frenetic, Turnage-style big-band riffs and blaring brass refrains of what sound like the Dies Irae theme increasingly dominate. It was all impeccably prepared. I’d like to hear it again.” - Richard Morrison, The Times.

Dr Fokkens would be happy to consider applications from students considering postgraduate research in the following areas:

Postgraduate funding:
Interested in pursuing postgraduate research at one of the largest and most diverse music schools in the UK? The School of Music is currently offering three competitive Studentships that cover tuition fees at the Home/EU rate. More information on our funding opportunities is available at: