Dr Robert Fokkens
BMus(Hons), MMus, PhD (Southampton)
Senior Lecturer in Composition
I am a South African composer based in the UK. My music has been performed in many major venues in the UK (including the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room and Royal Festival Hall), South Africa, Australia, the USA, Japan, and across Europe; and broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio, Swedish Radio P2 and various South African radio stations.
Performers of my music include conductors
- Pierre-André Valade
- Martyn Brabbins
- Ludovic Morlot
- Gérard Korsten
- Tim Murray
- violinists Ernst Kovacic, Harriet Mackenzie, and Darragh Morgan
- cellists Oliver Coates and Robin Michael
- singers Ian Partridge, Claire Booth, Sarah Dacey and Patricia Rozario
- flautists Carla Rees and Liesl Stoltz
- ensembles such as EXAUDI, the New Juilliard Ensemble, the South African National Youth Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Trio Fibonacci, juice vocal trio, Tête à Tête Opera, Chroma, rarescale, Retorica, and the Fidelio Trio.
My music is published by Composers Edition and Tetractys Publishing, and my debut CD of chamber music – Tracing Lines – is available on the Métier label.
I give regular masterclasses and presentations on my work, both in the UK – most recently at Birmingham Conservatoire, Leeds College of Music and Bristol, York, Birmingham and Cardiff Universities – and in South Africa (at the universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Pretoria and the North-West), where I was also composer-in-residence for both the New Music South Africa Indaba 2008 and 2015, and the South African National Youth Orchestra Courses in 2005 and 2013.
My music has been described by The Times as having its ‘own engaging quirkiness’. It works across established boundaries of genre, style and nationality, using techniques and materials learned from traditional South African and other African musics, alongside influences from a broad array of musical worlds. This creates a music of twisted, disrupted cycles and microtonal inflections that has been described as ‘hilarious’, ‘sad [and] strange’ (The Times) and ‘disturbing’ (The Guardian).
In addition to a significant body of chamber music and music for large ensembles and orchestra, I frequently write for the voice, both in concert and dramatic contexts, and am increasingly working with electro-acoustic media. I was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 2014 for making a “significant contribution to the music profession”.
I studied at the University of Cape Town and at the Royal Academy of Music, also holding the Manson Fellowship at the RAM in 2001-2002. During my studies I had lessons and masterclasses with many composers, including George Crumb, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Thomas Ades, Simon Bainbridge, Poul Ruders, Peter Klatzow, Peter Louis van Dijk and Mauricio Kagel. I completed my PhD at the University of Southampton in 2007, where I was supervised by Michael Finnissy.
Throughout my studies, I was generously supported by organisations including the Countess of Munster Musical Trust, the South African Music Rights Organisation, the National Arts Council of South Africa, the Overseas Research Scheme UK, and the Royal Academy of Music. My doctoral studies were largely funded by a University of Southampton Major Studentship.
I teach composition at Cardiff University at all undergraduate and postgraduate level, and am Director of the Contemporary Music Group.
- Birmingham Conservatoire
- Leeds College of Music
- Bristol University
- University of York
- Birmingham University
- University of South Africa
- Stellenbosch University
- University of Pretoria
I teach composition to students at all levels - from first-year undergraduates to PhD students.
I also teach conducting and ensemble performance to postgraduate students, and direct the Contemporary Music Group.
My music works across established boundaries of genre, style and nationality, using techniques and materials learned from traditional South African and other African musics, alongside influences from a broad array of musical worlds from Cage to electronic dance music.
This creates a music of twisted, disrupted cycles and microtonal inflections, with a strong focus on melody, rhythm and timbre. 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, and is working increasingly with electro-acoustic media.