Christopher Fox - chant suspendu

In 1994 I wrote a solo cello piece, Straight lines in broken times, for the German cellist, Friedrich Gauwerky. While we were preparing the first performance he asked me to consider writing him a duo piece, for cello and piano. I considered it but had no ideas. A couple of years later the English pianist Ian Pace mentioned the same possibility for the duo he then had with Anton Lukoszevieze - again a blank. I was surprised then when on 3 August 1997, sitting under an olive tree in the midst of the southern Italian countryside, I was able to fill a couple of sketchbook pages with the outline of what is now chant suspendu. The realisation of those sketches was completed in October 1998. The duo version of chant suspendu was premiered by Judith Mitchell and Ian Pace in January 1999; subsequently Anton Lukoszevieze persuaded me that the cello part could be played unaccompanied and he has given many performances of the piece in that version. Tonight is the premier of a new version with electroacoustic accompaniment made by Robert Scorah (with the composer's supervision!).

chant suspendu literally suspends the 'song', the microtonally inflected line of the cello part, over a rich, dark mass of sound. In the piano version this was conceived as a continuously evolving background of textured noise; the electroacoustic version samples and stretches a fragment of that 'noise'. The cello also provides its own accompaniment: melodic writing on the middle two strings is always supported by a drone on one of the other strings (and the outer strings are both re- tuned to Gs).

chant suspendu
Judith Mitchell Performs
St-Paul's Hall