Michael Edwards

Cantus Fractus

Programme Note

Cantus Fractus literally means broken melody and refers to a semi-improvisational polyphonic technique of the middle ages. Whilst this piece in no way represents a neo-classical return to a previous style, it nevertheless consciously utilises the technique of a cantus firmus, which almost from the outset forms the background of the musical flow. Against this background the music undergoes some fairly abrupt changes, moving from overtly melodic textures to more static harmonic passages and then on to rhythmically pointed sections. This opposition of styles becomes most prominent after the middle of the piece: Here concentrated passages of sharply characterised musical material are juxtaposed against one another, some being presented in an isolation caused by the intrusion of short rests between the statements. The melody itself is passed from one instrument to the other as its line unfolds over the whole length of the piece. It is also dissected and transformed to create the more clearly foreground material.