Chants is primarily a melodic work: it features almost no chords, and all the harmonies that can be heard were conceived in terms of the linear interaction between voices. The title refers to the plainchant-like writing heard moving in parallel harmonics in the viola and cello shortly after the opening. This material is loosely inspired in terms of its shape and syntax by some of the works of the fourteenth century composer Guillaume de Machaut, especially his Messe de Nostre Dame, with its characteristic cadences in parallel fifths. Later in the work, another kind of ‘chant’ emerges: a long-breathed melodic line that weaves its way through the instruments of the ensemble to create subtle variations in hue and timbre, after which it eventually unfolds into a richer three-, and then four-voice, polyphonic texture.
Commissioned by the London Sinfonietta as part of Writing the Future. World premiere given on December 8, in the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London.
The score can be viewed and purchased here.