Ditching the traditional associations of the instrument, these four pieces for solo cello grew out of composer Fox’s relationship with cellist Anton Lukoszevieze. The recent 45 minute long Inner was written especially for him, It’s a labyrinthine work that encapsulates the desire outlined in Fox’s own sleevenote to “find a way of marrying the audibility of process in minimalism with the potential for complexity of process in most serial music”. The surface of Inner is therefore often disarmingly straightforward, with nursery rhyme melodies that move without much rhythmic fuss. But underneath, a dense maze of melodic and gestural underpinnings paddle furiously to prevent the material from sounding prosaic. Fox divides the work into 34 sections, defining six areas of “family resemblances and evolutions” for the listener to follow. As they’re all jumbled up much of the fascination comes from trying to work out what fits where. Fox describes being absorbed by the process through which a solo musician, stand-up comedian or storyteller develops a bond with their audience. In Anton Lukoszevieze, he has found a consummate narrative performer who makes much of the tension between the often delicate purity of the music and its structural rigour.
Straight Lines In Broken Times, Chant Suspendu and Generic Compositions 3-5 all illuminate equally distinctive soundworlds. Built on different modulations of the same microtonal scale, Straight Lines has a strained, oddly vulnerable hovering quality that is both alienating and alluring. In comparison the heavily knotted sounds of Chant Suspendu casts the cello as a musical chainsaw in which the outer strings are detuned to provide an acrid drone. Fox cites Xenakis and Richard Barrett as other composers who have treated the cello as an “empirical sound object”. His Generic Compositions similarly attempt to build musical discourse out of the inherent physical properties of instrumental behaviour. They are engrossing pieces in which slides, bow movements and pizzicatos become an end in themselves. Inner tells you everything you need to know about the uncharted possibilities of acoustic composition.
THE SUNDAY TIMES:
This third disc in Metier’s series devoted to the music of Christopher Fox (b 1955) consists entirely of works for solo cello, played with radiant commitment by a votary of avant-gardism. Three of the works - Straight Lines in Broken Times3, Chant Suspendu, Generic Compositions 3, 4 and 5 (the latter an overlay of separate Études) - are relatively short. But the remarkable fourth, Inner, lasts 45 minutes. The simplest of little phrases is revisited 33 times to form an epic succession that suggests a dadaist version of a Bach chaconne, but has the genuine spiritual pull of one of Morton Feldman’s rapt excursions, the emphasis now on horizontal line rather than gradual revoicing of chords.