The suite from the 1958 Thorold Dickinson documentary Power Among Men
is entitled ‘Fugues and Cantilenas’ and sits very happily in the immediate vicinity of the 1957 Lively Arts Fugue
and the 1962 Joyful Fugue
. Do the fugues in Power Among Men
, for all their formality and consistency, look back in spirit to the ‘fuguing tunes’ of the late eighteenth-century New England hymnodists like William Billings? Since this was a salient part of Thomson’s heritage the answer is probably ‘yes’. And inasmuch as ‘cantilena’ is a term used for a passage of particularly sustained melodic or lyrical quality—vocal or instrumental—each of Thomson’s ‘fugues’ could legitimately be described as a ‘cantilena’. But all Thomson is really canto, song, singing: even ‘Ruins and Jungles’, ostensibly a mood piece, is really a chorale in disguise, and the ‘Joyous Pastorale’ is an instrumental dance-song.
from notes by Christopher Palmer © 1992