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The armed man

first performed in 2000
author of text
15th century Burgundian Chanson
author of text

Much of my work is about other music, and in several of my pieces for ‘early music’ ensembles I have tried to engage with some aspect of what what one might call their core repertoire. So The armed man is written on a cantus firmus and reworks some of the principles of the diminution motet. The piece is bi-textual, as were so many medieval motets (both sacred and secular), juxtaposing the belligerent 15th Century Burgundian chanson L’homme armé with a poem by Robert Palmer, second son of the second Earl of Selborne, who was killed at the Battle of Umm-Al-Hamal in Mesopotamia on January 21st 1916. The poem, sent home in a letter, was first published in The Times on October 15th 1915.

After an initial lusty statement of the original chanson, the main body of the piece is divided into three sections. Each is underpinned by material derived from the L’homme armé melody (still with its original words) which is heard first in the bass part, then the tenor, and finally the alto, in progressively (proportionally) shorter note values; in each section it is treated differently—in the first, as a succession of drones, in the second as part of a homorhythmic chorale and finally as the basis of a nervous, quasi-hocketing texture. Above this the sopranos (and altos in the first section) weave a freely composed, more subjective, setting of the Robert Palmer poem.

The armed man was commissioned by The Clerks with funds provided by the Jerwood Foundation and first performed by them at the Wigmore Hall on April 30th, 2000.

from notes by Gabriel Jackson © 2008


Don't talk - just listen!
SIGCD174Download only


Track 7 on SIGCD174 [5'47] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD174 track 7

Recording date
9 January 2009
Recording venue
St George's Church, Chesterton, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Nicholas Parker
Recording engineer
Mike Hatch
Hyperion usage
  1. Don't talk - just listen! (SIGCD174)
    Disc 1 Track 7
    Release date: September 2009
    Download only
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