Break Away

Score title

Break Away


Jessie Montgomery

More about the composer


Program note

Break Away was written for PUBLIQuartet (PQ) in 2013 for a premiere at the Music of Now festival at Symphony Space. The piece was born out of a series of improvisations that PQ was working on while in residency at the Banff Centre where we formed a suite of short pieces riffing on several different styles of music from hip-hop to electronica to twentieth-century modern. Woven among some of my own chosen specific imagery, I adapted some of the techniques from that suite into this five-movement work.

The score calls on the quartet to both play with and “break away” from the score at various points, thereby attempting a seamless dialogue between the written score and the whims of the quartet, in which the piece takes on further transformation at each performance.

The first movement, Lilting, is an homage to Anton Webern with a focus on gestural dialogue. The second movement, Songbird, is an image of an individual’s voice trying to emerge against a harsh facade and includes the first improvised passages in the work. The third movement, Smoke, is loosely based on the form of a jazz tune of my own design. The fourth movement, Quick Pass, serves as a transition to the final movement Break Away, in which the quartet incorporates its most open improvised sections.