Ramsey's Lamp (1979)

This piece, for two pianos 6 or 8 hands, was written in memory of my first teacher Cyril Ramsey who had died the previous summer, almost the same day as my mother's second husband, Dr. Appleton. Both died in foreign places - Dr. Ramsey in Canada, my stepfather in a ship near Leningrad. Cyril Ramsey was a very enlightened teacher, and spoke with me about the music of Satie, about John Cage (an unusual subject in Goole in the late 1950's) and he had studied with Eric Fenby, which linked him with the music of Delius. At the same time, he was a ferocious pianist and a man of extraordinary energy, who would start his music classes by racing up several flights of stairs, leaping to the piano stool and roaring into the opening of Schubert's Erlkönig. It was this Graingeresque quality which I chose to point to, especially to the piece Gay but Wistful from the In a Nutshell suite. The title refers, of course, to Dr. Ramsey as a source of illumination.

It was first performed by myself with Dave Smith and John White at the ICA, London in February 1979.

Gavin Bryars.