The White Lodge

The White Lodge, originally for voice and electronics also exists in a version arranged for low contralto voice and string sextet (2 violins, viola, cello, 2 basses) It was written in 1991 to be recorded by the mezzo soprano Nicola Walker Smith and is dedicated to Delphine Seyrig.

I met Delphine for the first time when we worked together on Robert Wilson's The CIVIL WarS and found ourselves rehearsing and sketching the piece in the Monastère de la Sainte Baume near Marseilles in the bitter winter of early 1984. We became close friends and always sat together at lunch and dinner, where she tried to dissuade me from my developing vegetarianism while relishing the opportunity to speak in her impeccable English with the only non-American English speaker in the ensemble. She had previously come across my work through recordings which her son Duncan possessed and one of these, Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, offered some solace during her mother's last illness, which had caused her to leave the monastery prematurely. We continued to see each other over the years. I was particularly touched on two occasions: first when she and Coralie dashed in a taxi, still wearing their make-up, from a matinée performance of Letters Home to the final performance of the Bryars/Wilson Medea at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées; and second when Sami Frey was using my music for his stunning version of Je Me Souviens and we had a late afternoon drink together in Avignon just before she dashed off to, I think, Ulan Bator to complete some filming. I was immensely saddened by her death and the least I could do was to write something in her memory.

The White Lodge is one of three pieces I wrote that year which have a common source in the work of Jules Verne. Two of these use texts from Vingt Mille Lieues Sous La Mer. In the case of The White Lodge this is a passage which describes the transformation of the night sea to a milky white colour through the presence of countless tiny sea creatures. I share with Roussel and Queneau an unqualified admiration for Verne: as Queneau said "What a style! Nothing but nouns!"

The White Lodge' in David Lynch's Twin Peaks, like the phenomenon described by Professor Aronnax, is a place encountered only by those who have acquired the means to locate it.

Gavin Bryars.

Text (Vingt Mille Lieues Sous La Mer - deuxième partie)

Vers sept heures du soir, le Nautilus à demi immergé navigua au milieu d'une mer de lait. À perte de vue l'océan semblait être lactifié. Était-ce l'effet des rayons lunaires? Non, car la lune, ayant deux jours à peine, était encore perdue au dessous de l'horizon dans les rayons du soleil. Tout le ciel, quoique éclairé par le rayonnement sidéral, semblait noir par contraste avec la blancheur des eaux. "C'est ce qu'on appelle une mer de lait - vaste étendue de flots blancs quie se voit fréquemment sur les côtes d'Amboine et dans ces parages...Cette blancheur n'est due qu'à la présence de myriades de bestioles infusoires, sorts de petits vers lumineaux, d'un aspect gélatineux et incolore, de l'épaisseur d'un cheveu, et dont la longueur ne dépasse pas un cinquième de millimètre. Quelques-unes de ces bestioles adhèrent entre elles pendant l'espace de plusieurs lieues"...

Pendant plusieurs heures le Nautilus trancha de son éperon ces flots blanchâtres, et je remarquai qu'il glissait sans bruit sur cette eau savonneuse, comme s'il eut flotté dans ces remous d'écume que les courants et les contre-courants des baies laissaient quelquefois entre eux. Ver minuit, la mer reprit subitement sa teinte ordinaire mais, derrière nous, jusqu'aux limites de l'horizon, le ciel, réfléchissant la blancheur des flots, sembla longtemps impregné de vagues lueurs d'une aurore boréale.