Posted by: Gavin | 26 April 2018 - 12:45am

In April 2018, Gavin will lead a five-day masterclass in composition at CAMP, a residential arts facility in the high French Pyrenees.

This course will take Gavin's work as a starting point to examine compositional forms and strategies, working closely with the group's existing practice and methods, with the aim of each student developing a finished work for performance at the end of the session. Students from all musical backgrounds are welcome, whether classically trained, improvisors, sound artists, installation artists, conceptual artists or favouring any other approach. The session will include:

> Individual tuition sessions, examining and developing each student's existing work and practice
> Group sessions examining different types of musical material, including vocal music (both solo and ensemble), string music, opera, music for dance, composing in relation to music from the past, and arranging the music of others
> Evening events showing Gavin's work in opera and film
> Development of each student's work for final performance by the group at the end of the course

The sessions will be accompanied by optional outdoors activities led by CAMP crew, including guided mountaineering, visits to local beauty points, and downtime to hang out, relax, enjoy the local food and wine, and learn informally from Gavin, the CAMP crew, and your fellow students. Following the course, further support of the work developed will come in the form of performance and releasing opportunities via Fuse Art Space and our range of in-house record labels.

For more information, see

Posted by: Gavin | 21 February 2017 - 10:30am

Father John Misty's album Pure Comedy, for which Gavin arranged two pieces, is to be released in April, followed by a tour of live eprformance. In the meantime here are links to two YouTube items: the Official Music Video, which uses the title track, and Pure Comedy, the film. This latter is a 25 minute black and white film by Grant James that follows the recording and has footage from the studio, including moments where Gavin is conducting and talking in the control room at Ocean Way Studios.

The Official Music Video

The Film

Posted by: Gavin | 17 October 2016 - 11:08pm

Carla Bley and Big Ears Festival 2017

It was something of a shock to the system to find myself on the front page of the US Edition of Rolling Stone magazine at the beginning of October when Big Ears announced the line up for its 2017 festival. But I was happy to share this headline with my friend Carla Bley. I wrote to Steve Swallow to tell him that I assumed that he and Carla had this kind of treatment all the time, but it turned out to be a first for them too!

However, it prompted me to look back at Carla's work and to reissue here the article I wrote for The Gramophone in 1997. In that article I speak about my involvement with her music over the years - quite intensively during the 1980s when Dave Smith and I ran The Leicester Bley Band, a group of students and staff at Leicester where I taught at the time.

In fact I had met Carla for the first time in 1978 when Dave and I gave a couple of two-piano concerts at The Kitchen in New York and I was flattered and amazed that Carla was there. So I copy below the article, which shows the depth of my love and admiration for her work, along with photos taken by Nick White (who later was to do the memorable cover for the 1993 Point recording of Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet). These were taken when we performed together at the Camden Jazz Festival in 1987, an occasion when Charlie Haden performed By The Vaar in a concert I shared with Ornette Coleman... 

1. Gavin Bryars and Steve Swallow worship at the shrine of Carla Bley (photo Nick White)

2. Charlie Haden played as an upright bass by Gavin Bryars, and as an electric bass by Steve Swallow, backstage at the 1987 Camden Jazz Festival (photo Nick White)

Carla Bley

(1997 article for The Gramophine)

Whenever I am asked in the course of an interview who my "favourite composer" might be I usually reply "Carla Bley". Although I cannot admire any composer without some reservation, in her case my reservations barely exist. During the 1980's, while I was teaching at Leicester Polytechnic, Dave Smith and I ran a group, with a mixture of staff and students, called "The Leicester Bley Band" using original parts sent to us by Carla herself. In some cases Dave had to make arrangements from piano reductions using, for example, such albums as the long deleted Fictitious Sports (which Carla made with Nick Mason) as reference. Playing her music was a revelation and one of the most pleasurable experiences of my musical life. On one particularly memorable occasion we even played the first half of her own concert in the 1987 Camden Jazz Festival - at that time she had her recently-formed sextet - and like me she was staggered by the singing of a young dance student ("Pebs") who had never sung in public before encountering Carla's music. Some of the pieces which we played were in versions that she had never even recorded herself - the vocal version of The Lord is Listen' to Ya, Hallelujah! for example. Looking again recently at a video of a pre-Camden performance in Leicester I remain convinced of the power and originality of such pieces as Siam, I Try, Werving, I'm a Mineralist, Boo to You Too, The Internationale, and the sensational Hot River.  I would love to produce an album of these songs one day.

Carla Bley's recorded output really starts with the extraordinary "chronotransduction" Escalator over the Hill (1968-72) with its unique blend of performers from the worlds of jazz, rock and the fine art performance underworld. It has since evolved in a mature and sophisticated fashion, thanks to the intelligent way in which she has developed her own record company, Watt, and to the fact that, in spite of the music not always being to Manfred Eicher's taste, the Watt albums are part of ECM's catalogue. Each album, of course, contains a diverse set of pieces but each album too contains at least one masterpiece, which is a quite phenomenal achievement. She also maintains a remarkable and commendable loyalty to her musicians, and several players have stayed with her band for many years. As with other jazz composers she writes for specific performers and uses the idiosyncrasies of their musical approaches to generate compositions that are inseparable from those players - just as Duke Ellington did with his various bands. He, for example, would never have expected Juan Tizol to play a Lawrence Brown trombone feature nor, I imagine, would Carla have given, say, a Carlos Ward solo to Steve Slagle. At the same time there is a consistency in her choice of musicians as when one highly individual and robust trombonist, Gary Valente, replaces another, Roswell Rudd.

Not surprisingly her work alters slightly as she changes the nature of her various bands, and these bands have gone through a number of instrumentations. The "classic" Bley line-up of the 1970's and early 1980's, for example, was the one we used at Leicester. This would have trumpet, 2 saxophonists playing a mixture of saxes, trombone, French horn (sometimes euphonium), tuba, piano and/or organ, bass and drums. The writing for this band has little relation to standard big-band writing (nor does it mimic the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool Band whose line-up it resembles) and the music written for it contains an, at times, startling blend of precision and looseness. As is demonstrated in the collaborations with Charlie Haden and the Liberation Music Orchestra she is at ease with players who are gifted free improvisers. There are many pieces when the apparent sloppiness - in reality calculated chaos - is a direct consequence of her compositional wit and her acute observation of the possibilities for excess and parody. Having supremely flexible musicians who are not slavishly tied to notation makes such pieces possible. I am thinking particularly of pieces like Drinking Music (from the 1977 European Tour album) or her tour-de-force of musical deconstruction Musique Mécanique. This latter piece, in effect a suite of three, has at its centre (Musique Mécanique 2) the remarkable vocal number At Midnight, the first of a number of pieces where she persuades instrumental soloists in her band to deliver extraordinary vocal performances. Trombonist Roswell Rudd's At Midnight (which I used to sing with the Leicester Bley Band...) was eventually followed up with the album I Hate to Sing on which pianist Arturo O'Farrill sings the self-deprecating Very Very Simple, drummer D Sharpe sings the album's title song, and Carla herself speaks the mock-melodramatic monologue Murder. In fact this live album - now quite difficult to find - is undoubtedly the most consciously comic set of works that she has ever put together in a single collection. During this same period, on the other hand, she also wrote pieces with some of the most deliberately awkward themes imaginable (Walking Batteriewoman, Wrong Key Donkey) as well as the most tender (Ütviklingssang)

Many people were dismayed - and Manfred Eicher was one of them - when this band evolved into the sextet (electric guitar, bass guitar, organ, piano, drums and percussion) via a couple of transitional albums: Heavy Heart 1983 and Night-glo of 1985, which had the magical yet prosaically-named track Rut. Ironically, some record stores, especially those with eccentric classification systems such as the FNAC chain in France, started to place her work at this time in the "fusion" section because of the music's mellifluous façade and its superficial resemblance to that genre. But this is a similar mistake to that which was made in the early 1960's when some writers almost dismissed the Bill Evans trio as "cocktail music" (my own first ECM album, for example, found itself in the jazz, new music, ambient and easy-listening categories in some record stores). Beneath the deceptively smooth surface, in both the Bley and Evans cases, is music of great toughness and rhythmic subtlety (even at very slow tempi).

The Sextet album (1987) also contains one of the most poetic of all Carla's pieces, a feature for pianist Larry Willis called Lawns which, like all her works for specific soloists, uses a meticulous orchestration to give the soloist the best possible environment within which to blossom. This is not unlike the way in which, in a very different musical world, Percy Grainger would invariably provide the perfect setting for some jewel of a folk song.

Lawns also has an exquisite bass guitar solo (a phrase I never thought I would utter...) from Steve Swallow and the way in which music for the sextet featured him so strongly made the subsequent duet albums such a natural evolution, and happily allowed the strength and invention of her own piano playing to come much more to the fore. Within her bands up to this time she had generally played organ and had reserved her piano outings for albums such as Charlie Haden's Ballad of the Fallen (1982), for which she arranged and wrote most of the music. This contains the glorious duet track with Haden called Too Late and Ballad of the Fallen, and other recordings with The Liberation Music Orchestra, show her skill as composer and arranger when she is obliged to focus on material other than her own. This comes out too when she collaborated on that very interesting group of albums produced by Hal Wilner that are devoted to interpretations of the music of a particular composer by a family grouping of heterodox musicians, within which Carla was a key element. On the first of these she did a perfectly observed suite of music from Nino Rota's score for Fellini's 81/2..Carla has often spoken of her admiration and affection for Nino Rota's work and it is clear from many pieces other than this particular arrangement that they have a good deal in common. Others have noticed, too, her kinship with aspects of Kurt Weill's music. This made her presence on Hal Wilmer's Weill album Lost in the Stars entirely appropriate, where her contribution was a feature for Phil Woods, and also on the equivalent album for Thelonious Monk, where her version of Misterioso had Johny Griffin as the (perhaps) unlikely soloist.

Over the last few years she has also written music for a number of so-called classical musicians. On the first duet album (Duets 1988) she included Romantic Notions no.3, which she played herself but which was one of eight pieces commissioned by and written for Ursula Oppens. On Big Band Theory  (1993) she had violinist Alexander Balanescu as guest performer with her big band. Indeed on her 1997 Arts Council Contemporary Music Network tour she includes a range of music written for others under the generic title Fancy Chamber Music.

As with any composer certain elements inevitably appear time and time again throughout her career. These include her ability to observe acutely the essence of any form as material for affectionate parody or pastiche (Reactionary Tango, Copyright Royalties); a profound affection for the devices and elegant poise of church music (The Lord is Listenin' to Ya, Hallelujah!, Soon I will be done with the troubles of this world, A New Hymn); a sublime and wickedly theatrical sense of comedy (The Piano Lesson, Murder, The Internationale). These are, however, always allied to a marvellous compositional craft and the ability to ensure that she surrounds herself with the best and, most importantly, the right performers for her music. Without doubt her strongest musical partnership over the last sixteen years or so has been with Steve Swallow in many different musical situations and, though it grates a little to say this, it has even caused me to admit one exception in my intense and almost pathological dislike of the bass guitar....

Recommended Recordings (ECM numbers in parentheses for WATT recordings)

Escalator over the Hill JCOA (839 310-2)

Musique Mécanique WATT 9 (839 313-2)

Live!  WATT 11 (839 730-2)

Ballad of the Fallen (with Charlie Haden) ECM 811 546-2

Sextet WATT 17 (831 697-2)

Duets WATT 20 (837 345-2)

the Carla Bley Big Band goes to church WATT 27 (533 682-2)

Gavin Bryars

Billesdon March 1997





Posted by: Gavin | 13 September 2016 - 2:48am

Father John Misty

Some time ago, in March 2016, Josh Tillman got in touch with me through the pianist Thomas Bartlett. Thomas plays on most of the tracks on the new Father John Misty recording and he asked our mutual friend Iarla O'Lionaird to contact me and see if I would be interested to work on a song for him (Thomas plays piano in Iarla's extraordinary group The Gloaming). I was interested and Josh sent me a recording of one song, Leaving LA, with just voice and guitar, to which I would add string orchestra. We exchanged many emails in the intervening weeks and in due course Josh asked me to do an arrangement for a second song, Pure Comedy. I suggested that for this song we would use a different ensemble - female voices, two saxophones, three French horns, two trombones and contrabassoon.

In August, during the period when I live on the West coast of Canada, we made recordings of both pieces at Ocean Way Studio 1 in Hollywood. I flew down from Victoria BC and conducted the ensembles in the studio and was given rock 'n' roll royalty treatment: business flights from Victoria, cars at each end, suite in the Chateau Marmont - located on Sunset Boulevard, as was the studio.

From the outset, Josh didn't want to hear draft versions of the arrangements, or synthesised mp3 files, but preferred to wait until he heard everything in the studio, which I though was incredibly brave - and also very risky, but trustful.

Some of the musicians we used had played in the Long Beach Opera production of my opera Marilyn Forever. The cellist Timothy Loo had fixed that ensemble and I asked him to get the musicians for these sessons. So Gavin Templeton (who played sax in the onstage band), Ian (whose bass I had used for the first night and who played the second performance) as well as one of the viola players and Tim himself were all in the studio band. And it was a big surprise that Jamie, who had sung one of the Marilyn solo arts in the Long Beach performance, appeared as leader of the backing vocal trio...

I felt that the recordings were very good and worked well for the songs, and I was completely happy with the results  and wait with interest to hear the final abum...


From Chateau Marmont balcony (Sunset Boulevard)


GB and Father John Misty at Ocean Way


GB and Father John Misty 2

GB conducting strings for arrangment of Leaving LA in Ocean Way Studio

Posted by: Gavin | 12 September 2016 - 11:41pm

My Pencils

Part One - The Aztec Scoremaster 101

In January and February 1982 I worked in New York on the first part of Medea, which culminated in a draft performance (though I had left just before that). For the first week I stayed in the Chelsea Hotel and for the rest of the time I had a small apartment on West 72nd Street. I had completed Acts 1 and 2, and I wrote Act 4 scene C in New York as well as Act 5 scene C (the ending) and a draft of Act 3 scene 1. These were performed, with two piano accompaniment at the end of February 1982 following rehearsals at City College, New York with a mixture of students, semi-professional singers and singers, notably Wilhelmina Fernandez, who had recently starred in the film Diva and who was cast as Medea.

During this time, one of the rehearsal pianists showed me the pencils that he used for writing and recommended them to me. They were the Aztec Scoremaster 101 pencils that could be bought from Associated Music, West 55th Street. It transpired that as Associated Music also manufactured the pencils, this was the only place where they could be obtained. Associated Music was on an upper floor, reached via a lift, and was a place where that offered a combination of graphic supplies, chiefly to the music industry, and a dyeline facility for printing music from transparencies. This seemed to be used chiefly by musicians in the record industry and the Broadway musical theatre.

Although it has a softish lead (around 2B), the Aztec Scoremaster 101 holds its point much longer than other 2B pencils and the eraser is perfectly matched to the lead. But most critically for me - and for the rehearsal pianist who introduced me to the pencil - it photocopies very darkly, much darker and denser than other pencils and almost like ink. This became incredibly useful in the days before Schott became my publisher (some 12 years later) and in that period a photocopy of my handwritten full score had to serve as the conductor's copy (although individual parts were written out separately by professional copyists). With any commission I would get the cost of copying parts covered, but the score was my reproduced manuscript.

Even after I joined Schott, I still composed with pencil and paper (and continue to do so) and my photocopied score (now often sent as a scan) is the source for my editors (Sandy Brown and then Rose Moore) to work from and for Chris Hinkins - who is the best in the business - to produce engraved scores for publication.

This continued quite happily for many years. Each time I went to New York I would buy a dozen or so boxes. And if I didn't go for a while I would ask friends if they would collect a few for me. In the late 1980s I was even featured in The Independent newspaper as part of a series on things that people cannot live without. It was part of the colour section and there was a photograph of me with my pencils along with a short accompanying article. Not long after this appeared I was in New York and went in to the store to get more supplies. There was an excited shout of "It's him!!! It's him!!!" I was baffled until I saw a large reproduction of The Independent article and photo on the wall behind me...

The pencils were extremely reliable and the quality was absolutely consistent. There was one slightly alarming change when at some point the external colour of the pencil was changed from the original yellow to a kind of silver grey but it was stressed that the oencil was the same. I always felt however that there was a subtle change to the lead too, though this was not really quantifiable...


A few years ago, after I hadn't been to New York for some time, I was running short of pencils so I got in touch with Norman Ryan at my publisher's New York office to see if he might pop along and get a few boxes for me. To my horror he told me that Associated Music's shop was no longer there and that it had gone out of business some time ago. It seemed that, since the advent and success of Sibelius and other computer notation programmes with their part extraction facility, no one was using transparencies for producing parts any more - and as this had been their main business everything collapsed.

I was down to my last 6 pencils (half a box) at that time and was seriously worried so I searched online. But all Google searches turned up many references to Mexican religion, but never to pencils. In fact the only references to the pencils themselves at all were to my reported use of the pencil in various interviews and articles...

Part Two - Derwent Pencil Company

As my stocks of Aztec pencils started to dwindle, and as there seemed to be little hope of finding any, I looked for other options.

My daughter Orlanda visited the Cumberland Pencil Museum in Keswick when she was on holiday in the Lake District. She mentioned my plight to the museum and I then wrote to the Technical Manager of the Derwent Pencil Company, which runs the museum.

(Here is the correspondence with Barbara Murray, the Technical Director of the Derwent Pencil Company also via the Cumberland Pencil Museum, Keswick from late 2009)

Dear Barbara Murray

I am a composer of contemporary classical music and use pencil and paper, not computer for composition. Since 1982 I have used just one kind of pencil called Aztec Scoremaster 101, which I have always obtained from Associated Music, West 55th Street, New York. Each time I am in New York I have bought a dozen or so boxes. Recently, however, I have discovered that this company stopped trading some 4 years ago and they seem to have been the only source of these pencils. I have just half a box of unsharpened pencils and a few stubs. All attempts to find them via internet have failed (although I find lots of references to Mexican religion...). Their special qualities are: (1) although a softish pencil it holds its point for about ten times that of a 2B; (2) it photocopies very dark which is useful for sending handwritten scores to my editor; the eraser is perfectly matched to the lead (though this is less critical).

If it is not possible to find these pencils I would be quite prepared to have them manufactured for me, if it is possible to do this by analysing the pencils that I have. I have used other pencils from time to time in order to conserve my supply of Aztecs, but none work as well - and I dislike propelling pencils, which don't really have a very good point in any case. Any help would be very welcome.

(reply from Barbara Murray)

Dear Mr Bryars

I'm sorry to hear your pencils have become unavailable. From your description, I think we might have a pencil that could be similar. We

recently introduced a pencil called ONYX, which is quite black, but stronger than a normal graphite pencil.

I will send you a sample of the Onyx to try.

The difficulty in manufacturing special pencils for people is that we work in such large quantities - the smallest batch we could make here

would be well over 5000 pencils.

Here's hoping that onyx will work for you.

Kind regards

Barbara Murray

Technical Manager

The Cumberland Pencil Company

Derwent House, Jubilee Road,

Lillyhall Business Park,

Workington, Cumbria, CA14 4HS


Dear Barbara

Thank you for your prompt and very helpful reply. I will be pleased to try your ONYX pencil and if it works I will extremely happy.

I understand of course that there would be a minimum quantity if we were to look at manufacturing new pencils and I would, if necessary look at that as another option. Bearing in mind that I have written three operas, some fifteen concertos, four string quartets, countless choral and vocal works, I may well use up those 5000 before I die!!

With best wishes



December 10 2009

Dear Barbara


Thank you for calling yesterday and I enjoyed our discussion about the technical qualities of pencils, especially in my quest for something to take over from my rapidly disappearing Aztec Scoremaster101!

I enclose a stub from one of my pencils. This is from the second generation of pencils - the originals were yellow on the outside and I remain convinced that there was a slight change when they moved to the gold exterior, but I'm probably wrong.

I would be interested in your observations and ideas. I do like the Derwent pencils that I have, but I have become familiar with Aztec over the years, especially the way in which the point will hold so that I can write musical notation in fine detail.

With best wishes

Gavin Bryars

PS I will look out the article on the pencils that appeared in The Independent some years ago.

From: Gavin Bryars

Sent: 16 February 2010 16:24

To: Murray, Barbara

Subject: Pencils


Dear Barbara

You will remember our exchange about the Aztec Scoremaster 101, and that you looked at the two stubs which I sent you. You very kindly sent three Cumberland graphite pencils (HB) for me to try and I did indeed use them for writing my entire piano concerto, which I finished a few weeks ago and which is being premiered in Holland on Friday and Saturday.

Your pencils were very good, though not quite the same as the Aztec which may have been a little softer - perhaps B, though with the durability of an HB. The only down side with your pencils was the frequency with which the point broke off. This may have been because I do keep the point quite sharp, and employ an electric sharpener, in order to keep the musical notes and connecting lines, phrase marking and so on, quite precise.

If you think that this is indeed the closest you can get to the Aztec Scoremaster, short of manufacturing a clone (....) then I would like to order some, though I'd be interested in what you think about my using a B grade?

Can I order them over the phone, or online? I'd welcome your observation though before I do. I will be away in Holland for the performances from early Thursday morning until Sunday afternoon but will have my computer with me.

With my best wishes, and sincere thanks for all your help,


PS Is manufacture out of the question?


Dear Gavin

I'm glad the Cumberland graphite pencils were better than the other pencils. I have no problem with sending you a sample of the B grade to try before you buy. I will pop one in the post.

If you do want to order any of the pencils the best way is to do it through our pencil museum shop.  Follow this link for ordering instructions

I'm afraid a special manufacture isn't possible for the kind of quantities you have in mind.

Kind regards



Part Three - correspondence with Colin Matthews


This correspondence with Derwent had not taken me any further. But then I embarked on another extended exchange with composer Colin Matthews


December 9 2010

Dear Colin

Forgive my appearing of the blue as it were. I was speaking with Sally Groves this morning and the question arose about the pencils that I use. Since 1982 I have used only Aztec Scoremaster 101 pencils, which were only available from a music copy shop, Associated Music, on West 55th Street, New York. The shop went out of business as, since the advent of Sibelius and other part extraction systems, no one uses transparencies for producing parts - which was their main business.

I used to buy half a dozen boxes each time I was in New York, or get people to pick them up for me if I hadn't been there for some time. But now, as far as I can tell, Aztec doesn't exist and I am down to my last 6 pencils (maybe this reflects my mortality..)! All Google searches turn up references to Mexican religion, but never to pencils...

Sally mentioned to me that you had found specific pencils on ebay and that they might be the ones I use. Is this so? If it is I would love to find out and the world may, or may not, be happy to learn of my extended composing life!

With best wishes



December 9 2010

From Colin Matthews

Dear Gavin

At last a serious email!

But alas, I can't help you - the pencils I use are mechanical, Pentel Graph 1000, architects' pencils that went out of production about 10

years ago. I'd given up all hope of finding them again until I managed to buy half a dozen on ebay a few years back, but now they turn up quite regularly and I have a life's supply.  When I googled Aztec Scoremaster the only reference I could find was in an article about you in The Independent from 1998!

I have every sympathy: I had fantasies of giving up composing when my pencil supply ran out, and when I used to use pens, each time I found the perfect one - Rotring used to make one which was wonderful, but wore out quite quickly - it would be discontinued. I have a tiny stock of pens left, but I barely use them, and the last full scores I did by hand were in pencil.

I'll try a contact in New York who's very good at finding things like this: but I imagine you've exhausted all avenues. Although I know Aztec by name, I don't know what kind of pencil it is  - but I'm sure that there are no substitutes for something you've used for 30 years.

I do hope something turns up.

all best wishes -



December 9 2010

To Colin Matthews

Dear Colin

Thanks for getting back to me. I tried using mechanical pencils but was never happy with the quality of the point... Any information you get from New York would be interesting but I think I've exhausted that avenue. 

I even tried the Pencil Museum in Keswick, which is linked to a manufacturer, the Cumberland Pencil Company. Its technical director, Barbara Murray, sent me various pencils to try, which weren't bad but didn't quite fit the bill. I even sent her two stubs - one of the originals that were yellow, and one of the later gold ones. I remember that I had been disturbed by this change at the time that it happened, although I was told that the pencils were identical. I always felt there was a slight difference. They examined my Aztec stubs in Keswick and Barbara Murray did note a slight difference in the lead....

One day some PhD will dig up this correspondence and think we have lost our minds.

All the best


PS I remember that there was something about Sondheim's pencils in the Guardian a week or so ago, but when I dug it up it turned out to be of little use as he seems to enjoy frequent sharpening!! I copy below.

A sofa and a snooze: Sondheim on what he needs to compose a lyric

"The pencils I write with are Blackwings, a brand formerly made by Eberhard Faber but alas no longer. Their motto, printed proudly on the shaft, is "Half the pressure, twice the speed" and they live up to that promise. They utilise very soft lead, which makes them not only easy to write with (although extremely smudgy) but also encourages the user to waste time repeatedly sharpening them, since they wear out in minutes. They also have removable erasers which, when they have dried out, can be reversed to resume their softness.

I write on a yellow legal pad with 32 lines, allowing alternate words to be written above one another without either crowding or wasting the space. These pads are hard to find, as most come with fewer or more lined spaces. Having been warned that stationery supplies are frequently discontinued, I had the good sense to stock up on them, as well as the Blackwings, before they disappeared, and now have a lifetime supply.

Some people write sitting at a desk; some standing at one. I write lying down on a couch (except when I'm at the piano), for the obvious reason that it allows me to fall asleep whenever I encounter difficulties, which is often."

Extracted from Finishing the Hat by published by Virgin Books. Copyright © Stephen Sondheim, 2010.

PS Do you have the link for the 1998 Independent article? I've been looking for it for some time but can only find the one where the pencils are mentioned in passing, not the one where I just talk about pencils!!


December 9 2010

From Colin Matthews

is the only one I've found, with only the passing mention.

Let me know if you find the other one, so I can indulge my own obsession with pencils!



Part Four - further correspondence with Colin Mathews

March 5 2013

From Colin Matthews

Dear Gavin

A few years ago we had a pencil correspondence - did you ever track down any Aztec Scoremasters? I'm afraid I'm not writing to say I've tracked them down, and I'm sure no substitute is acceptable; but I recently came across Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils, which claim to be as used by Stephen Sondheim in their original form as made by Eberhard Faber, discontinued about 20 years ago and now (they also claim) faithfully reproduced. I have one, and it's certainly good quality.

Details at  

Another pencil I've had for years (given me in quantity by MTT) but hardly used is the Alpheus Music Writer, which used to be available from Judy Green Music, so probably also defunct.

There's a website at which might be worth posting on, though putting Aztec in the search got no results.

I hope all is well with you - pencils apart!




March 5 2013

To Colin Matthews

Dear Colin

Thanks for this email and for your current state of pencil awareness!

You're right, the Aztec Scoremaster 101 has gone into the shavings box of the Great Electrical Pencil Sharpener in the Sky. All searches throw up lots of information on Mexican religion but little else...

You might be interested to know that, after my daughter visited the Keswick Pencil Museum, I was in detailed correspondence about Aztecs with the technical director of the company that owns it - Derwent, I think. I sent her stubs of both the original Aztecs that I'd had in 1982 (yellow on the outside) and the later ones (silver on the outside) and she agreed with me that there was a subtle difference in the lead, even though Aztec claimed they were exactly the same! She sent me various pencils that they made, but none were suitable. I then asked if they could manufacture new pencils, working from the pencils that I sent her. She said that the minimum order would have to be 3000 and was staggered when I accepted! But then she had to admit that they really couldn't achieve what I was after, so we parted on good terms...

I did see an article some time ago in which Stephen Sondheim talked about his pencils and I obtained some, but they were no good at all. However, I have just ordered a box of the ones you mention even though the web site doesn't specify anything about the lead - Aztec was, roughly, 2B. I have also order some Music Writer pencils from the Judy Green website and I'll let you know what turns up!!

We will appear from the outside to be a pair of anoraks - and probably we are..

But I am well, and I hope you are too!

All the best



March 5 2013

From Colin Matthews

Dear Gavin

Do let me know how you get on! Both the Blackwing and the Music Writer are 2B, and the leads are nicely soft - in fact because of the thickness of the lead I've rarely used them, as I would have to be constantly resharpening them. You may have got the first attempt at remaking the Blackwing, which apparently was not a success : the current version came out in 2011 and has been approved as very near to the 1930s model. But who knows how fussy Sondheim is?

If you can stomach propelling pencils I can throughly recommend my Pentel Graph 1000, which can take a 3B 0.5 lead; but I suspect you would prefer 0.7, which doesn't seem to go beyond 2B and which I find a bit too hard. Another pencil I've started using which might appeal to you is an Austrian called Cretacolor Monolith, which is made of solid graphite with a shiny metallic coating and a very nice weight and feel.

We are not alone! I bumped into Harry (Birtwhistle) in the London Graphic Centre a while ago, and we spent a happy time discussing pencils - he won't use anything less than 3B, although he isn't so pernickety about the actual pencil.

Thanks for the distraction from composing - anything helps!




March 5 2013

To Colin Matthews

Dear Colin

I've now ordered some Cretacolour Monoliths too! I will indeed let you know what happens with all these deliveries.

Thanks for the information about the Pentel - John Casken once recommended these to me too (0.7) - but I don't get on with mechanical pencils. I don't mind constant sharpening as I have various electric pencil sharpeners, both battery and mains operated and keep some at our home on the West coast of Canada too.

I don't know if you remember the film about David Hockney "A Bigger Splash" (Patrick Gowers did the music). I was always struck by the fact that Hockney had an assistant who just sharpened pencils!!!

We could on forever. Maybe there is a jointly composed opera here....

All the best



Part Five - email exchange with Jen Lindsay and triumph!

(November 2015 email from Jen Lindsay)

On 25 Nov 2015, at 10:40, Jen Lindsay <> wrote:

Dear Gavin Bryars

I have a box with seven and a half Aztec Scoremaster 101s which I will not use (the yellow painted ones, bought in June 1995 for me by a friend in NY) and which you are welcome to have if you want them...let me know where to send them and I'll post them to you.


jen lindsay


Dear Jen

This is the most astonishing out-of-the-blue email I have ever received. Not only do you have some Aztec Scoremaster 101 pencils, but you have the original yellow ones! I am down to my last 6, and these are the ones with the silver finish, which are slightly different. For the last few years I have been using Blackwing 602 ("Half the pressure, Twice the speed") in order to avoid running out of Aztecs completely...

How did you come across them in the first place?

I am performing in Helsinki this week and return to UK at the weekend. But if you could send me your pencils I would be incredibly grateful. My address is at the foot of the email. Perhaps I could send you something in order to reciprocate? Do you have my albums? Or are there some that you don't have? I have just released remastered versions of my first two original Obscure Records for example, and I will gladly send copies - or of anything else.

With many thanks 



Dear Gavin

I am delighted by your delight! 

I will enclose with them a copy of the letter my friend Christopher sent to me in 1995 describing how he got them - it all happened because there was a short piece about you in one of the colour supplements, in which it said you used only Aztec Scoremasters, which you got in New York. Just as a matter of interest (and because I like good pens/pencils) I sent it to Christopher (who is a calligrapher, lives in Astoria NY), and his letter tells the story of what happened next...

No need to reciprocate - a kind and generous thought, but your obvious pleasure is enough - and the knowledge that they're going to the right home. 

I, too, am using Blackwing 602 - for some atavistic reason I didn't feel I could use the Aztecs (although obviously I have used four and a half!): they seemed too precious!

Hope current performance going/goes well (I am of course only familiar with 'Jesus's Blood').




Dear Jen

Do you have anywhere a copy of the article from the colour supplement? It was in the Independent, I think in their Saturday supplement, and was for a series that they ran on "things that I can't live without" or something like that.

I'd thought about putting an account of my love affair with the Aztec Scoremaster on my web site and it would be nice to include the article. I had a copy once, but it was at a time when I had managers looking after me and all the press material went into their press books and I haven't been able to locate them all.

There was, for example, a lovely moment a little while after the article came out. I was in New York and went to Associated Music. When I went through the door (I remember it was a few floors up) there was a cry of "it's him!!!"

I was a bit baffled until I saw that they had a large colour blow up of the article and picture on the wall by the door... They were really pleased to meet me...




Dear Gavin

Alas, I do not have a copy...but it would be a charming story to put on your website.

I rung the back issues dept. of The Independent, but they weren't very helpful: charge £25 per hour to make a physical search as they have no digital archive.

HOWEVER: The British Library has The Independent archive (on microfilm if I understand the notes correctly) and I found a reference no. for the Independent magazine. If, therefore, you have an idea of the date of the article I can go and do some research: I have a BL Reader's card and it's easy/not far for me to go.

Whilst I had the pencils and no longer the article, and time passed, I no longer knew to whom the article had referred, and no means of finding out until, thanks to the facility of the web I found you when I typed in 'Aztec Scoremaster'.

I bet the blow up of the article Associated Music had on the wall was the one I sent to Christopher (with whom I have unfortunately lost touch) -  he says in the letter I have copied for you that he showed it to them - and perhaps he gave it to them? How good to close that circle now, by returning your pencils to you. Will post them on Sat. so you get them Monday, is that OK?




Dear Jen

I will investigate the Independent article and maybe if I have a more diligent look through my former managers' files I might find something.

When we parted company (amicably) about 15 years ago I was given two filing cabinets with collected papers - contract, accounts, correspondence, photographs, details of every project we did or even started - and I had neither the time nor, really, the inclination to go through it all. There is always the danger that, in looking for something, one finds something nearby or alongside and then one embarks on a circuitous trail. You mention your BL membership, and I had a card from the mid-70s onwards when I was doing research on Duchamp and, more thoroughly, on Lord Berners. This often involved visiting the Newspaper Library in Colindale and, when I found  the page for which I had a reference, would find myself reading the next page, and then perhaps the sports page and so on (in those day I was given the physical newspaper).

It sounds entirely plausible that it was Christopher who was responsible for the blow up being there - they said that it had been given to them as they certainly did not get the Independent themselves. And that does give a quite poetic circularity to the whole adventure...

Perhaps I should now write the complete story on my web sit...

All the best



Dear Gavin

Yes, write it now, whilst it's in your head...(would that I could take my own advice)...I was just thinking that this would make one of those wonderful essays in London Review of Books (or perhaps New York Review of Books).

Like you, I am always straying/being diverted up interesting tributaries that lead off the main stream, but they are fascinating and, heavens, you learn so much.



Dear Jen

A note to let you know that your package - probably the most carefully packed that I have ever received with its skilful combination of bubble wrap of various sizes, and airbags - arrived safely this morning.

There were several things in it that exceeded my expectations and there was, of course, the initial thrill of opening the box itself.

In the first place I hadn't realised that your pencils are the original yellow ones, whose passing I regretted at the time that they were changed to silver, and it took me some time to become accustomed to the new ones (I only have one small stub from the Yellow Period). Secondly I didn't realise until I read Christopher's letter that Associated Music had been so alert to my feelings about the yellow ones, so much so that they seem to have been holding back some old pencils just for me! And I didn't know too that it was you who had sent him the clipping from the Independent, and which he took with him to Associated Music. And I didn't know that 333 W.52nd Street (between 8th & 9th Avenues) was in an area known as Hell's Kitchen!

It's touching, too, that these pencils had been given to you when you moved to your new home - and that this is a place where you still live (I tend to stay for long periods in one house - I've been here since 1992).

Oddly enough, I've encountered a minor compositional block with a piece that I'm trying to finish and I will see if switching to the Aztecs will have any effect! It's the first time that this has happened since just before I moved here in 1992 and it is mildly annoying: I'll let you know if you have managed to break the ice...

I haven't had chance to read the Virginia Wolff piece but I will very soon.

With many many thanks



Dear Jen

I wondered whether you might want to have a photo of the box of Aztecs, so here it is - one of the closed box, and the other open. I also attach a photo of my last box of (metallic gold) Aztecs, as well as two stubs. One of these was, until you appeared as the Pencil Angel from On High, my last and only yellow one...

I just spent a happy 30 minutes putting together the correspondence between me and composer Colin Matthews about pencils. I think I should put all this together into one piece, though I'd like to locate the Independent article first.

All the best











Posted by: Gavin | 28 October 2015 - 11:12pm

1. Cadman Requiem at Kings Place October 24 2015

Over a year ago I planned a concert with my ensemble and David Wordsworth's Addison Singers to be part of the yearlong festival Minimalism Unwrapped at Kings Place. It included the fairly obvious Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, which dates from 1971 - the early period of Minimalism. I made a new instrumental arrangement for the piece as well as writing a further cue for the choir in addition to the three that already existed and which we'd used at St Pancras Parish Church a year ago. We had a stellar string section for the occasion, comprising four violas, four celli and two basses, plus electric guitar and tenor horn, as well as the four musicians from The London Snorkelling Team that I'd worked with at the College of 'Pataphysics' New Year's Eve event in September (see Among the strings was one of the world's finest viola players, Garth Knox, who had also been at the 'Pataphysical dinner, and who graciously, and happily, agreed to play third viola...

Violas: Morgan Goff; Nick Barr; Garth Knox, Katie Wilkinson

Cellos: Nick Cooper, Sophie Harris, Audrey Riley, Zeynep Kepekli

Bass: Gavin Bryars, Yuri Bryars

James Woodrow: guitars

Tenor horn: Dave Smith

With the London Snorkeling Team:

Trombone: Pascal Wyse

Bass clarinet: Ross Hugh

Electric keyboard: Chris Branch

Percussion: Tom Haines

Given that the Vice Curatrice of the Collège de 'Pataphysique was in the audience, it is worth noting the high proportion (40%) of 'pataphysicians in the ensemble...

In addition to Jesus' Blood there were some instrumental pieces by my ensemble as well as a new lauda, Lauda 44, written specially for the Addison Singers. And we also decided to include a version of Cadman Requiem that I had made for choir and my ensemble.

The original version, composed shortly after Bill Cadman's death in the Lockerbie bombing, was for the four voices of the Hilliard Ensemble (counter tenor, 2 tenors and baritone) with a string trio (2 violas and cello). This instrumentation became a six-part viol consort for the Point Records recording in 1998 and for the Lockerbie Memorial Concert in December 1998, when Fretwork played with the Hilliard. A recording of this concert was subsequently released on GB Records (BCGBCD03) and is still available.

The Hilliard Ensemble performed the requiem many times over the following years, but their very specific and unusual combination of voices meant that it was not likely to be performed by other groups. So, in due course I arranged it for five-part choir (SAT BarB) with organ accompaniment. I made a recording of this version with the Latvian Radio Choir and this was released on my second album with the choir, (BCGBCD09 "Glorious Hill"). I also made a further arrangement, for male choir, and performed it with the Estonian National Men's Choir as Kaspars Putnins conducted both them and the Latvians.

In 2009 I made a new version for a concert with John Potter's choir at York University, The 24, that uses exactly the same vocal arrangement as the choral version, but replaces the organ with my four-part ensemble - viola, cello, electric guitar and double bass. As the Kings Place concert on October 24 2015 featured my ensemble both with and without choir, we performed this version - only the second time.

The performance was very good indeed: there was a virtually full house, the choir sang beautifully and David had found two excellent soloists, tenor Tom Kelly and baritone Thomas Flint, for the two solo sections of the work.

2. Martin Cadman

Two years ago I wrote a journal entry about the funeral of Rita Cadman, Bill's mother, and that occasion was the last time that I saw Martin, her husband. Bill's brother Richard kept me up to date about Martin and sent me a touching photograph of him in his care home that had their wedding photograph in the background.

Martin died peacefully on October 7th aged 91, and I dedicated the performance of Cadman Requiem at Kings Place to him. The piece had become an important one for him, and for the whole family, and they came to as many performances as they could - Richard had even been at the premiere in France in April 1989. The funeral took place on Monday, October 26th, just two days after the concert. Quite remarkably Martin's grandson William, a professor of physics at the University of Chicago, had got an earlier flight from America and Julia managed to get four tickets for the performance (which was virtually sold out) so that four family members were able to be there!

My son Yuri (who had played bass in Jesus' Blood) went with me to the funeral, which was held in the same church in North Norfolk as Rita's - the very beautiful St Margaret's Church, Burnham Norton. Martin and Rita are buried in the same church graveyard from where, looking north from the low hillside, the sea forms a blue line on the horizon just beyond the flat land below the church. The church is an unusual one, having a circular stone tower like a few others in the area, which, as Yuri discovered, means that it predates the Norman Conquest. Just like the day of Rita's funeral, the weather was sunny and bright, though a little chilly and in a sense the whole occasion was like a mirror image of that day: Rita was buried in the Spring, shortly after the clocks went forward an hour to summer time; Martin's funeral was in the Autumn, two days after the clocks were turned back to winter time.

As before the whole family was there. The funeral was quite simple and each member of the family made a personal contribution. The Processional Music was Verdi's Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves that had also been played at Bill's funeral in Putney in 1989, though here played very touchingly on the one manual organ. Martin's daughter Julia read "Thought of St John Chrysostom" and Marion read Wordsworth's poem "Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802" - the choice reflecting Martin's great love of London. His granddaughters Lucy and Rebecca read Thomas Hardy's "Heredity" and granddaughter Cecilia sang a solo - as she had at Rita's funeral, though this time singing the first verse of a hymn (courageously) completely unaccompanied. The hymn was "O Ruler of the earth and sky" reflecting Martin's love of flying and which I didn't know, except in its original maritime version "Eternal Father, strong to save" (my elder brother was at sea). In fact, when Richard and Jane got married they had "Eternal father" in the service. And on that occasion it had been dedicated to the location of the church (in East Fife, at a small church in St Monan's - the "church closest to the sea" that became the title of a later piece of mine) and to Bill. When he told Martin that they were going to do this, he told Richard that there was an airman's version of the same hymn, which was the first he knew of it.

Richard gave the eulogy, eloquently and without notes, which elicited the surprising fact, for me, that Martin had composed music! In knowing Martin for nearly 27 years I had no inkling of this. But I then noticed that the Order of Service listed the Recessional Music as "Happily Ever After by MH Cadman" and, sure enough, there was an upbeat show-type tune to take us out, smiling...

Martin was absolutely devoted to Rita and to his entire family and was one of the most remarkable men I have ever known. He had many practical skills and I spent one afternoon driving with him along narrow Norfolk roads in the Triumph Roadster that he was constantly renovating: people moved to one side and applauded as we drove past. He had a very strong sense of right and wrong and he was the most persistent debunker of myths and pomposity. He was also the most indefatigable and (as Richard put it) incisively "forensic" questioner of officialdom, government ministers, police and lawyers in his search for the truth about Lockerbie. His pursuit was invariably courteous but ruthless and he won the respect of both the victims' families and those who were the object of his questioning.

The funeral had been very beautiful and afterwards I spoke with Derek, the quietly impressive and solidly built sexton who I'd spoken with before Rita's funeral. He remembered me and we shared a powerful handshake. He had dug Martin and Rita's grave by hand, just as he had with the majority of the graves in this churchyard, as well as in about a hundred other graveyards in the area over the last 38 years...

V In Paradisum (from Cadman Requiem)

In paradisum deductant Angeli: in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres,

et perducant te in civitatem sanctam.

Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem.

May the angels receive thee in paradise; at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee into the Holy City.  There may the choir of angels receive thee and with Lazarus, once a beggar, may thou have eternal rest.




The former labour MP Tam Dalyell, very much involved in Lockerbie, wrote a fine obituary for Martin in The Independent. It includes my favourite photo of Martin, climbing into (or out of) the cockpit of an RAF fighter plane - a Harvard - with the confident, cheerful, positive expression that typified the man.

Posted by: Gavin | 7 October 2015 - 12:58am

Etel Adnan Event

Gavin Bryars: It Never Rains (2010) for viola, cello, electric guitar, double bass

Gavin Bryars: The Island Chapel (1997) for voice and ensemble

Etel Adnan: Five Senses for One Death, Etel Adnan, reader; Gavin Bryars, keyboard

Gavin Bryars: The Flower of Friendship (2009) for viola, cello, electric guitar, double bass

Gavin Bryars: The Adnan Songbook (1996) for soprano and ensemble 


Anna Maria Friman, soprano;

Roger Heaton, bass clarinet/clarinet

James Woodrow, electric guitar/classical guitar

Nick Barr, viola

Morgan Goff, viola

Nick Cooper, cello

Gavin Bryars, double bass

- and Etel Adnan, reader

The event at the Whitechapel Gallery, part of a series Music for Museums, brought together the various ways in which I have worked with my dear friend Etel Adnan over the years.

I met Etel Adnan for the first time in February 1984, in the monastery of La Sainte Baume in the mountains inland from Marseille. I was composing the French section of Robert Wilson's monumental The CIVIL WarS and she was to be the writer, the librettist, for my section of the opera. The work there was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Effectively we had two weeks to make an opera out of nothing. Etel’s task was to provide texts, mine was to set them to to music. We were attempting to draft a three-hour opera in only two weeks!

Etel and I got on very well and became very good friends. The opera, however, was never completed and little remains from it. The whole project eventually had to be abandoned but I kept my setting of Etel’s poem La Reine de la Mer that I wrote there, and included it in the cantata Effarene (the name of a Jules Verne character in a little known short story), which had its premiere four weeks after we left La Sante Baume. It was later also included in The Paper Nautilus.

The most substantial piece that I wrote with her is the Adnan Songbook (1992-6), for soprano and six players, which sets eight love poems from her collection The Indian Never Had a Horse. In many ways this work is a kind of portrait of my ensemble since it was written very specifically for these musicians, and Anna Maria Friman is the perfect singer for the solo soprano part.

 In 1997 I wrote another work, The Island Chapel, for the Tate Gallery St Ives to be performed in a tiny chapel (capacity ten people) on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I set two self-contained poems Crossing no.3 and Crossing no.4 from Etel's extended poem The Manifestations of the Voyage. This was initially just for voice, keyboard and cello - which meant that there could only be six people in the audience. I later expanded it for my ensemble as well as chamber orchestra. Since then I have occasionally accompanied Etel reading her own poetry - at Michael Shamberg's Turtle event at Chelsea ArtSpace in 2006, at the Serpentine Gallery's Poetry Marathon in 2013, and now here, where she reads her poem Five Senses for One Death, while I play keyboard. For me, Etel is a great, great writer and an artist of the highest quality and greatest integrity. She is also a wonderful human being whose company I enjoy and whose friendship I cherish.

Live performance as part of Music for Museums, Whitechapel Gallery, 2015

Courtesy Whitechapel Gallery





Posted by: Gavin | 6 October 2015 - 10:54pm

I attended, for the first time, the annual 'Pataphysical New Year's Eve dinner in Paris this year, where along with The London Snorkelling Team, I performed a sequence of short pieces, being The Musical Illustrations to Sherlock Holmes' Treatise On the Polyphonic Motets of Orlando di Lassus. During the evening there was a ceremony in which I was elected Transcendent Satrap, the highest order within the Collège: having been a Regent (of Holmèsologie Musical et Hyponoïa) for the last 15 years or so and a member of the college for over 40 years. Previous Satraps in the college's history have included Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Jean Ferry and curent ones include Umberto Eco and Fernando Arrabal, who was with me on stage. The citation was read by Thieri Foulc and he, along with Arrabal and Paul Gayot made up the group with me on stage. The presentation followed our musical performance and then we had dinner, where I sat with Her Magnificence Tanya Peixoto and Alastair Brotchie, who runs the London Institute of 'Pataphysics (The Snorkelling Team is the offical orchestra of LIP).

1. Rehearsing with LST

2. Receiving the award (Left to right: Paul Gayot, floor level), Thieri Foulc, Arrabal, GB


3. GB Speaks

4 Her Magnificence Tanya Peixoto, with Ornella Volta, Head of the Erik Satie Foundation, to left. GB has been British Ambassador for the Satie Foundation for many years.

5. Receiving the award (Tanya Peixoto, foreground; Garth Knox, centre)


6. Regent Certificate


7. OGG Certificate

8. Satrap Certificate



Posted by: Gavin | 6 October 2015 - 10:32pm

In March this year Long Beach Opera created a new production of Marilyn Forever at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, California. There had been performances earlier that month in Adelaide of the original Canadian production, though with a different cast from that of the premiere in 2013. Andreas Mitisek's production involved having two singers play the part of Marilyn, that is the part was divided between them (and occasionally they sang in unison). One was the more introspective, melancholic Marilyn, the other being the outgoing, vivacious star. They were on opposite sides of the stage, separated by a sideways-on dressing room mirror, except for the final, posthumous scene, when they came together.

He also used many film devices such as projections of old footage, still photographs, but most originally he had the two singer swho make up the small choral element, The Tritones, carry small video cameras. The images from these camers showed close ups of the live action and were themselves simultaneously projected on to screens and gauze.

The production was a revelation.

As in Victoria and Adelaide, I played the on-stage jazz bass part, though only for the first night...


Posted by: Gavin | 27 February 2015 - 11:32pm

Adelaide Fsetival

From the end of February until March 5th I was guest composer at the Adelaide Festival where I had a very dense schedule and did 6 performances in 12 days. This comprised 3 performances of my opera Marilyn Forever, with Aventa from Canada and with a new cast; two full evenings of various combinations of my ensemble, sometimes with Australian guest performers; and a full concert where I conducted the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. 

It was a massive piece of logistics, which was overseen with consummate skill, good humour and affection by Jude Gun who had the misfortune to be assigned to my projects...

This was the programme:

Marilyn Forever, chamber opera February 27, 28, March 1 

Anne Grimm, soprano; Richard Morris, baritone

On stage jazz trio: Julien Wilson, Tenor saxophone; Robert Holliston, piano; Gavin Bryars, double bass

Aventa Ensemble (Canada), , conducted by Bill Linwood

GB Ensemble Programme 1 March 3

Lauda Dolçe I (2008) solo cello, electric guitar, double bass

Lauda 4 "Oi me lasso" (2002) soprano and tenor

Lauda 13 "Stomme Allegro" (2003) soprano, tenor, ensemble

Lauda 19 "Omne Homo" (2003) soprano, tenor, electric guitar, bass

The Flower of Friendship (2009) electric guitar, viola, cello, double bass

From The Morrison Songbook (2012) soprano, tenor, ensemble

- Interval -

Lauda con sordino (2009) solo viola, electric guitar, piano

Lauda 42 "Salutiam devotamente" (2012) soprano, tenor, ensemble

From the Irish Madrigals (2004) soprano, tenor, 2 violas, cello, bass, acoustic guitar

(Eight 1, Eight 2, Eight 3, Nine 3 (cello part instead of bass clarinet), Eight 4, Eight 5,

Eight 7, Nine 8 (low tenor solo), Eight 8)

Lauda 28 "Amor dolce senza pare" (2006) soprano, electric guitar, tenor, viola, cello, bass

Peyee Chen, Soprano; John Potter, Tenor; Morgan Goff viola; Imants Larsens, viola; James Woodrow, electric and acoustic guitars Nick Cooper, cello; Gavin Bryars, double bass, piano

GB Ensemble Programme 2 March 4

Part 1 With The Song Company

3 songs from Second Book of Madrigals (2002) c.9'

(The Song Company)

It Never Rains (2010) - electric guitar, viola, cello, bass 6'

Lauda 38 (2009) - SATB, electric guitar, viola, cello, bass 6'

The Song Company +GB Ensemble))

From Sixth Book of Madrigals (new works) 2014-15 c.16'

(The Song Company)

- first interval -

Part 2 Nothing like the Sun (2007) c.52'

Eight Shakespeare sonnet settings (sonnets 60, 123, 128, 94,102, 146, 55, 64)

Peyee Chen, Soprano; John Potter, Tenor; Morgan Goff viola; James Woodrow, electric and acoustic guitars Nick Cooper, cello; Gavin Bryars, double bass; Speaking voice, Gavin Friday +Australians: Anna Coleman, Clarinet/ bass clarinet; Rebecca Lagos, Percussion (includes cimbalom); Imants Larsens, viola; Roland Peelman, Piano          

- second interval -

Part 3 Mercy and Grand (Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan arr. Gavin Bryars)

A Little Drop of Poison


Whistle Down the Wind

A Little Rain

You're Innocent When You Dream


Georgia Lee

Train Song

Barbara Allan

The Briar and the Rose


(+ Johnsburg, Illinois)

Jess Walker, voice; Gavin Bryars, Bass/harmonium; James Woodrow, Electric guitar; Morgan Goff, violin, Nick Cooper, cello + Australian players:  Rebecca Lagos, percussion; Roland Peelman, Piano/harmonium; Julien Wilson, Tenor sax/bass clarinet; James Crabb, accordion

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra March 5

Soloists: Anna Fraser, soprano; Alexander Knight, baritone

Conductor: Gavin Bryars

Howard Skempton: Lento (1991) - full orchestra

Bryars: The Porazzi Fragment for 21 solo strings (1999)

Arvo Pärt: If Bach had been a beekeeper  - orchestra

Bryars: Ennelina's aria from G - Anna Fraser, soprano

Bryars: Epilogue from G  - Alex Knight, bass

- interval -

Bryars: Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet  - full orchestra

GB and Jess Walker 


GB and Robert Hollingsworth (onstage pianist in Marilyn Forever)

Singers Peyee Chen and Jess Walker; cellist Nick Cooper and guitarist James Woodrow outside the Elder hall, Adelaide