Posted by: Gavin | 21 January 2012 - 9:39pm

I wrote Biped for Merce Cunningham in 1999 and have performed the piece live many times with the company. After Merce's death in 2009 the company continued to perform his work up to the end of 2011 - a Legacy Tour. In the last period of this tour, between October and December, I played for the final performances in London (Barbican Theatre, October 8), Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM, December 8) and the final performances of all: five - four evenings and one afternoon - at the Theatre de la Ville, Paris (December 20-23). I spent a lot of time during ths whole period with my good friend Tony Creamer, the treasurer of the Cunningham Company. At the time of the London performance he visited me in my village and we had dinner in London, along with my wife and three of my children;in New York our plans for dinner didn't materialise so instead we went to see my old collaborator and friend Bill Frisell at the Village Vanguard; in Paris my wife, son and other daughter (who wasn't in London) were there too. It was an emotional time: poignant and a little sad, but at the same times a celebration of one of the greatest choreographers of all time.

Posted by: Gavin | 12 April 2011 - 11:59am

Juan Muñoz, a tribute

Juan Muñoz (died August 28th 2001)

 

I was extremely shocked and upset when I learned of Juan's sudden death, which happened when he was on holiday with his family on Ibiza. I was on the west coast of Canada, where we live in the summer, and a friend called me to let me know the news.

Juan and I first met when Artangel asked me to speak with him about a possible collaboration. He was in England for an exhibition at the Hayward gallery and, simultaneously, he was undertaking projects outside the gallery confines, this being Artangel's principle area of interest. One of the projects he realised was his Monument on the South Bank of the Thames, which gives the sense of being some kind of memorial but, in reality, (like many 'monuments') is a bogus testament to nothing at all. As such it provides the kind of double-take that was so much the key to many Fluxus pieces from the 1950's onwards (though I suppose a monument can hardly be said to be in 'flux'). This particular piece performed a similar function to Juan's spurious anthropology with his Posa in the elegantly presented pamphlet entitled Segment.

The project which we developed, however, was for a sound piece and I was initially curious that a sculptor should be interested in working with a musician, especially on a project for radio. We met and found inevitably that we had many things in common - he had studied at Croydon Art College with Bruce Maclean at about the time I was teaching in the Environmental Design department; there were details in his iconography which mirrored my passion for Twin Peaks (the recurring dwarf, the patterned floors) and so on. Coincidentally in 1992 I found myself devising a project for the Chateau d'Oiron in France only to find that Juan had a piece in a collective work already installed there, the Jardin Bestarium - his "siffleur" (theatrical prompter) yet another example of the dwarf, and in the same year we both, along with Cristina Iglesias (his wife) contributed to the Seville exhibition Los Ultimos Dias, designed as a counterbalance to the potentially excessive millennium celebrations already in the offing.

The idea that Juan had in mind for our collaboration was for us to create a series of pieces for radio. Naturally the idea of working with a sculptor in a non-visual medium was interesting and challenging, especially when it emerged that what we would be dealing with was the idea of describing actions which  themselves cause visual illusion and trickery, and placing them in some kind of broadcasting framework.

Our discussion about radio resurrected my long-standing interest in the work of Glenn Gould, whose highly original approach to recording techniques in record production was paralleled by a vision of radio as a creative medium ("Radio as Music"). I would place the piece that we made together - A Man in a Room, Gambling - as one of the most highly enjoyable projects that I have worked on, and for both of us it represented a mature and clearly thought through collaboration.

The original version gave us a series of short recorded pieces, ten in all, designed for radio broadcast. Juan read short texts, though each was expanded to fit a five-minute format, and I wrote string quartet accompaniments. Five of these programmes, in revised orchestrations for my ensemble, were eventually released on CD (A Man in a Room, Gambling, Point Music). We also started to perform them with Juan reading the texts live, and this was a new departure for him, and was something that made him extremely nervous but which he did with great professionalism and style. When we filmed one of these 5-minute pieces for the profile that German TV was making about me we also spoke about my idea for a chamber opera based on the life, and especially the dramatic last days, of the author of the book on card manipulation, S.W.Erdnase, which Juan used as the source for his texts. Juan was very interested in being involved with the design of this opera, which would feature live card manipulation among other things.

It makes me unbelievably sad to think now of his death. It is doubly sad because Juan was such a vitally alive person and the last occasions when I met with Juan and Cristina in June - first when they both came to the concert at the Purcell Room with my Tozai piece, and then again at the special dinner for Juan at the Tate Modern prior to the opening - were such great occasions. At the time Juan had been working incredibly hard on Double Bind, the Tate installation, as well as on the retrospective exhibition of his work to open in Washington in October 2001 and continue on to other US cities (Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago) over the next year or so.

After all the pressure that Juan had been under to complete the piece for Tate Modern, it was good to be able to spend time together in a relaxed environment. Juan was on good form and we talked about meeting up, after we would both have been away for the summer, to talk about my plan to issue all 10 of the original versions of A Man in a Room, Gambling, and also to develop the ideas we had spoken about for a chamber opera based on the last days of S.W. Erdnase (provisionally called Erdnase? Who was Erdnase?). His death put an end to this, but I will now go ahead with the release of the full set of A Man in a Room, Gambling on GB Records, of course working closely with his family and with James Lingwood from Artangel. I will also make the chamber opera at some time in the future.

Juan was an amazing person - probably the most generous and quixotic person I have ever met - and a wonderful artist. I think about him a lot and will miss him dreadfully.

Postscript

It was some small consolation to be able to take an active part in the memorial event at the Tate Modern on September 30th, where many people spoke about Juan. Bill Hawkes and I played a version of The North Shore (viola and piano) as well as the piece which Alberto Iglesias - Cristina's brother and a fine composer - had written after Juan's death Lacrimae for Juan. This was originally for viola solo, but Alberto added a piano part when he knew that I would be playing piano that evening. Bill also played the adagio from Bach's G minor violin sonata (transcribed for viola, in C minor). I add the full programme below.

Memorial Evening for Juan Muñoz (Turbine Hall, Tate Modern)

 

Sunday September 30 2001

6.30 PM Doors open  Guests arrive through Main Entrance

Monteverdi  Fourth Book of Madrigals (recorded)

7.00 PM Tribute begins

John Berger       

Sir Nicholas Serota          

James Lingwood

Gavin Bryars: The North Shore

(Piano: Gavin Bryars Viola:  Bill Hawkes)

Juliao Sarmento

Richard Noble

Neal Benezra

Vicente Todoli

Bach:  Adagio from G minor Violin Sonata  (transcribed for viola)

(Bill Hawkes Viola)

Louise Neri

Adrian Searle        

Alberto Iglesias      

MINUTE'S SILENCE

Alberto Iglesias: Lacrimae for Juan 

Piano: Gavin Bryars

Viola:  Bill Hawkes

END OF TRIBUTE

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 24 February 2011 - 12:29pm

Gavin's note

On March 5th we will finally put together the whole of the Anáil Dé project, which Iarla O'Lionaird and I have worked on for over three years. Anáil Dé, which translates as "The Breath of God", is based on settings of Old Irish spiritual texts dating from the 8th to the 16th century. It is a collaboration between me and the great Irish singer Iarla O'Lionáird, the finest Irish singer of his generation who, while working within the tradition of sean-nós, has also produced acclaimed work that fuses this tradition with contemporary music. Anáil Dé sets a number of texts in an early form of Gaelic, chiefly from a collection of poetry called Lón Anama ("food for the soul"). The five-part accompanying ensemble are all members of my ensemble: electric guitarist James Woodrow; violas Nick Barr and Morgan Goff; cellist Nick Cooper; and myself on double bass. 

Iarla will also sing a number of traditional sean-nós songs. Included as part of Anáil Dé is a 16th century lament, Tuirimh Mhic Fhinin Dhuibh, which I arranged and which is the first piece we did together - for Real World in 2005.

Apart from being a great singer, Iarla is also a good friend....

There is a video from a rehearsal of one of the songs in Limerick (2009)

http://www.muzu.tv/imeall/iarlaolionairdandgavinbryars-iarla-o-lionaird-and-gavin-bryars-live-on-imeall-music-video/188942?country=ie&locale=en

 

Posted by: Gavin | 3 February 2011 - 6:24pm

The Morrison Songbook sets texts by my long time collaborator Blake Morrison. Blake had written a number of poems intended to be set as madrigal texts for my First Book of Madrigals. Thirteen poems were used for that collection using those that were written from the male point of view. For a concert in London (November 2010) I re-wrote seven of these madrigals for tenor (John Potter) and members of my ensemble (James Woodrow, electric guitar; Morgan Goff, viola; Nick Cooper, cello; and myself on double bass). When we performed these songs again in Orléans some two months later, my other singer Anna Maria Friman was with us. She had taken time out from the ensemble when she was pregnant and came back after her twin boys were six months old. I decided to have two of the songs sung by her, which were not specifically male in orientation, and the others by John. These worked quite well and I remembered that, shortly after writing the madrigal poems, Blake had included them in his Selected Poems but alternated the male poems with female one. So I am now adding some of these other poems, for Anna, to give her six songs and John seven. The additional songs will be added later this year

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 22 January 2011 - 7:58pm

1. BCGBCD18 Mercy and Grand

A live recording of Opera North's Project' on the songs of Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan from the ensemble's final concerts in Leeds at the end of its 2008 tour.

 UK Release April 2 2012

 

2. BCGBCD19 

Recording in the Faroe Islands of two works for solo voices, choir and chamber orchestra,following a performance in Nordic House, Torshavn, plus a short piece for choir to be recorded in February 2012..

The pieces are: From Egil's Saga, written in 2004 for the Faroese bass Rúni Brattaberg setting texts in old Icelandic by Egil Skalgrimmson; Trondúr í Gøtu, commissioned for the unveling of a statue of the 10th century Faroese hero in 2008, for Rúni Brattaaberg and Eivør Pálsdóttir (who will sing the principle part in my new opera on Marilyn Monroe to be premiered in January 2013); and Hitt Blinda Li∂i∂ (The Company of the Blind) for choir, guitar and double bass, setting a poem by the 20h century Faroese poet Christian Matras. The chamber orchestra is the Faroese ensemble Aldubáran and the choir is Eystanljo∂

 

3. BCGBCD20

This is planned to be an orchestral album featuring a live recording from Holland of The War in Heaven, a big piece for soprano (Anja-Nina Bahrmann), counter tenor (Maarten Engeltjes), choir and orchestra, conducted by Brad Lubman. It was recorded by Netherlands radio in the Mukiekgebouw, Amsterdam. I am in discussion with Mainz Opera House about the possibility of adding to this the Epilogue from my third opera G, recorded Mainz, with solo bass Hans-Otto Weiss and conducted by Gernot Sahler

4. BCGBCD21 Anail Dé

A project with Irish singer Iarla O'Lionaird - section on "Other Ensembles" for more information on this work. http://www.gavinbryars.com/performance/other/anáil-dé

 

5. BCGBCD22 I Tatti Madrigals

Discussions are under way about recording, with Singer Pur, all the pieces that I have written as commissions for the Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies, near Florence. These set texts by Petrach, Bronzino, Battiferri and Michelangelo Buonarotti il Giovane.

 

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 5 January 2011 - 10:43am

The new project with Edouard Lock looks to the Baroque and involves a reworking of music from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, just as our previous collaboration, Amjad, took the Romantic ballet - Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty as its source. As Edouard has said, baroque musical structures tend to lend themselves well to contemporary dance and offer points to which contemporary choreography can attach itself, while avoiding period mannerisms. Our very first collaboration, 2 in 1995, had looked at a different area of the baroque, putting works by Rameau alongside music that I had written related to that music, scored for traditional and amplified harpsichords.

The music is played live by a small ensemble, four players, directed by pianist Njo Kong Kie, who also directed Amjad. The other instruments are viola (Jennifer Thiessen, who also performed with Amjad), cello (Jean-Christophe Lizotte) and saxophones (Ida Toninato - who plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, though I am replacing the tenor with baritone sax, as this is Ida's preferred instrument - and mine!).

In addition to the dancers of La La La Human Steps there is also a guest soloist for a number of performances - Diana Vishneva, the great (arguably the greatest) Russian ballerina of our time.

 

It opened in Amsterdam, January 5th 2011, and elsewhere in Europe until mid-March. After that it will tour extensively throughout the world over the next couple of years. See Schott Calendar on my web site for details.

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 6 November 2010 - 9:01pm

Morrison Songbook Premiere

My First Book of Madrigals was written for the Hilliard Ensemble between 1998 and 2002. One of the disadvantages of writing such a work is that it is tied to a very specific configuration of voices. When I did an evening on Words and Music in Leeds with Blake Morrison, author of the poems which I set for the madrigals, I made an arrangement of one of these pieces - Just as the ash glow - for tenor (John Potter) and piano, and this gave a new life to the piece. I decided to see which of the madrigals cold work outside the Hilliard context and it seems to me that seven of the thirteen pieces are suitable for solo voice, and so I have made new versions of these songs for my ensemble to perform with John Potter at my only UK concert this year - at Kings Place, London, on November 6.

Blake is a good friend and one of my most valued collaborators. We made the concert piece Doctor Ox's Experiment (Epilogue) in 1988 as a pilot work for the opera Doctor Ox's Experiment and he provided the libretto for the opera itself (first performance 1998) as well as writing the libretto for G (Mainz 2002)

This is the full programme:

Laude Dolçe no. 1  (2007) for solo cello, electric guitar, double bass

Lauda 29 "O divina virgo flore" (2003) tenor, double bass

Lauda 4 "Oi me lasso" (2002) tenor, ensemble

Lauda 32 "Omne homo" (2005) tenor, ensemble

Lauda 39 "Magdalena degna da laudare" (2009) - tenor, ensemble

Three solos from Irish Madrigals (2004-2007) Petrarch, trans JM Synge

"He wishes he might die and follow Laura"

"The sight of Laura's house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost"

"He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her"

Lauda Dolçe no. 2 (2007) for solo viola, electric guitar, double bass

- interval -

Morrison Songbook (2010) Blake Morrison Premiere

"Web"

"Stormy"

"All the homely arts and crafts"

"Almond Tree"

"In April"

"The print of soles"

"Just As The Ash-Glow"

Lauda: The Flower of Friendship (2009) electric guitar, viola, cello and bass

 

John Potter (tenor); Morgan Goff (viola), Nick Cooper (cello); James Woodrow (electric guitar); Gavin Bryars (double bass)

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 20 September 2010 - 6:13am

The recording that I made with Percussions Claviers de Lyon in May is released in UK and Ireland on September 20 2010 (digital release September 19 2010) - New York (BCGBCD17). This will be released in European countries by Codaex later in September along with the recording made by Vox Altera of my Second Book of Madrigals, plus the first of the Fourth Book, Al suon dell'acque scriva (BCGBCD16).

BCGBCD16 was released in UK and Ireland, and digitally, in July 2010. Both groups will be giving live performances of the works on these albums over the coming months.

Percussions Claviers de Lyon is performing the new piece I wrote for them (At Portage and Main) in Berlin (Konzerthaus, October 1st) and in Montreal (Salle Claude Champagne November 20th)

Posted by: Gavin | 17 July 2010 - 4:02pm

In 1992 I was appointed music juror for the Akademie Schlöss Solitude, an extraordinary place and an even more extraordinary concept. At the time I was there, 7 disciplines were covered within the Akademie and the Akademie director, Jean-Baptiste Joly, appointed a chairman - then Johannes Cladders - who selects, for each discipline, a juror whose task it is to select people to work and reside in the Akademie. Just as the chairman's choice of juror is not subject to question, so the individual juror's choice of guests is not subject to query or apeal. Of course everything is discussed with the director but, in the last analysis, the juror's decision stands, and it is the choices of the individual jurors (and the chairman) which determine the hugely varied character of the Akademie. The chairman is in place for four years, and the juror for two.

During my time there I developed many friendships and professional relationships which endure to this day, with Jean-Baptiste, with the fine art juror Jean-Hubert Martin (with whom I worked in Oiron) and especially with, then, design juror Pia Quarzo Cerina.

 

20 Years of Akademie Schloss Solitude

This year the Akademie Schloss Solitude celebrates its twentieth anniversary with a series of events and projects - taking into account the various activities realized since 1990. Since its foundation, more than 150 fellows in the field of music - most of them composers - have been residents and supported by the Akademie. The concert on July 17 2010 focused on Solitude composers during the festival "Der Sommer in Stuttgart 2010" organized by the Staatsoper, Musik der Jahrhunderte, the SWR and the Akademie Schloss Solitude taking place from July 16 to 18, 2010.

For the Akademie's anniversary evening at the Theaterhaus, the festival organizers - Christine Fischer, Hans-Peter Jahn, Xavier Zuber and Jean-Baptiste Joly - planned four concerts in four different rooms; each with a different ensemble constellation featuring short compositions by as many former composition fellows as possible. The "Tristan Chord" functions as the connection between the individual contributions. This is the instrumentation:

Concert 1: Music theater for up to five performers (optional: cello, trombone, piano, harpsichord, percussion 1 & 2, trumpet, guitar, up to two actors)

Concert 2: A cappella compositions for »Neue Vocalsolisten«

Concert 3: Compositions for two percussionists

Concert 4: Compositions for two grand pianos

Each invited composer selects one concert and composes approximately 120 seconds for the respective instrumentation. As a rule of the game, each composition should begin and end with the Tristan Chord (B-F, D#-G# or Eb-Ab), thus separating the individual compositions for the listener during the concert.

 

For this event I wrote The "Solitude" Madrigal, setting a short sonnet - in effect a kind of half-sonnet - by Petrarch ("Nova angelleta" Rime Spare 106).

 

The event seems to have been a great success and I copy below the message that I received from Jean-Baptiste Joly immediately afterwards.

 

Dear Gavin,

Almost 10 am in Stuttgart, waking up after a long and beautiful evening you are the first (who wasn't in the concert) whom I can write what a great great success it was! The 45 pieces where a unique moment of music and happiness. Among the composers involved more than 20 joined, the audience (over 200 people) was sitting in the middle of a large concert hall with five stages around, two for the singers (who were moving around the space during the evening), one for the Ensemble Ascolta, one for the two piano-players (one of them was Sven Kiebler who you selected when you were our juror), one stage for the two percussionists with tons of equipment and an infinity of sounds. We had asked a young Brazilian stage-director to organize the whole evening, the setting, the order of the pieces: Marcelo Gama made it in a perfect way, finding the right way to move from one piece to another with light, finding always perfect bridges between the pieces. Your piece was performed by the Neue Vocalsolisten quite at the beginning of the concert (fourth piece). The concert began outside with a Salute to Solitude by a Russian composer, then a kind of brass music to accompany the audience into the concert hall, when everybody was sitting the next piece was by Rolf Riem (two pianos), then yours. We were so happy to meet again Ian Willcock (who you also selected) who came with his two daughters, Molly now 18 years old was a few months old when he came to Solitude. After two and a half hours of music the musicians got huge and long, long clappings, flowers for everybody, hugs etc.

A great gift to Solitude made by the composers, the interpreters, all the artists who contributed.

Thank you so much, dear Gavin for having been a part of it. 

Kindest regards to you and your family

 Jean-Baptiste

 

Posted by: Gavin | 2 June 2010 - 11:12am

The new issue of Mojo Magazine is edited by Tom Waits and includes a cover CD which contains his choice of music which has influenced him. This CD includes the single version of Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet which Tom and I made in 1993. 

 

http://cover.mojo4music.com/Item.aspx?pageNo=1813&year=2010