Posted by: Gavin | 19 February 2010 - 8:10am

On February 19 and 20 Ralph van Raat gave the premiere of my piano concerto in Holland. The performance in Utrecht on February 19 was broadcast live and streamed online by Netherlands Radio and the second performance, in Amsterdam, was recorded for release on Naxos along with other works of mine. While we were together in Amsterdam Ralph and I recorded the two-piano piece My First Homage in the hall of the Amsterdam Conservatory - the recording was engineered by Ralph's father, a remarkable man! Ralph will add my piece for harpsichord solo After Handel's Vesper (on piano) as well as the new piece which I finished for him last week Ramble on Cortona.

The photograph for this journal entry shows us taking bows in Amsterdam (Ralph is to the right with the conductor Otto Tausk between us) and it was good to work with the Radio Chamber Orchestra which is led by my old friend the violinist Liz Perry (who leads the strings on the Point/Philips recording of The North Shore, now on the 60th Anniversary Album). The other photograph is from the pre-concert talk in Amsterdam which also included Dutch composer Cornelis de Bondt.

Posted by: Gavin | 7 February 2010 - 6:51pm

During the course of working with Ralph van Raat on the piano concerto, we talked about other pieces. Strictly I have written almost nothing for solo piano, but Ralph wants to add other piano works of mine to the CD of the piano concerto which he plans to record for Naxos. He may record After Handel's Vesper (which, although for harpsichord, has been performed and recorded on piano. He has also asked me to play with him for the two piano piece My First Homage - which we will record in Holland during the time that he is performing the concerto. 

I did write a series of very short pieces - a set of variations - when I was guest composer for the Victoria Piano Summer School in 2003, but that is quite small. So I am adding a number of extra sections to this, and revising it, to make a new piece for solo piano called Ramble on Cortona - as it is a reflection/paraphrase ("Ramble" as Percy Grainger used to call such things) on my vocal Laude that originate in the 13th century manuscript collection in Cortona (where, incidentally, my singer and dear friend Anna Maria Friman got married to Arve Henriksen last year...)

Posted by: Gavin | 4 January 2010 - 12:00pm

Karen Brookman, Derek Bailey's widow, had alerted me that on television (BBC One) the show "Celebrity Mastermind" would have Stewart Lee - the comedian, and co-author of Jerry Springer, The Opera - answering, for his specialist subject, questions on The Life and Work of Derek Bailey. I knew of his interest in Derek's work as Stewart and I had been the two people who spoke at Derek's funeral in January 2006. His knowledge was impressive and he only made one error. It was flattering to hear my name read by the question master John Humphries - on prime time television - as part of one question: "what was the group that Bailey played in with Bryars and Oxley up to 1966 which as its name that of an obscure early twentieth century British composer?" Answer "Joseph Holbrooke."

Posted by: Gavin | 21 December 2009 - 12:00pm


The first time I played with Lee Konitz was in 1966 and the existence of a tape of one of those performances is listed in the Lee Konitz Discography. When the discography was published the entry read:

3-19-66 Lee Konitz Quartet: Lee Konitz (as), Derek Bailey (g), Tony Oxley (dr), unknown (b): Club 43, Manchester, England

01. Carvin' The Bird (Charles Parker) 02. I Remember You 03. Out Of Nowhere Private Tape

It was republished some years later when the intervention of Conrad Cork, who knew that I had been the bass player since the trio accompanying Lee was effectively the Joseph Holbrooke Trio, led to this correction:

3-19-66 Lee Konitz Quartet: Lee Konitz (as), Derek Bailey (g), Gavin Bryars (b), Tony Oxley (dr): Club 43, Manchester, England

01. Carvin' The Bird (Charles Parker) 02. I Remember You 03. Out Of Nowhere Private Tape


When I was working on Medea in New York in February 1982 I had the idea that in one scene of the opera, the opening scene of Act 3 where Medea persuades Aegeus to provide her with a safe haven in Athens after her planned murders, would have a jazz inflection. The original planned production (which did not happen) had the black soprano Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez as Medea and Bob Wilson had cast Aegeus as a black baritone. I talked with Lee Konitz about playing saxophone in the production and he was very interested. We spent a little time together - I heard his Nonet at the Village Vanguard, which had the same line-up as the Miles Davis 1949 "Birth of the Cool" group and where it played original arrangements from that band.


On page 118-119 of the book (view on google books) there is a short piece by Conrad Cork... It tells of the occasion in 1987 when I played (again) with Lee Konitz in 1987.

Posted by: Gavin | 17 December 2009 - 12:00pm

I've just received from France a recording of the solo piano concert that I performed at the Pompidou Centre on November 9 2009. There is a photo on the cover of the CDR.

It reminded my that I have a photograph, taken by the photographer Jim Cranmer, of what was probably the only other solo piano recital I gave - at Northampton College of Technology and School of Art in late 1966. I performed some of Cage's Sonata's and Interludes for prepared piano (possibly the first in England!) as well as some of my very early pieces - the one illustrated was with electronics and tape loops. I was assisted by Ron Geesin (who became a friend after we'd met when he was playing at Greasborough when I was house bassist) and Alan Mayes, a physics teacher at the college.

Posted by: Gavin | 3 December 2009 - 4:37pm

Welcome to my web site, which has been substantially redesigned with many new features. I will deal personally with most aspects of the site and give regular journal notes on what is going on, on forthcoming projects, on background information and so on.

I will give here some information on things that have happened over the last few months during the time that the site has been reformed.

Posted by: Gavin | 23 November 2009 - 4:36pm

The Premises Studio, London

My wife Anya has been working on a new film in Moscow for some time, provisionally called "Our Tchekhov", and we spent the day together recording the music for this. I had brought back together the original group that had performed Mercy and Grand for opera North Projects in 2007 for these sessions. It was good to be with them again and to utilise their incredible versatility. More on this film in future journal entries.

Posted by: Gavin | 13 November 2009 - 4:35pm

Les Percussion Claviers de Lyon, Salle Varèse, Conservatoire de Lyon, France

I had been commissioned to write a piece for tuned percussion quintet by my old friend Gérard Lecointe, who plays in my ensemble. The quintet was formed when I needed five tuned percussionists as part of the orchestration of my first opera Medea, which was premiered in Lyon in 1984, and this is the 25th anniversary of the group (Gérard is the only original member remaining). I worked with the group for a couple of days and the performance was very good. It was then performed subsequently in other cities. We discussed an album of this piece, along with One Last Bar The Joe Can Sing, which I had written for Nexus, and New York, the concerto for percussion quintet and chamber orchestra, which was performed in 2004. This album will probably be recorded next spring and released in autumn 2010.

Posted by: superadmin | 9 November 2009 - 11:44pm

My friend Daniel Caux died last summer and his wife Jacqueline made a documentary film in homage to him. Daniel was a great writer, broadcaster, critic, curator with whom, I had worked since 1979. The film had interviews, performances and rehearsals given by musicians who Daniel admired, and who in their turn became his friends. This included Terry Riley, LaMonte Young, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk and me. Jacqui filmed the rehearsal for my concert at York University in February when I worked with an ensemble of four of my players, plus a choir, The 24, directed by John Potter. She asked if, when the film was shown, whether I would be prepared to play for 30 minutes following the film, and I said yes. It was only some time later that I realised that I had last played solo piano, and then only briefly, in 1978 when Dave Smith and I gave a two piano concert at the Kitchen, New York. There I had played some pieces by Howard Skempton, but I have written no solo piano music as such. I had also not practised the piano since 1978…The film was shown in the Grande Salle of the Pompidou Centre, to a packed hall, and I played immediately afterwards - they had provided me with the "best Steinway D in Paris". To say I was apprehensive would be an understatement, but in the event it went well! I was subsequently asked to come back to Paris a couple of weeks later, to play at an evening with Jim Jarmusch at the Fondation Cartier, but couldn’t as this clashed with a performance of Nothing like the Sun in Lancaster (November 26).

Posted by: superadmin | 19 October 2009 - 11:42pm

Charity Concert for "Marginalised" at Union Chapel, Islington, London

This was the first time that I have performed Jesus' Blood with my own ensemble in London since 1993, and the first time I have played it at all with them since Brussels in 1997. This concert opened a week long series of concerts in aid of the charity Marginalised, and for it I invited many former members of my ensemble and other friends to form a larger group than usual - here around 26 performers. For the first part we did more recent pieces with a smaller group - John Potter, tenor, singing a series of Laude and a group of Irish Madrigals (setting of John Millington Synge's Petrarch translations) as well as the instrumental piece, The Flower of Friendship, for electric guitar, viola, cello, and double bass that was premiered in York in February and which I have now played several times (Waterford, Limerick, Mexico City). With Jesus' Blood my eldest daughters sang with John to form a small choir - the first time that I've done this. This isn't the first time that they have played the piece though - at a benefit concert for LaMonte Young in 1997 they both played cello, along with members of Pulp (and I played piano for Pulp when Jarvis Cocker performed This is Hardcore)… (All four of my children had played The Sinking of the Titanic with me at the Roundhouse, London in May).

See Photos from the performance in the Photo Gallery.