(text: Marie Curie, Etel Adnan, Pope Leo XIII, Jules Verne)
Duration: 38’
Instrumentation: soprano, mezzo-soprano, 2 (original version 4 pianos), 6 percussion
First performance: St John's Smith Square, London, 23 March 1984.

Note : Effarene (1984)

Effarene (1984)

for  soprano, mezzo-soprano, 2 pianos, 6 percussion

Effarene was written in February and March 1984 for performance at the New MacNaghten Concerts in St. John's Smith Square. The original instrumentation - 4 pianos, 6 percussion and 2 voices - related to the fact that it was paired with Antheil's Ballet Mécanique. Effarene is a cantata comprising 4 extended arias, 3 being paraphrases of material written for Robert Wilson's The CIVIL WarS and the fourth utilising imagery from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. In addition, instrumental sections of the work derive from my other operatic collaboration with Robert Wilson, Medea. The vocal sections of Effarene are as follows.

1. Soprano solo, to a text in French by Marie Curie in which she declares her passionate belief in Science. The text is set twice: first lyrically, the second time dramatically.

2. Mezzo-soprano, to a poem in French by Etel Adnan, the Lebanese writer with whom I worked closely in the monastery of La Sainte Baume during the rehearsal period of The CIVIL WarS. The poem, "La Reine de la Mer", is one which she had written many years ago in Beirut and I have since set other poems by her.

3. (following an extended instrumental interlude) Soprano and mezzo-soprano duet to a Latin poem in praise of photography by Pope Leo XIII, "Ars Photographica". Jules Verne had met Leo XIII in 1884 - and Effarene was written in the centenary year of that meeting. I also used this same text for a choral piece called On Photography.

4. Mezzo-soprano to a text in French taken from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - a section where Professor Aronnax muses over a globe, extolling aspects of underwater geography and describing certain mysterious underwater currents. The piece ends with an instrumental coda.

The title of the cantata, Effarene, comes from the name of the principle character, a mysterious musician and organ builder, in Jules Verne's posthumously published short story Monsieur Ré-dièze et  Mademoiselle Mi-bémol.

Note : Text for Effarene (1984)

Text for Effarene (1984)

From 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - a section where Professor Aronnax muses over a globe, extolling aspects of underwater geography and describing certain mysterious underwater currents. The piece ends with an instrumental coda.


I (text Marie Curie)

Je suis de ceux qui pensent que la Science a une grande beauté. Un savant dans son laboratoire n'est pas seulement un technicien, c'est aussi un enfant placé en face de phénomènes naturels qui l'impressionnent comme un conte de fées. Nous ne devons pas laisser croire que tout progrès scientifique se réduit à des mécanismes, des machines, des engrenages qui d'ailleurs ont leur beauté propre. Je ne crois pas non plus que dans notre monde l'esprit d'aventure risque de disparaitre. Si je vois autour de moi quelquechose de vital, c'est précisement cet esprit qui parait indéracinable et s'apparente à la curiosité.


I am among those who think that Science has a great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before the natural phenomena which impresses him like a fairy tale. We should not be led to only believe that any scientific progress is reduced to mechanisms, machines, gears, as they also have their own beauty. I do not believe either that in our world, the spirit of adventure is likely to disappear. If I see around me something of importance, it is precisely this spirit of adventure which appears ineradicable and similar with curiosity.


II (text Etel Adnan)

La mer bouge dans nos lèvres

Et s'élève comme murailles dans nos yeux.

Le vent dérange nos cheveux

Pour en faire piques et épines

Le voici comme une paume sur l'échine

Apaisé des eaux

L'éternité court sur la matière fluide

Ni mouvement ni essence

Mais le visage lavé et délavé de la mer.

Je suis exposé à la nudité de la lumière

Et abandonnée à la lèvre multiple de la mer

Je suis liquide, élément liquide

La terre ses volcans, ses ravines, sa colère.

Je suis ses torrents et sa vase

Et son limon et son printemps

Liquide, élément liquide,

Je suis la mer et unie à la mer.

Liquide, liquide, élément liquide.

Je suis la mer et la Reine de la mer.


(trans: Etel Adnan)

The sea moves in our lips and rises as high walls

in our eyes,

we suffer at her soft flesh


The wind disturbs our hair,

turning it into spikes and thorns; here it

is, then, like a palm on the subdued

spine of the waters.


Eternity runs on this liquid matter which is

neither movement or linear essence, nor the

trace of a daily kiss,

but the washed and washed-out face of the sea.


I am exposed to the nudity of the light

And exposed to the multiple lip of the sea


I am liquid, liquid element,

The earth, its volcanoes, its ravines, its anger

I am its torrents and its sludge and its silt and its springtime


Liquid, liquid element, I am the sea and the Queen of the sea.


III (text Leo XIII)

Expressa solis spiculo

Nitens imago, quam bene frontis deus,

Vim luminum refers,

Et oris gratiam imagine.

O mira virtus ingeni

Novumque monstrum

Imaginem Naturae Apelles

Apelles Aemulus

Non pulchriorem pingeret

Expressa nolis, expressa solis spiculo Naturae

Expressa, expressa solis quam bene prontis

Novumque monstrum refers

Nitens imago quam bene frontis deus

Vim luminum O mira gratiam

Expressa solis spiculo

Mira virtus ingeni novum

Et oris gratiam

Mira oris gratiam


(trans: H T Henry, 1902))

Sun -wrought with magic of the skies,

The Image fair before me lies:

Deep- vaulted brain and sparkling eyes

And lip's fine chiseling.


O miracle of human thought,

O art with newest marvels fraught -

Apelles, Nature's rival, wrought

No fairer imaging!



La mer était magnifique, le ciel pur. À peine si le long véhicule ressentait les larges ondulations de l'océan. Une légère brise de l'est ridait la surface des eaux. L'horizon, dégagé de brumes, se prêtait aux meilleures observations. Nous n'avions rien en vue. Pas un écueil, pas un îlot. L'immensité déserte. Mes regards se fixèrent sur le vaste planisphère étalé sur la table, et je plaçai le doigt sur le point même où se croisaient la longtitude et la latitude observées. La mer a ses fleuves comme les continents. Ce sont des courants spéciaux, reconnaisables à leur température, à leur couleur, et dont le plus remarquables est connu sous le nom du Gulf Stream. La science a déterminé sur le globe, la direction de cinq courants principaux: un dans l'Atlantique nord, un second dans l'Atlantique sud, un troisième dans le Pacifique nord, un quatrième dans le Pacifique sud, et un cinquième dans l'océan Indien sud. Il est même probable qu'un sixième courant existait autrefois dans l'océan Indien nord, lorsque les mers Caspienne et d'Aral ne formaient qu'une seule et même étendue d'eau. Or, au point indiqué sur le planisphère, se déroulait l'un de ces courants, le Kuro Scivo des Japonais, le Fleuve noir, qui, sorti du golfe du Bengale où le chauffent les rayons perpendiculaires du soleil de Tropiques, traverse le détroit de Malacca, prolonge la côte d'Asie, s'arrondit dans le Pacifique nord  jusqu'aux îles Aléoutienne, charriant des troncs de camphriers et autres produits indigènes, et tranchant par le pur indigo de ses eaux chaudes avec les flots de l'océan. Je suivais le courant du regard, je le voyais se perdre dans l'immensité du Pacifique et je me sentais entraîner avec lui.

Duration: 23’
Instrumentation (i): 2 pianos, 2 violins, percussion ( 2 or 3 players)
First performance: Rote Fabrik, Zurich, 28 April 1985
Instrumentation (ii): (chamber orchestra) 2.0.2(Bs.cl).0;; percussion (2 or 3 players), 2 pianos, strings.
First performance: Conservatoire de Strasbourg, 10 October 1985.

For soprano, tenor, 2 violas, cello, bass
Text: Petrarch, translated by J. M. Synge
Duration c. 26’
First performance: Anna Maria Friman, John Potter, Gavin Bryars Ensemble
Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin May 15th 2004

Note : Eight Irish Madrigals (2004)

Eight Irish Madrigals (2004)

for soprano, tenor, and ensemble

The Eight Irish Madrigals come from my Third Book of Madrigals. There are seventeen madrigals altogether in the Third Book (for soprano, tenor, bass and lute) and the first nine were written for the Huddersfield Festival.  For a concert in Dublin I am making new versions of four of these nine madrigals for two singers and six instruments. In addition, four new madrigals are being written specially for Dublin where they will be given their first performances.

Like my Second Book of Madrigals, the Third sets sonnets by Petrarch, but this time not in the original 14th century Italian but in Irish prose translations by J. M. Synge. I came across Synge's Petrarch poems in the University of Victoria library, part of a remarkable Synge collection. They were edited by one of Canada's greatest poets Robin Skelton, who died in 1997 and to whose memory these madrigals are dedicated.

Although Synge first became interested in Petrarch when he visited Italy in 1896 it was not until early 1907, after he had met the American poetess Agnes Tobin and read her translations, that he began to work on his own versions. Part of his intention was to translate love poetry into English but they also served as an exercise in writing prose poetry of the kind he could use in his last play Deirdre of the Sorrows which he wrote in parallel with the Petrarch translations. Both the play and the translations were incomplete at the time of his death in March 1909.

Petrarch's sonnets are traditionally divided into two collections: "in vita di Madonna Laura" and "in morte di Madonna Laura"  and Synge's settings are from the second group. During the time that he was writing them he became aware that he did not have long to live and the opening lines of the first poem show this: "Life is flying from me, not stopping an hour"

Only eight translations from Petrarch appeared in the edition of Synge's Poems and Translations published two weeks after his death and each was given a title in imitation of Petrarch. When four more were added in the Collected Works in 1910 more were included and four of these had titles in a different hand than Synge's. Robin Skelton added titles to five more in his 1961 edition of Synge's translations.

Setting Synge's prose poetry was very different from setting Petrarch's originals - in many ways harder - but always immensely pleasurable, rewarding and challenging. Coincidentally one sonnet which I set in the Second Book of Madrigals also appears in the Synge collection and therefore in the Third Book. Curiously, this is the penultimate madrigal in each book (the last one of the Eight Irish Madrigals).

The eight madrigals which form this collection are:

1. He asks his heart to raise itself up to God

2. He wishes he might die and follow Laura (tenor solo)

3. He considers that he should set little store on earthly beauty

4. He finds comfort and rest in his sorrows

5. He is jealous of the Heavens and the Earth

6. He understands the great cruelty of Death (tenor solo)

7. Only he who mourns her and Heaven that possesses her knew while she lived

8. Petrarch is unable to contain his grief

Gavin Bryars

Note : Eight Irish Madrigals (Adapted from 3rd book of Madrigals)

Eight Irish Madrigals (Adapted from 3rd book of Madrigals)

(Soprano, tenor, 2 violas, cello and double bass)

Hire Only

1. He asks his heart to raise itself up to God

2. He wishes he might die and follow Laura (tenor solo)

3. He considers that he should set little store on earthly beauty

4. He finds comfort and rest in his sorrows

5. He is jealous of the Heavens and the Earth

6. He understands the great cruelty of death (tenor solo)

7. Petrarch is unable to contain his grief

8. Laura waits for him in heaven (tenor solo -obligato soprano)

Note : Text of Eight Irish Madrigals

Text of Eight Irish Madrigals

for soprano, tenor, 2 violas, cello and double bass [2004]


1. He asks his heart to raise itself up to God

What is it you're thinking, lonesome heart?  For what is it you're turning back ever and always to times that are gone away from you?  For what is it you're throwing sticks on the fire where it is your own self that is burning?

The little looks and sweet words you've taken one by one and written down among your songs, are gone up into the Heavens, and it's late, you know well, to go seeking them on the face of the earth.

Let you not be giving new life every day to your own destruction, and following a fool's thoughts for ever.  Let you seek Heaven when there is nothing left pleasing on the earth, and it a poor thing if a great beauty, the like of her, would be destroying your peace and she living or dead.


2. He wishes he might die and follow Laura (tenor solo)

In the years of her age the most beautiful and the most flowery - the time Love has his mastery - Laura, who was my life, has gone away leaving the earth stripped and desolate. She has gone up into the Heavens, living and beautiful and naked, and from that place she is keeping her lordship and her reign upon me, and I crying out: Ohone, when will I see that day breaking that will be my first day with herself in Paradise?

My thoughts are going after her, and it is that way my soul would follow her, lightly, and airily, and happily, and I would be rid of all my great troubles.  But what is delaying me is the proper thing to lose me utterly, to make me a greater weight on my own self.

Oh, what a sweet death I might have died this day three years to-day!

3. He considers that he should set little store on earthly beauty

I was never anyplace where I saw so clearly one I do be wishing to see when I do not see, never in a place where I had the like of this freedom in myself, and where the light of love making was strong in the sky.  I never saw any valley with so many spots in it where a man is quiet and peaceful, and I wouldn't think that Love himself in Cyprus had a nest so nice and curious.  The waters are holding their discourse on love, and the wind with them and the branches, and fish, and the flowers and the grass, the lot of them are giving hints to me that I should love forever.

But yourself are calling to me out of Heaven to pray me by the memory of the bitter death that took you from me that I should put small store on the world or the tricks that are in it.

4. He finds comfort and rest in his sorrows

Sweet spirit you do be coming down so often to put a sweetness on my sad night-time with a look from those eyes death has not quenched, but made more deep and beautiful.

How much it is a joy to me that you throw a light on my dark days, so that I am beginning to find your beauty in the places where I did see you often.

Where I did go long years, and I singing of yourself, I go now, making lamentations for my own sharp sorrows.

It is when I have great sorrow only that I find rest, for it is then when I turn round I see and know you, by your walk and your voice, and your face, and the cloak round you.

5. He is jealous of the Heavens and the Earth

What a grudge I am bearing the earth that has its arms about her, and is holding that face away from me, where I was finding peace from great sadness.

      What a grudge I am bearing the Heavens that are after taking her, and shutting her in with greediness, the Heavens that do push their bolt against so many.

       What a grudge I am bearing the blessed saints that have got her sweet company, that I am always seeking; and what a grudge I am bearing against Death, that is standing in her two eyes and will not call me with a word.

6. He understands the great cruelty of Death (tenor solo)

My flowery and green age was passing away, and I feeling a chill in the fires had been wasting my heart, for I was drawing near the hillside that is above the grave.

       Then my sweet enemy was making a start, little by little, to give over her great wariness, the way she was wringing a sweet thing out of my sharp sorrow. The time was coming when Love and Decency can keep company, and lovers may sit together and say out all things are in their hearts. But Death had his grudge against me, and he got up in the way, like an armed robber, with a pike in his hand.


7. Petrarch is unable to contain his grief

There was one time maybe when it was a sweet thing to love - though I would be hard set to say when it was - but now it is a bitter thing and there is nothing bitterer. The man who is teaching a truth should know it better than any other, and that is the way I am with my great sorrow.

       Herself that was the honour of our age; [and] now is in the heavens where all cherish her, made my [times of ease] in her days short and rare, and now she has taken all rest from me.

       Cruel Death has taken every good thing from me, and from this out no good luck could make up for the loss of that beautiful spirit that is set free.

       I used to be weeping and making songs, and I don't know at this day what way I'd turn a verse, but day and night the sorrow that is banked up in my heart, breaks out on my tongue and through my eyes.


8. Laura waits for him in heaven

The first day she passed up and down through the Heavens, gentle and simple were left standing, and they in great wonder, saying one to the other:

       'What new light is that? What new beauty at all? The like of herself hasn't risen up these long years from the common world.'

       And herself, well pleased with the Heavens, was going forward, matching herself with the most perfect that were before her, yet one time, and another, waiting a little, and turning her head back to see if myself was coming after her. It's for that I'm lifting up all my thoughts and will into the Heavens, because I do hear her praying that I should be making haste forever.


(Text by Petrarch, translated by J.M.Synge)



First performance Gary Karr, Harmon Lewis, Basses Loaded
cond. Sarah Klein
Philip T Young Recital Hall, UVic, Canada

Duration 7’
Dedication: Ziella and Orlanda
Instrumentation: solo viola, electric guitar, 3 cellos, double bass, bass clarinet
First performance (this version): Studio One, BBC Maida Vale, September19th 1997

Note : Epilogue from Wonderlawn (1994)

Epilogue from Wonderlawn (1994)

In May 1994 I worked with the choreographer Laurie Booth on a full evening piece called Wonderlawn for which I employed a small string group drawn from my ensemble consisting of viola, cello, double bass and electric guitar. In the original dance the final section was accompanied by a version of this Epilogue. I have subsequently modified the instrumentation and made a few other changes to the piece. For live performance I usually add a part for a second viola, as well as a bass-clarinet to reinforce the double bass part. In the published score as well as for the recorded version I include two additional cellos. The piece begins with a simple series of harmonies played as guitar arpeggios sustained by the bowed strings. It then evolves into an extended melody, a kind of song-without-words, for the solo viola supported by occasional duet material for the cello. The music was written specifically for the qualities which my own players bring to this music, particularly the expressive playing of my viola player Bill Hawkes.

The piece is dedicated to my daughters Ziella and Orlanda, both of whom are cellists and both of whom have played this piece with me on many occasions.

Text: Pope Leo XIII
Duration 7'
Unaccompanied voices (TTBar)
First Performance: The Hilliard Ensemble, Little St. Mary's Church, Cambridge July 29th 1997

Note : Expressa Solis (1997)

Expressa Solis (1997)

This piece for three unaccompanied voice was written when I was composer-in-residence for the Hilliard Ensemble's Summer School which was held in Trinity Hall, Cambridge. The Hilliard had planned an evening concert for the second day of the course, but David James had failed to arrive and it transpired that he was very ill and unable to sing let alone teach. The three remaining members devised a new programme so that it could comprise entirely three-part material, for 2 tenors and baritone, but were a little short of material. I learned of this at breakfast on the day of the performance, and said that I would write a piece for them feeling, as I did, a little like a court composer whose duty was to assuage his master's anxieties....  I started after morning coffee at 11 and finished shortly after lunch. I used a text that I had set previously for On Photography and for the third part of Effarene, being a poem in Latin, "Ars Photographica" by Pope Leo XIII and which, for some reason, I happened to have with me. I based the music on the earlier choral setting though with substantial modification given the fewer voices, the different vocal ranges and the absence of accompanying instruments. The piece is in two sections: "Expressa Solis" and "Tersa Perfetta" the second being a nineteenth century translation of the Latin poem, followed by a brief coda.