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Recording piece
Published in EMC Verbal Anthology.
Never performed - imperfectly realised Waterloo Station, summer 1970.

Instrumentation: indeterminate
Published in EMC Verbal Anthology.
Never performed.

Text: Etel Adnan
Duration 17'
Dedication: Jocelyn Herbert
(i) Instrumentation: mezzo-soprano voice, cello, Korg M1
First performance: Melanie Pappenheim, Sophie Harris, Gavin Bryars, The Island Chapel, St. Ives, Cornwall, April 26th 1997
(ii) Instrumentation: mezzo-soprano voice, electric guitar, bass clarinet, electric keyboard, 2 violas, cello

Note : The Island Chapel

The Island Chapel

The Island Chapel was written in 1997 specifically for performance in St. Nicholas Chapel, St. Ives. The piece involves a response to a number of different stimuli. In the first place there is the chapel itself, a simple, tiny building perched in isolation and overlooking the sea on three sides. The "Island" itself is strictly a peninsula (for James Joyce, "a disappointed island") and on the fourth side it looks back towards the town and the Tate Gallery.

A second stimulus is the relationship between the chapel and the gallery across the bay, and this piece was written in relation to the paintings of James Hugonin in the exhibition (A Quality of Light). Two of his pictures were located in the chapel itself, similar in content to those in the main gallery but much smaller, each one the size of a page in the Lindisfarne Gospels. The relationship between the gallery and the chapel mirrors that of James working environment: he lives near the Northumbrian coast and there is a similar physical and spiritual connection between his studio and Holy Island (Lindisfarne).

I have written music before in response to James's work and in the context of his exhibitions. For this piece I visited St. Ives specifically to spend some time privately in the chapel when the two small pictures from James's Lindisfarne series were being installed. The music, for contralto voice, cello and electric keyboard, was designed for performance to a small invited audience in this intimate, semi-private space and to be recorded for replay in the gallery itself - the original idea was to broadcast the piece. The chapel is tiny and the maximum audience size was 6 people in addition to the three performers - so the piece was played twice and recorded on each occasion. The text comprises two self-contained poems Crossing no.3 and Crossing no.4 from an extended poem The Manifestations of the Voyage by the Lebanese poet Etel Adnan whose poetry I have set on a number of occasions. I wished to avoid any direct reference to the chapel or to the paintings, but rather to find through metaphor and allusion a poetic equivalent.

Just as James' work demonstrates through abstraction an affinity with real spaces, both physical and spiritual, so the music has an intimate relationship with the chapel's poignant solitude, the imagery of the Adnan poems and the musical sensibilities of the performers - Melanie Pappenheim (voice), Sophie Harris (cello), Gavin Bryars (keyboard).

Note : Text of The Island Chapel

Text of The Island Chapel

(Crossing no.3)

I am a bird




originating not from the empire

of the Dead

but from the bottom of a

female valley

blinded to better

hear waves and goddesses


I preferred the waves

to the sea.


Feeding on the setting sun

I'm desperately trying

to spend this dark night with an Angel.


sumptuous days

precede my birth

as if they were the coldness

of the snow

shipwrecked is my memory


The linden leaves are

in turmoil

when a tree postpones its



I am the interplay of day and night.


Rambling under the pregnant moon

unbeliever in my own existence

I inhabit the sleep of the dead who,

introduced by archangels

to dark secrets,

pursue their quest....

ferocious is the truth which

manifests itself solely in the

lie of the poem.



(Crossing  no.4)


I go

with speed and love

into the night


the hour hovers

between the bread

the faucet

and the sadness


sorrow     sorrowful     sorrow

the bridges' escape

under the arch

and the green water

the immense gaze of Nothingness


crepuscular twilight

cutting the red sky in two

I am woman

succulent grown

with webbed feet

a crocodile's smile between

my teeth


raving mad a man came down the



recapitulating his death


the night has devoured its stars

gutters explode

we're animals with no pride


trumpet gathering its


love takes the form

of absinths and thorns

Text: 7th Century Northumbrian
Duration: 10”
Dedication: Mr. and Mrs. Haseley Ekers
Instrumentation: 2 violins, male voices (alto, 2 tenors, baritone, bass), organ
First performance: St Thomas’s Church, Wells (Ekers/Peake Wedding), August 1st 1992

Text: Edwin Morgan
Duration c.5'
Male Choir

Note : The Mirror

The Mirror

There is a mirror only we can see.

It hangs in time and not in space. The day

goes down in it without ember or ray

and the newborn climb through it to be free.

The multitudes of the world cannot know

they are reflected there; like glass they lie

in glass, shadows in shade, they could not cry

in airless wastes but that is where they go.

We cloud it, but it pulses like a gem,

it must have caught a range of energies

from the dead. We breathe again; nothing shows.

Back in space, ubi solitudinem

faciunt pacem appellant. Ages

drum-tap the flattened homes and slaughtered rows.


Edwin Morgan (from Sonnets from Scotland)

A group of (currently) 7 songs for tenor, soprano, electric guitar, viola, cello, double bass. Text Blake Morrison. First performance Kings Place, London Octopber 2010)

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Note : Gavin's note

Gavin's note

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). There will eventuallty be more - at least 14. For a performance of these 7 in Orleans, France, I ghave some of the solos to Anna Maria Friman and the set will ultimately have solos for bothg male and female voices.

(+ viola and strings and viola and ensemble versions)

Duration: 12'
Dedication: Debbie Mason
Instrumentation (i): viola and piano
First  Performance: Fruitmarket Gallery Edinburgh, October 19 1993
Instrumentation (ii) (revised 1994): solo viola, harp (or piano), strings (min., percussion (bass drum, tam-tam, 2 cymbals)
NB this version is longer and has a modified solo part too
First Performance: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London June 30th 1994

Note : The North Shore (1993)

The North Shore (1993)

This piece, originally for viola and piano, was written for Bill Hawkes and Nic Hodges to play at the opening of an exhibition of the work of James Hugonin in Edinburgh. It has been subsequently expanded both in duration and instrumentation to give two other versions: one for solo viola, strings and harp (or piano), the other specially written for my ensemble (solo viola, clarinet, electric guitar, viola, cello, bass and piano). Through working with Bill Hawkes, and earlier with Alexander Balanescu, I have become more and more interested in the viola both in ensemble and as a solo instrument. Indeed I was originally to write a work for voice and viola for the exhibition but due to the unavailability of the singer I wrote this instrumental piece instead, retaining nevertheless the original intention of connecting the piece with a specific geographical region. I particularly like the relationship between the abstraction of Hugonin's paintings and the location where they are painted - the North East of England. Having already written a number of vocal pieces that use Northumbrian texts (by Caedmon) I decided however to move a little further down the coast, to Whitby where I had spent summers as a child and particularly to the cliffs by St Hilda's Abbey. The North Shore, therefore, takes this austere location as its inspiration - the same as the descriptive narrative used for the vocal piece I subsequently wrote based on Bram Stoker's Dracula (From Mina Harker's Journal).  It represents a kind of response to the "Idea of North" found in the work of Glenn Gould, as well as a reflection on the obsession of Jules Verne's Captain Hatteras who, in his final madness, would walk only towards the north.




Duration: 15’
Instrumentation (i): Piano (+ horn), bass clarinet, violin (or viola), cello, bass, electric guitar,  2 percussion (vibes, tam-tam, sizzle cymbal, marimba, bells).
First performance: Almeida Festival, Union Chapel, London, 13 June 1987.
Instrumentation (ii) (arr. Roger Heaton)  Piano, bass-clarinet, violin
First performance Huddersfield, November 22 1992

Note : The Old Tower of Löbenicht (1986, rev. 1994)

The Old Tower of Löbenicht (1986, rev. 1994)

The original ensemble version of this piece was first performed at the Almeida Festival in 1986 (and later recorded for ECM Records) and is a sketch for an instrumental interlude in a projected opera based on Thomas De Quincey's The Last Days of Immanuel Kant. It occurs at a point in the opera where Kant is disturbed at the way in which growing poplar trees have obscured the view of a distant tower which "he could not be said properly to see..but (which) rested upon his eye as distant music on the ear - obscurely, or but half revealed to the consciousness". The owner of the trees, learning of Kant's distress, has them cropped.  This interlude, which is broadly symmetrical, represents in effect the two different states of Kant's response to his perceptions of the old tower.

Since making this first version I have revised the piece in two ways. Firstly I have re-written the solo part for my cellist, Sophie Harris. Secondly I have added a short prelude, based on John Coltrane's "After the Rain". The concert we were to have given in a beautiful outdoor courtyard in Ferrara was cancelled when a violent storm broke out just as we were about to play. This prelude ("Doppo la Pioggia") was written the next morning to open the postponed performance.

Gavin Bryars.

soprano, mezzo, 2 pianos, 6 percussion
Duration 70’
First performance Theatre Cryptic, dir. Cathie Boyd
Angela Tunstall, soprano; Alexander Gibson, mezzo
Paragon Ensemble cond. Garry Walker
Tramway, Glasgow November 2

Note : Text of The Paper Nautilus

Text of The Paper Nautilus


La Science (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.



La Reine de la mer (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.



Ars Photographica (Pope 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



De profundis maris (Vulgate)

quam magnificata sunt opera tua Domine

omnia in sapientia fecisti

impleta est terra possessione tua


hoc mare magnum et spatiosum minibus:

illic reptilia quorum non est numerus

animalia pusilla cum magnis.


tu dominaris potestatis maris

motum autem fluctuum eius tu mitigas


gyrat per meridiem et flectitur ad aquilonem

lustrans universa circuitu pergit spirtitus et in circulos suos regriditur


omnia flumina intrant mare et mare non redundant

ad locum unde exeunt flumina revertuntur ut iterum fluant


dixit Dominus de Basan convertam convertam de profundis maris



The sea mysteries (Jackie Kay)

Like an oyster hides its pearl,

The sea hides its wonder world.


Like a mermaid flicks her tail,

The sea is real and surreal.


Like the heart of the angler fish,

The sea's heart beats in the dead of night,


The sonar's echo of lovers dead and lost,

All the lonely people - lost at sea.


the haunting music of the deep dark sea.




All around the wide world,

the sea speaks in many tongues.


In many skins, the sea repeats its lines.

With wide, tide arms, the sea keeps time.


In the great treasure chest below

Are the sea special gifts:


Lantern fish, bristlemouths, hatchetfish,

Plankton, krill, shrimps, copepods, squid.


Pink eggs, razor sharp teeth, transparent shells.

Triple wart sea devil, common black devil fish.


As if the sea imagined its creatures,

dragging the ocean for inspiration,


As if the sea drew a rough sketch,

Then coloured them in:


Black and red creatures of the dark zone.

Fish that flash, fish that turn themselves inside out.


Out of the vivid imagination of the sea,

Crawled the wild and the wonderful,


The gulper eel, the vampire squid from hell,

the kind and the savage, the beautiful and the ugly,


The saints and the martyrs,

The myths and the workers.


Nothing could ever surprise the sea.

The sea is you. The sea is me.



Like an oyster hides its pearl,

The sea hides its wonder world.


Like the heart of the angler fish,

The sea's heart beats in the dead of night,


The sonar's echo of lovers dead and lost:


the haunting music of the deep dark sea.




Where there is light (Jackie Kay)

You hold the world's fishing

boats in your large hands.

The nets and the hoops

and the hooks and the loops.

You  offer up your silver fish,

your  secret shells, your stones.

And sometimes you take something back,

a child or a man or a woman.


You let a little useless light in,

not very far down,

Where small red plants grow deep

in you, small flames,

And see-through see creatures

sweep through  you,

And occasionally you are lit up

by very fierce colour.


Deeper down, deeper down again

Where it is colder

(so much colder, really very cold!)

Where plants don't grow

in you any more.

Down, where you are older,

where there is more pressure,

where things are fiercer, crueller.


Down, past the  little

lightness into the dark.

Down, into the deeper dark,

into the colder dark

Down in the depths of despair,

where it seems

nothing could ever get better or fairer

where no one cares who you might have been.


Down, now in the complete dark

Where luminous fish swim through you

And large journeys begin in you

Where it all that  matters

Is to see and not be seen.

Where the desire is to be invisible,

For the rocks at the bottom

To hold and caress; you make your bed.


You make your big bed.



Vertical migration (Jackie Kay)

When the moon's behind clouds

And the light is dim,

You rise up.

When the moon is full

You can't risk being seen,

You go down.

Even the moonlight is dangerous

When the light is up

You hide your face,

Your big eyes.

When the moon has gone

And the sun comes out

You go down

Under the cover of darkness

To the roomy gloom

Where you are at home -

Away from the border.

Every night, this same story

You risk your life

Going up and coming down

Don't come too close to the surface.      

Out of the gloom,

back to the gloom

waiting for the night to come

Every night you go out

Looking for the ones who are looking for you.

Oh, do any of us understand

Even the moonlight is dangerous

What it is like to be you in this fierce land.

Always on the move, always full of fear

Travelling in the dead of night.

For the migrant is never truly safe.

The migrant has to hide her face.

The migrant has to skulk around

Under the cover of darkness

When everybody is sleeping;

When the moon is sleeping,

Behind thick clouds,

You go down.

You go down, down, down.

Nothing ever changes.

Under the cover of darkness

Don't come too close to the surface.

Even the moonlight is dangerous.



The Angler's Song (Jackie Kay)

Down where I am, my love, there is no love.

There is no light, no break of day, no rising sun.

Where I am, I call you in; I open my large mouth.

The only light down here comes from my body.


Down where I am is deeper than you imagine.

There is no food, no easy prey, and it is freezing cold.

I sing to make you say my name. My big eyes weep.

This is the world of never ending darkness like pain.


Come down. I have been waiting for you a long time.

I wait without appearing to wait.

I see without being seen to see. You know me.

I am big headed. I am hideous. I am ugly.


Come down. When I find you, I will bite into your belly.

What you see is what you get with me.

There is no other way. I will become you, let us say.

All that will be left of me will be my breathing.


Come down where I am. In and out, out and in.

Down at the very bottom of the deep dark sea.

When I become you, my mouth will stay open.

My open mouth like the river mouth down at the bottom.


Come down where I am. I will flash my lights for you.

My large eyes will take you in, contain you.

I make no promises. I offer nothing. Not even light.

Down, deep down in the dark, at the bottom, is my bed.


My sea bed, love, where there are no promises of love.

Dark - where there are no promises of light.

Where there is little hope of food;

Where day and night are night and day.


My sea bed, I tell no lies, so your heart

will not be broken. I offer nothing.

All you will have is my breathing.

But I will give myself up to you.


I will give myself up for you.



Where there is no light (Jackie Kay)

Where there is no light

When the pain comes in


Deep down below what

Anybody ever believed in


Where there are only mouths

Opening and closing


Where the head is out of all proportion

To the body


Where the kindness has gone

where all there is to do day and night


is seek out the black and the red, the red and the black

at the bottom of the sea's dark, cold, bed,


at the bottom

of the sea's dark bed.


At the bottom of the sea's cold bed

At the bottom of the sea bed.


X La Reine de la Mer (2) (Etel Adnan)

Liquide, liquide, élément liquide.

Je suis la mer et la Reine de la mer.


Coda (Bible)

Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.


Duration: 20’
Instrumentation: 2 pianos, tape, percussion, optional slides, tape.
First performance: Free University of Brussels, 1 April 1977.