1987

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Duration: 20’
Dedicated to Charlie Haden.
Commissioned by the Camden Music Festival, London.
Instrumentation: Solo bass, strings (3,3,3,2,1 or 5,5,5,5,3), bass clarinet, percussion ( 1 player - vibes, marimba, tam-tam, 2 cymbals)
First performance: Shaw Theatre, London, April 6th 1987 (Charlie Haden, bass)

Note : By the Vaar (1987)

By the Vaar (1987)

By the Vaar was written as an extended adagio for the jazz bass player Charlie Haden accompanied by strings, bass clarinet and percussion. It was commissioned by the Camden Festival and first performed there in April 1987 along with a number of other works of mine having a close connection with jazz. The solo bass part, which begins with fully written material and gradually leads to an extended improvisation, was written with Charlie Haden's sound in mind. I have known Charlie's playing since the time when, as a schoolboy in Yorkshire, I heard broadcasts of the extraordinary first recordings of the Ornette Coleman quartet, of which Charlie was a key member and, curiously enough, the other composer featured in that Camden concert was Ornette himself. When I became a professional bassist working chiefly in jazz and improvised music I knew the individual sounds of most improvising bass-players and Charlie's sound  is a special one that I have heard and loved in many musical contexts. The title of the piece comes from my opera Doctor Ox's Experiment: the "Vaar" being a river in Flanders, not far from Bruges, which flows through the town in which the action of the opera takes place. During the opera there is a quiet and almost uneventful interlude where two lovers, Frantz and Suzel, pass the afternoon by the river, the one fishing, the other working on her tapestry. By the Vaar started out as a preliminary sketch for this scene, like a backdrop for the singers, and aspects of the music appear in the final opera. In this concert work, the solo bass plays chiefly in the low and middle registers, exploiting the unique qualities of Charlie's own bass, with its gut strings and resonant pizzicato notes.

Gavin Bryars



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.