1993

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Text: from Genesis A (7th Century Anglo-Saxon); Joe Chaikin/ Sam Shepard
Duration: 45’
Dedication: Peter Falk
Instrumentation: Soprano solo, Alto solo, Half Chorus, Chorus, Orchestra:
3(picc), 2 (CA), 2 + Bs.cl., 1 + Contra;
4, 2 (flugel), 3,1;
harp
percussion (3 players, see Percussion Note below for details)
Strings
First Performance: Royal Festival Hall, London, April 29th 1993

Note : Percussion for The War in Heaven (1993)

Percussion for The War in Heaven (1993)

2 Tam-Tams, 3 suspended cymbals, 2 sets tubular bells (large diameter pipes), 3 snare drums, 2 glockenspiel, vibraphone, 1 set 2-octave crotales, Bass drum.

NB. all players need bass bows.

(3 Players NB. these are in a specific "stereo" layout - left, right and centre of orchestra)

Note : The War in Heaven

The War in Heaven

The War in Heaven is a large-scale cantata for 2 solo voices (soprano and male alto), half chorus (BBC Singers), full chorus and orchestra. There are two different texts: one for the chorus and one for the soloists. The choral text is the opening section of the Old English (approximately 7th century) paraphrase of the first books of the Bible usually called Genesis A. I came across this when I set Caedmon's Creation Hymn - in 7th century Northumbrian, as part of the Cadman Requiem, written for the Hilliard Ensemble in 1989 and at least parts of Genesis A are probably also by Caedmon. What interested me about this vernacular poetry was that the opening lines of the Bible as we know it occur from line 113 onwards of Genesis A. I use lines 12 to 112 (plus one phrase from line 1) i.e. those lines that precede the Bible proper, a section usually referred to as "The War in Heaven" which deals with the Fall of the rebellious angels.

The solo voices sing, in 20th century English, a setting of a monologue that the American writer Sam Shepard wrote for Joe Chaikin. I had been very moved by the two performances of this piece that Joe Chaikin gave in the Leicester Haymarket's Studio Theatre in 1987, directed by my friend Simon Usher, during the period that I too worked there. This also deals with a fallen angel, but in a very different way, and it was the coincidence of its title, The War in Heaven, that gave me the idea of putting the two pieces together.

Apart from the opening and one unaccompanied section for chorus and half-chorus, the choir sings simultaneously with the solo voices and almost always in the original Anglo-Saxon of Genesis A, but occasionally they have a few words in contemporary English. Equally, on one occasion, the solo voices sing a short phrase in Anglo-Saxon.

The two solo voices are used in a variety of ways. Sometimes they have separate solo sections, sometimes they singing together in duets, sometimes they sing alternating lines or individual phrases, and in one part, sing alternative verses - rather like newsreaders on American television - in the only purely narrative part of the cantata where they describe the ultimately fruitless search for a "great man's" soul after his death. I chose these two solo voices (soprano and male alto) and specifically Sarah Leonard and David James because, on the one hand, I had worked with them several times in the past (both as individuals and within the context of the Hilliard Ensemble) and on the other hand because I wanted above all singers capable of singing with great purity. They each have voices of extraordinary beauty and power, and, as musicians, they are committed to music from all periods : from Early Music to music of our own day.

The orchestra is large though not enormous. The three percussionists, who play mostly tuned percussion instruments, are intended to be placed in a wide stereo perspective across the width of the orchestra (left, centre and right) and there are some instruments which are found in more than one location (there are Tam-Tams to the left and in the centre, marimbas on the right and the left, bells and glockenspiel at each side, and snare drums and suspended cymbals in each location).

The texts fall into a number of sections, dealing with different aspects of the narrative or emotional situation. However, the music is continuous and is not divided into separate movements, sections being delineated either by a change of atmosphere or by being collaged on top of each other. In spite of the apparently apocalyptic tone of the title, and the implications of the Anglo-Saxon text, the piece is not a religious one but focuses rather on the reflective humanism and ironies of the American text. The 'angelic fall' that is closest in character perhaps to this work is that found in Wim Wenders' film Wings of Desire, and especially in the part played by Peter Falk, to whom this piece is dedicated.

Gavin Bryars

1993

The War in Heaven

Text: from Genesis A (7th Century Anglo-Saxon); Joe Chaikin/ Sam Shepard

Duration: 45'

Dedication: Peter Falk

Instrumentation: Soprano solo, Alto solo, Half Chorus, Chorus, Orchestra:

3(picc), 2 (CA), 2 + Bs.cl., 1 + Contra;

4, 2 (flugel), 3,1;

harp

percussion (3 players, see Percussion for details)

Strings

First Performance: Royal Festival Hall, London, April 29th 1993

 

(in Percussion)

The War in Heaven (1993)

2 Tam-Tams, 3 suspended cymbals, 2 sets tubulars bells (large diameter pipes), 3 snare drums, 2 glockenspiel, vibraphone, 1 set 2-octave crotales, Bass drum.

nb. all players need bass bows.

(3 Players nb.these are in a specific "stereo" layout - left, right and centre of orchestra)



Duration: 17’
Instrumentation: 2 Pan-pipes, 2 alto saxophones, bass-clarinet, 2 sampling keyboards, octopads (with sampler), 5-string violin, 5-string cello, electric guitar, electric bass
First Performance: Bristol, April 18th 1993

Note : The Archangel Trip (1992)

The Archangel Trip (1992)

This piece, written for Icebreaker, uses most of the instruments available within its unique line-up. The title, and aspects of the musical imagery, comes from a pun derived from Icebreaker's name and inspired by a documentary film about two Russian icebreakers that ply the seas above the northern coasts of Russia. The home port of the ships is the north-western town of Archangel and the two ships move independently through these frozen and inhospitable seas - one sailing from east to west, the other from west to east - and meeting occasionally when their paths cross. The piece, then, becomes a kind of journey, moving from one musical state to another. It begins and ends in home territory, a sequence of drones derived from Japanese court music. The central section is an extended arioso for saxophones, doubled at times by the electric guitar using an E-bow, accompanied by electric strings, rough-hewn percussion and hocketting pan-pipes.

The idea for the piece was suggested in part by Jules Verne's novel Measuring a Meridian.



Duration: 58'
Instrumentation: mixed instruments 3-4 players (bass, tenor horn, clarinet, bass-clarinet, horn, percussion, keyboards) plus 2 works for village band from their own repertoire
First Performance for Installation at Chateau d'Oiron, France, June 25 1993



(+ 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.3.3.3.2.1), 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.