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Text: Thomas De Quincey
Duration: 7'
Dedication: Members of the Hilliard Early Music Summer School Cambridge 1997
Unaccompanied voices (SSATTBarB)
First Performance: Members of the Hilliard Early Music Summer School, Emannuel Reformed Church, Cambridge August 2nd 1997

Note : And So Ended Kant's Travelling In This World (1997)

And So Ended Kant's Travelling In This World (1997)

As my contribution to the Hilliard Ensemble's Summer School, for which I was composer-in-residence, I wrote two works for the entire group of tutors and students: this work, which lasts about 7 minutes, and the Three Poems of Cecco Angiolieri. The text is taken from Thomas de Quincey's The Last Days of Immanuel Kant, a work which I have planned several times for operatic treatment and which I intend to bring to completion at some stage, and describes Kant's last journey, a futile and inconclusive visit to a friend in the country. As the students on the course, many of whom were professional singers, were drawn from all over the world I felt that it would useful to write something in English, almost as an exercise in diction. In the event the words which caused most difficulty and disagreement were the (German) words "General von Lossow". When introducing the piece in the final concert I found myself on the verge of making the rather tactless reference to 'almost starting World War III'....

The music is for five-part choir: sopranos, contraltos, tenors, baritones and basses with the basses been given a low C on the final chord.

The piece is dedicated to the members of the 1997 Hilliard Summer School.


In particular the cottage itself, standing under the shelter of tall alders with a valley silent and solitary stretched beneath, through which a little brook meandered, broken by a waterfall whose pealing sounds dwelt pleasantly on the ear, sometimes on a quiet sunny day gave a lively delight to Kant. Once the little pastoral landscape suddenly awakened a lively remembrance, which had long laid sleep, of a heavenly summer morning in youth, which he had passed in a bower upon the banks of a rivulet that ran through the grounds of a dear and early friend, General von Lossow. He seemed to be living over that morning again, thinking as he then thought and conversing with belovèd friends that were no more.

His very last excursion was not to my cottage but to the garden of a friend. He was to meet this old friend at the gardens, and I awaited him. Our party arrived first and had to wait. Such. however, was Kant's weakness that after waiting a few moments, several hours, he fancied, must have elapsed. So his friend could not be expected and he cam away in great discomposure of mind.

And so ended Kant's travelling in this world.

Thomas de Quincey

Text: Cecco Angiolieri
Duration: 12'
Dedication: The Corte Sconta, Venezia
First Performance: Members of the Hilliard Early Music Summer School, Emannuel Reformed Church, Cambridge August 2nd 1997

Note : Three Poems of Cecco Angiolieri (1997)

Three Poems of Cecco Angiolieri (1997)

As my contribution to the Hilliard Ensemble's Summer School, for which I was composer-in-residence, I wrote two works for the entire group of tutors and students: this work, which lasts about 12 minutes, as well as And So Ended Kant's Travelling In This World. The students were in small vocal groups, most of them already established in their respective countries, and I resolved not to write anything until I arrived in Cambridge and had heard each of the groups. There were 9 student groups, plus the five vocal tutors (John Potter, Rogers Covey Crump and Gordon Jones from the Hilliard Ensemble, plus Linda Hirst and Richard Wistreich) giving effectively 10 groups, totalling 49 solo voices. I had spent the time prior to the course in Venice on holiday with my daughters, where I also gave active thought to what kinds of texts I might use for the singers. One night, at the end of dinner at the Corte Sconta, whose owners are close friends of the Italian friends who took us there, there was a strange and dramatic performance of an old Italian poem. Claudio, the owner of the restaurant, declaimed the first line of the poem and my friend Gianfranco called back the responsory line. I learned that the poet was Cecco Angiolieri, whom I did not know, and I eventually found some of his poems, (which occupied 5 pages of a very large book on early Italian poetry located in the University Bookshop) including the one I had heard the previous evening. The poem that I had heard comprised 10 sentences beginning "S'i' fosse..." followed by responses. I wrote one for each of the nine groups, where the whole ensemble would sing the first line, and a solo group would sing the response. The music for each group attemtped to capture something of their character - a six-part Austrian group, for example, being given something alluding to Brahms (whom they love, and I loathe!). The last sentence was given to everyone. This poem was to be the second of the three poems which I set.

To the 5-part tutorial group I gave a short and poignant text that I had found on a grave in the Protestant section of the San Michele cemetery and which served to punctuate the verses and to form a coda. For the first poem, I used the singers in different combinations of pairs of groups. For the last poem the setting is more traditionally choral, though in 7 parts (sopranos I, sopranos II, altos, tenors I, tenors II, baritones, basses), with the 5-part tutorial group separate from them. In view of the circumstances of its performance and the time available this was perhaps not the easiest kind of piece to have produced...

The piece is dedicated to the Corte Sconta

Note : Text of Three Poems of Cecco Angiolieri (1997)

Text of Three Poems of Cecco Angiolieri (1997)

1. La mia malinconia....

La mia malinconia è tanta e tale,

ch'i non discredo che, s'egli 'l sapesse

un che mi fosse nemico mortale,

che di me di pieta (de) non piangesse.


Quella, per cu' m'avèn, poco ne cale;

ché mi potrebbe, sed ella volesse,

guarir 'n un punto, di tutto 'l mie male,

sed ella pur "I t'odio" mi dicesse.


Ma quest' è la risposta c'ho da lei:

ched ella non mi vòl né mal né bene,

e ched i'vad' a far li fatti meiei;


ch'ella non cura s'i' ho gioi' o pene,

men ch'una paglia che le va tra' piei;

mal grado n'abbi Amor, ch'a le' mi diéne.




My melancholy is such and so great

that I am certain that, if he knew of it,

one who was my mortal enemy

would weep for pity of me.


It matters not to her, whether she has me;

what good would it do me, if she wished it,

to be cured in a moment of all my troubles,

if her only word for me was "I hate you"?


But this is the answer I have from her:

that she wishes me neither good nor ill,

and wishes I would go my own way;


that she cares less whether I have joy or pain,

than a straw which goes between her feet;

may Love be cursed, who gave me to her.


2. S'i' fosse foco....

S'i' fosse foco, ardare' 'l mondo;

s'i' fosse vento, lo tempestarei;

s'i' fosse acqua, I' l'annegarei;

s'i' fosse Dio, mandereil' en profondo;


s'i' fosse papa, sare' allor giocondo,

ché tutti cristiani embrigarei;

s'i' fosse 'mperator, sa' che farei?

a tutti mozzarei lo capo a tondo.


S'i' fosse morte, andarei a me' padre;

s'i' fosse vita, fuggirei da lui;

similemente faria da mi' madre.


S'i' fosse Cecco, com' I' sono e fui,

torrei le donne givani e leggiadre;

le zoppe e laide lasserei altrui.




If I were fire, I would burn the world;

if I were wind, I would bestorm it;

if I were water, I would drown it;

if I were God, I would hurl it into the deep;


If I were Pope, I would be happy,

as I would harry all Christians;

if I were emperor, do you know what I would do?

I would chop off the heads of the lot of them.


If I were death, I would go to my father;

if I were life, I would run from him,

and I would do the same for my mother.


If I were Cecco, as I am and have been,

I would take for myself all the young and pretty women,

and leave the lame and ugly for others.


3. La stremità....

La stremità mi richer per figliuolo,

ed 'I' l'appelo ben per madre mia;

e 'ngenerato fu' dal fitto duolo,

e la mia balia fu malinconia,


e le mie fasce si fûr d'un lenzuolo,

che volgarmente ha nome ricadìa;

da la cima del capo 'nfin al suolo

cosa non regna 'n me che bona sia.


Po', quando I' fu' cresciuto, mi fu dato

per mia ristorazion moglie che garre

da anzi di 'nfin al cielo stellato;


e 'l su' garrir paion mille chitarre:

a cu' la moglie muor, ben è lavato,

se la ripiglia, più che non è 'l farre.




I claim misery as my child,

and I call it my mother too;

I was conceived out of heavy grief,

and my wet-nurse was melancholy,


and my swaddling clothes were a sheet

whose common name is trouble;

from the top of my head to the soles of my feet

there was nothing in me that could be called good.


Then, when I was grown, a wife was given to me

for my refreshment; she talked

from the early morning until the sky was full of stars;


and her talking was like a thousand guitars:

when such a wife dies, if her husband remarries

he has no more brains than a boat of gravy.*


"O Venezia benedetta no ti vogio più lasciar"

(Epigram on grave of Thomas McAndrew, San Michele)


* This last line is not a strict translation but rather includes an affectionate anagrammatical allusion to Gavin Bryars, noted by the translators Selene Mills, Richard Wistreich and Massimiliano Pascucci.

Duration c. 25’
Dedication: The Lyric Quartet
First Performance: The Lyric Quartet, The Pump Room, Cheltenham July 15th 1998

Note : String Quartet no.3 (1998)

String Quartet no.3 (1998)

Apart from the 10 5-minute string quartets that I wrote in 1992 as the original version of A Man in a Room, Gambling, where they accompany Juan Muñoz's speaking voice and are therefore not 'pure' quartets, there are 8 years between my second and third quartets (there were only 4 years between the first and second). The third quartet alludes to a number of approaches to chamber music that I have touched on in those intervening years.

Among these is the section at the end of my Cello Concerto where the solo cello is accompanied only by 3 solo instruments (2 violins and a viola) as a reference to the concerto's connection with the music of Haydn, the 'father' of the string quartet. Although, in an academic sense, this reference may appear classical, in the concerto its musical effect is elegiac and even austere coming as it does at the end of long orchestral work. Shortly before the closing section of this quartet, therefore, I use an equivalent sequence of suspensions and resolutions but this time using only two instruments and, unlike in the concerto, the accompanying instruments - and the solo lines - do not remain the same throughout the passage.

Another element which finds its way into the quartet comes from my work with groups from the world of early music, particularly from the experience of writing for a consort of viols, a precursor of the string quartet, and for homogeneous vocal ensembles (the brief allusion to Gesualdo in this piece stems from the "apt for voices or viols" principle which found its way into the world of the madrigal). In several places I ask for little or no vibrato from the strings, occasionally preferring open strings and natural harmonics to stopped notes. In addition there are sections where I concentrate on the purer intervals. This self-imposed constraint is present throughout the work - in one section I only use major harmonies and in another only minor, for example.

Although I use the term 'section' in these notes, in fact the piece is in one continuous movement, played without a break.

I have known the members of the Lyric Quartet for a number of years both personally and professionally and I admire their work both as a quartet and as individual players. My third string quartet is dedicated to the Lyric Quartet and was commissioned by them with funds made available by South West Arts.

Gavin Bryars


Duration c. 10’
Dedication: Harmonia Trio
Instrumentation: clarinet, cello, piano

Note : Intermezzo (1998)

Intermezzo (1998)

This piece, for clarinet, cello and piano, was commissioned by the Italian group Harmonia and was written immediately after I finished writing the opera Doctor Ox's Experiment. The piece is extremely quiet throughout, going down to pppp at times and the tempo drops at one point a metronome marking of 30. It starts with an extended passage in unison and evolves into a kind of duet with passages modelled on the lieder of Hugo Wolf. It was written for a recording which would feature works of mine: The North Shore in the version for cello and piano, Allegrasco in the early version for clarinet and piano. Intermezzo, therefore, was designed to bring all three players together for the final piece of the album.

It is dedicated to Harmonia


Duration c.25’
Instrumentation: electric guitar, bass clarinet, electric keyboard, 2 violas, cello, double bass
First performance: La Botanique, Brussels, October 15th 1998

Note : After the Requiem (1990)

After the Requiem (1990)

The original After the Requiem had been written in 1990 for the electric guitar of Bill Frisell, plus 2 violas and cello (members of the Balanescu Quartet) specially for a recording by ECM. It is based on Cadman Requiem (1989) which had been written for the Hilliard Ensemble in memory of my friend and sound engineer Bill Cadman, who was killed in the Lockerbie air crash. The piece is "after" the Requiem both in the musical sense of being based on it, in the chronological sense of following on from it, and in the spiritual sense of representing that state which remains after mourning is (technically) over.

I had delayed for some time any live performance, preferring to see if it would be possible to find a moment when my diary and that of Bill Frisell might coincide. When this proved impossible I modified the piece slightly to perform it with my ensemble, featuring my guitarist James Woodrow and changing the string trio parts to viola, cello and bass (for myself to play).  In 1998 however I made an new version to include other players in my ensemble - bass clarinet, second viola, electric keyboard - and extended the music at the same time. I added a prelude to feature the solo bass clarinet, a section within the body of the music and an extension to the end which drew on the original source Invention of Tradition, for which Bill Cadman had done the sound design. I also lengthened the section in which the guitar improvises. This is the version which I now prefer to play with my own ensemble.

The dedication remains to the two Bills (Cadman and Frisell).

Duration: c. 37’
Dedication: Valdine Anderson and David James
Instrumentation: soprano, counter tenor, electric guitar, bass clarinet, piano (doubling electric keyboard), 2 violas, cello, bass, percussion (vibraphone, glockenspiel, bells, bass drum, tam-tam, sizzle cymbal)
First Performance: La Botanique, Brussels, October 16th 1998

Note : Duets from Doctor Ox's Experiment

Duets from Doctor Ox's Experiment

In my opera Doctor Ox's Experiment pair of young lovers are sung by a soprano and a counter tenor. They are doubled by another pair of lovers. with the same vocal pairing, who become their rivals in the second act. For this concert work, written for my ensemble, I took the points in the opera where duets between these voices take place, no matter which of the characters was singing, and adding last scene in which Suzel  sings solo, though with the distance voice of another male singer, the baritone Ygène, singing off stage. There are four parts to this concert piece.

Part One opens with a short instrumental opening using material from the very beginning of the opera, and dovetailed into the opening of what was scene 5. This has all the lovers' material from scene 5 - including the duet material sung by the other pair of lovers. In what were previously quartet sections, the two voices sing their own existing parts, the other two parts being taken by instruments. The part of Frantz has a couple of note changes to get rid of the more obvious unisons but Suzel's part is unchanged.

Part Two is the love duet which comprises the whole of Act One Scene 8 and is exactly as it appears in the opera. For the performances by my ensemble I played the jazz bass part.

Part Three has an instrumental section at the beginning to reflect the change for the beginning of the second act and is shorter and faster. This is the duet originally sung by Frantz's rival Fritz and Suzel.

Part Four is the Epilogue from the end of the opera. The soprano part is exactly as it was in the opera. The counter tenor sings Ygène's plaintive off-stage "Ox? Ox?", which is, in any case, quite high in the baritone voice and was sung as a 'head tone' by the baritone. This final section starts with the instrumental opening as it was in the original concert work Doctor Ox's Experiment (Epilogue) which I wrote in 1988 as a first draft for the opera (this instrumental music overlaps the end of Aunt Hermance's final aria in the opera itself).





Text: Blake Morrison
Duration c. 35’
Dedication: Martin and Rita Cadman
Instrumentation: ATTBar/ ATBar
First performance (3 of madrigals): Hilliard Ensemble, Westminster Cathedral, December 21st 1998

Note : First Book of Madrigals (1998-2000)

First Book of Madrigals (1998-2000)

In 1998 I embarked on a project to write a series of madrigals for the Hilliard Ensemble, eventually deciding to collect them in 'books' in the manner of Italian madrigalists, such as Monteverdi or Gesualdo. Indeed, having written many works for the Hilliard Ensemble I sought, in writing these new madrigals, to work within the spirit and aesthetic of those from the Italian Renaissance. I asked my long-time collaborator Blake Morrison if he would be interested in writing some new poems based on the form and content of Renaissance madrigals (John Potter, then of the Hilliard, pointed out that they were chiefly about love and sex - whether an absence or difficulties or abundance of either). The settings are for 3, 4 or 5-part ensemble and the disposition of these ensembles varies. While most of the four-part madrigals are for alto, two tenors and baritone, there are some for three tenors and baritone. Equally of the 3 three-part settings two are for alto, tenor, baritone, while one is for two tenors and baritone.  The poems cover a wide emotional range. Some focus on the details of loving relationships - with a subtle eroticism or, at times, irony -  others deal with love in a more abstract sense.

There are many moments in these madrigals when the individual personalities, both musical and personal, of the member of the Hilliard Ensemble suggest approaches to word setting. The most thorough of these, in terms of the range of internal reference, is the fourth madrigal "Just as the ash-glow", while the last piece in the book "Against dieting", was added as an affectionate joke at the expense of the alto David James. But, as with any music written for particular performers, the work has to exist beyond the confines of the local circumstances of its generation and ultimately purely musical criteria overrule such concerns.

Coincidentally the first four settings were written on Mondays (the first three to be ready for the Lockerbie Memorial Concert at Westminster Cathedral in December 1998, the fourth for a session of filming for a TV profile made by Hessischer Rudfunk in 1999). I wrote the remaining nine on successive Mondays in the summer of 2000 in our summer home in Victoria BC, sometimes writing two, and once three, in a day. The songs are published in the order of their composition.

Second and third books of madrigals now exist, for different vocal formations (written on Tuesdays - 6 part -  and Wednesdays 3-part with lute - respectively)  and a fourth - 8-part - is under way.

The First Book of Madrigals is dedicated to my friends Rita and Martin Cadman

Note : First Book of Madrigals (published ED12679)

First Book of Madrigals (published ED12679)

  1. Web (ATTBar)
  2. Stormy (ATBar)
  3. Almond Tree (ATBar)
  4. Just as the ash-glow (ATTBar)
  5. Within minutes (ATTBar)
  6. Our bodies in the shower (ATTBar)
  7. She'd buy things (TTBar)
  8. All the homely arts and crafts (TTTBar)
  9. In April (ATTTBar)
  10. Who's the more to blame? (TTTBar)
  11. The print of soles (ATTTBar)
  12. My pomegranate (ATTTBar)
  13. Against Dieting (ATTTBar)


Note : Text of First Book of Madrigals

Text of First Book of Madrigals


1. Web (ATTB)

The spider's lurking-parlour

its vestibule of thread

the spin of it walls

closing in and round us

until the hall we entered

hoping to visit life

becomes the manor of our death.

No skylight over the door

no flue of air

only the trap of shadows

and darkness ripening

in the heart of the sun.


2. Stormy  (ATB)

I should have seen from your eyes

and the lightning which broke in them

the storms that lie ahead.


The white ecstasy of bedsheets,

smashed pots and broken furniture,

the forked static of your touch.


But storms pass like headaches do.

Today the rain, in carpet-tacks.

Alone together, we watch the rain.


3. Almond Tree (ATB)

We met under the fork of an almond tree

as March came slowly into leaf.

Our love blossomed like a snow-storm.

White confetti paved the street.


What are we to do now autumn's here?

Your eyes are cold, my arms have shrunk.

The years seem a tangle of dry twigs.

Can we get through them without love?


4. Just as the ash-glow...  (ATTB)

Just as the ash-glow

and cinder-light of the skies

lose all their lustre

once you've seen the moon rise,


and the volted daisies

and bruised delphiniums

pale into nothing

when the sunflower blooms,


and the swallows

plinking on their long string

sound merely garrulous

if you've heard the lapwing,


so the women I'd been eyeing

were a dimmed light

when you walked into vision

that first night.


5. Within minutes...  (ATTB)

Within minutes, our first conversation,

I knew.

Out of nowhere, from the rim of a glass,

the flash

of knowledge, as if their were no choice.

Sewn up.

Like the moment the plane drops through

the clouds

and the land spreads out its patchwork,

and you see,

in crushing detail, the future race to meet you.

Just like that.


6. Our bodies in the shower... (ATTB)

Our bodies in the shower.

The hisp and plather

of skins under the water.

The smoke coming off us.

The stream within the stream.

We were rinsed clean

of everything but desire.


7. She'd buy things...  (TTB)

She'd buy things, expecting our lives to flourish

because the objects surrounding them had changed.

My line was different: no matter how and where

we lived, we were what we were, unalterably.


8. All the homely arts and crafts...  (TTTB)

All the homely arts and crafts -

the soft plinth of a tongue,

the Guggenheim of an ear,

the weave of hands and hair -


are nothing next to the science

of those eyes unseen until tonight,

this lip lightly charred from

the soft combustion of a kiss.


9. In April... (ATTTB)

In April we'll fly to the Lebanon and live among the vines

and the vines will be young and tender

and our bed will smell of cinnamon

and I'll order them not to wake us till we please.


I'll keep you safe

If ever you're lost

I'll go about the streets and broadways

and find you and bring you to my bed.


10. Who's the more to blame... (TTTB)

Who's the more to blame?

You for having eyes

a soul could drown in?

Or me for falling in?


Let's not argue who's to blame.

The only points at issue

are the ones that shrink

and widen in your eyes.


My eyes have grown dim

from patrolling the days

like a camera lens,

trawling for your eyes.


Here's you in New York.

Here's you in London.

Your eyes are everywhere.

Where are your eyes?


11. The print of soles... (ATTTB)

The print of soles across the bathroom floor:

finding them, I felt like Crusoe, and stooped

to test their warmth and wetness, then rose

to follow where they led, not caring that

I knew the end already, as if she were

a stranger, this woman meeting my eyes

in the dressing-table mirror,

one towel tucked just above her bosom,

another knotted round her head,

and waterbeads still fresh on her nape

and shoulders, which I bent to kiss -

meeting your eyes again as I did -

for the first time ever in the world.


12. My pomegranate... (ATTTB)

My pomegranate in the wilderness

my sunlit fishpool

my August torrent

and winter coal.


No one can quench the flame

of this ecstasy

our love is strong as death

and rich as fire.


13. Against Dieting (ATTTB)

Please, darling, no more diets.

I've heard the talk and why it's

good for one's esteem. I've watched you

jogging lanes and pounding treadmills.

I've even shed two kilos of my own.

But enough. What are love-handles

between friends? For half a stone

it isn't worth the sweat.

I've had it up to here with crispbread.

I doubt the premise, too.

Try to see it from my point of view.

I want not less but more of you.


Note: The texts of these madrigals were commissioned from Blake Morrison to be set to music.  Subsequently Blake published 11 of these poems, along with others, under the title "Madrigalia" in his volume of Selected Poems (1999). The first ("Web") and last ("Against Dieting") set in my collection do not appear in that edition. The third ("Almond Tree") sets the original version of his poem, which differs slightly from the one in the poetry collection.

Text: P.K. Page
Duration c.10’
Instrumentation: contralto voice, bass clarinet, bassoon; 2 horns in F; percussion (bass drum, tam-tam, bells, glockenspiel. sizzle cymbal), timpani; piano; strings (min.
First performance: Centennial Hall, Winnipeg: Holly Cole, voice, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, conductor Bramwell Tovey

Note : Planet Earth (1998)

Planet Earth (1998)

Planet Earth was commissioned by the CBC for the Canadian jazz singer Holly Cole to perform at the 1999 Winnipeg New Music Festival. I had begun working with the Canadian poet PK Page and chose to set one of a series of poems, from a collection entitled Hologram, in which each poem uses the poetic form of the "glosa", an early Renaissance form first developed by poets of the Spanish court.

This technique involves writing a four verse poem, preceded by a four line poem by another poet which is quoted at the begining. Each 10 line verse ends (verse one, with line one, verse two with line two and so on) with one line from the quoted poem, the sixth and ninth lines rhyming with the borrowed line.

I followed the artifice of this device, but avoided quoting the original poem. However, I did write music which would eventually have words attached when the line duly arrived in the context of the poem itself.

The music is scored for contralto voice with small chamber orchestra: bass clarinet, bassoon; 2 horns; percussion (bass drum, tam-tam, bells, glockenspiel. sizzle cymbal), timpani; piano; strings (without violins).

Text: P.K. Page
Duration: c. 4’
Instrumentation: contralto voice, 6 celli, 4 basses, percussion (bass drum, tam-tam, cymbal)
First Performance: Centennial Hall Winnipeg; Holly Cole, voice, members of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, conductor Bramwell Tovey

Note : The Apple (1998)

The Apple (1998)

Like Planet Earth, The Apple was written for the Canadian jazz singer Holly Cole to perform at the 1999 Winnipeg New Music Festival, thrown in as a bonus to the commission from the CBC, and also sets a poem by P.K. Page. Holly's voice is very low, and the highest note that she suggested I write for her, B in the middle of the treble clef, is a note which can be sung by a reasonable tenor voice. As a consequence I decided to emphasise this low and husky quality, which works beautifully when sung using a microphone, with a parallel and very dark orchestration. I wrote for 6 solo cellos, 4 solo basses, and untuned percussion (bass drum, tam-tam, suspended cymbal). The piece is very short, lasting only 4 minutes or so.

I have since made a version for my own ensemble to play. This gives an instrumentation of 2 violas, cello, bass, bass clarinet, electric guitar, percussion, plus low female voice.

Duration: c. 5’
Dedication: my mother
Instrumentation: organ solo
First performance: St Johns Church, Goole January 8th 1999 (mother’s funeral)

Duration: 45’
Instrumentation: violin, cello, electric guitar, double bass, electric keyboard, pre-recorded tape
First Performance: Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley California April 23rd 1999

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Note : Biped (1999)

Biped (1999)

Biped was commissioned by the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation for the dance by Merce Cunningham. It is one of the first new musical compositions commissioned by them since the death of John Cage in 1992. Like all of Merce's work it involved a collaboration with visual artists, in this case Paul Keiser and Shelley Eshkar who had developed a very striking technique of video motion capture. In working on the music Merce and I agreed that we would follow the method established between himself and John Cage of working independently but towards a common goal, thereby avoiding any planned one-to-one relationship between music, dance and decor, but working to the same overall programme length, here 45 minutes.

Merce and I did exchange faxes to give each of us pointers as to the other's thinking, and I did see examples of the animation techniques which were to form the work's design. When I asked if he had ever spoken with John Cage in advance about the work's structure and form (how many sections, whether dancers formed duos, trios, quartets ensembles and so on) he said that he always did,, but equally that John always ignored the information..

I had worked with John in the late 1960's and his work had been a key factor in my decision to move away from improvised music towards composition. Indeed, seeing the Cunningham company in London in 1966 represented a key moment in my artistic development. The very first piece I saw was a solo called Nocturne, danced by Merce, designed by Robert Rauschenberg and with Satie's five Nocturnes for solo piano played by John Cage. Merce wore a white costume, there was a white gauze behind which he danced, and pure bright while light on the gauze, behind it and in front of it, produced a stunning effect.

In Biped, just as, with the visual element, there is live dance and its digital 'shadow' through the projected video animation (curiously, like the very first piece I saw, projected on to a front gauze) so I chose to have a form of digital replication within the music. The live instruments (electric guitar, cello, electric keyboard, acoustic double , violin and percussion) being reinforced by their electronic equivalents. The sampled material is played by members of my ensemble, who are also the live performers whenever possible, with the addition of Takehisa Kosugi, the Cunningham company's music director since Cage's death, on violin and improvised percussion. The music falls into six (unequal) sections and is played without a break.

Duration c. 7’
Dedication: in memory of Adelaide Hall
Instrumentation: solo soprano voice; alto sax I, alto sax II (clar.), tenor sax I (clar.), tenor sax II (clar.), baritone sax; 4 French horns; flugelhorn,3 trumpets; 3 trombones, bass trombone; piano, bass, drums
First Performance: London Sinfonietta Big Band, Duke Ellington Memorial Concert, Queen Elziabeth Hall London, May 1st 1999

Note : When Harry Met Addie (1999)

When Harry Met Addie (1999)

for off-stage mezzo soprano and big band

The title of this piece contains two specific references: one to the singer Adelaide Hall and the other to baritone saxophonist Harry Carney.

I worked with Adelaide Hall on one memorable occasion in the Leicester Haymarket Studio Theatre in the late 1980's playing bass, arranging the music and directing a medium sized band composed of my students, some jazz colleagues from Leicester and featuring pianist Mick Pyne. Adelaide and I became good friends and I would visit her at her home in London whenever I could. She had, of course, been Duke Ellington's singer from 1927 onwards and was, in all probability, the first jazz singer to use 'scat' vocalisation, most famously in Creole Love Call. The legend is that Ellington was playing the piece through when Adelaide, in her dressing room, improvised a vocal line answering the theme played by a trio of clarinets. Whether this is true or not Ellington did incorporate this effect into the piece itself.

As my piece was commissioned for a concert curated by the baritone saxophonist/ bass clarinettist John Surman I thought to include also a reference to Harry Carney, Ellington's long serving (and long-suffering) baritone saxophonist whom I had seen perform with the Ellington band at Sheffield City Hall in the 1960's. There are brief quotations from Creole Love Call itself and the piece gradually becomes a (fully-notated) duet for the singer and the baritone which eventually merges into an improvised solo for alto saxophone. The voice and baritone are reunited in the closing bars.

When Harry Met Addie is dedicated to the memory of Adelaide Hall.

Gavin Bryars

Duration: c.30’
Instrumentation: bass clarinet, piano, 2 violas, cello, bass, percussion (one player: bells, vibraphone, tam-tam, bass drum)
First Performance: Alix Goolden Hall, Victoria Conservatory, Victoria BC, Canada June 19th 1999

Note : Unless The Eye Catch Fire (1999) (World premiere)

Unless The Eye Catch Fire (1999) (World premiere)

For 2 violas, cello, bass, piano, bass clarinet, percussion

I was very struck by the material sent to me last summer by film director Anna Tchernakova relating to her film based on the short story by P.K.Page. I read the story, I saw some early footage, I became acquainted with other work by P.K. and by Anna and I was very happy to make what is my first serious foray into writing music for a film. Music is central to the film, indeed the film itself will open and close with images from this concert performance. We agreed that the music should have an autonomous existence as chamber music and should not be merely a sequence of musical cues. It does, of course, endeavour to be at one with the poignancy of the text and the eloquence of its filmed realisation and ultimately forms part of an overall sound design.

The music is in 6 parts each having a relationship - sometimes clear sometimes oblique - to a simple chorale which appears in different guises. The first part is a short and simple statement of this chorale. Some sections begin with a statement of this material but then lead to different developments from it. In two sections (sections 2 and 4) the theme is not stated but rather covered by its development. The last variation, which features the unison double bass and bass clarinet, ends with a brief coda, reminiscent of a pipe lament. The instrumentation is close to that of my own ensemble which tends to feature the darker, richer sonorities of the lower strings, supported by the bass clarinet, allied to the brighter sounds of keyboard and tuned percussion. This instrumental balance and contrast - between darkness and light, richness and austerity - is intended to be at one with both text and film.

The six parts of Unless The Eye Catch Fire are as follows:

I Chorale

II Variation 1 - covered

III Variation 2 - major/minor

IV intermezzo

V Variation 3 - waltz

VI Variation 4 - minor/major



Duration: c. 14’
Dedication: my wife Anya
Instrumentation: 21 solo strings (11 violins, 4 violas, 4 celli, 2 basses)
First Performance: Primavera Orchestra, directed by Paul Manley, Canterbury December 1st 1999

Duration: c.18’
Dedication: to Billesdon
Instrumentation: Chorus (SATB) 2 flutes, oboe, clarinet, alto saxophone (2 players), 2 trombones (3 players), 2 electric guitars (3 players), handbells (5 players), 3 electric keyboards (optional shakers), drum kit, violin, 2 celli (4 players), bass
First Performance: Billesdon Millennium Music, The Coplow Centre Billesdon, December 31st 1999

Note : Creation Hymn

Creation Hymn

dedicated to Billesdon

I was approached last year by Fiona White to see if I would be prepared to write a piece of music involving people from Billesdon, as a millennium project to be played on New Year's Eve 1999. We held a meeting in November 1998 in order to gauge the level of interest and to find out what kind of musical resources we might have. I explained something of my approach in composing and devised a simple questionnaire for the possible participants. From this I was able to discover the types of instruments and voices available to me, as well as the experience and musical abilities of the performers. This was ranged from those who had little or no experience on the one hand, to those who had a serious professional background. In between were those with a love of music but who had found little opportunity for collective music making for many years - in many cases since school days! There were some considerable surprises: I had not, for example, thought that a village the size of Billesdon would have four cellos and 3 trombones concealed within the community. The presence of a set of handbells too was a challenge, especially when it transpired that they were pitched a semitone lower than notated (I had to fax a new part from Canada).

The actual writing of the piece was delayed considerably because of substantial and unexpected changes in my professional and domestic lives but the music was eventually put in front of the ensemble about a month ago. I was very fortunate that my music publisher, Schott, was prepared to produce a printed score and sets of parts as a gesture of sponsorship. There was a good deal of private practice, sectional rehearsals and I was pleased that the church choir managed to find some time to look at the music during their regular weekly choir practice. During my absence my old friend and colleague Dave Smith directed rehearsals and got the music into some sort of shape. Indeed when I returned he had become so involved in the project that we decided he should conduct the piece in performance, and so I wrote myself a bass part in order to be in the piece too.

The question of text for the choir was something that I thought about at great length. Eventually I chose the Creation Hymn by the 7th century poet Caedmon, a beautiful poem which is the oldest piece of written poetry that we have in England. I had set it before, very differently, but felt that the simple sincerity of its celebration of life was an appropriate sentiment for the occasion. In addition the fact that it could, in theory, have been used for a first millennium piece made in even more attractive - I speculated that perhaps on December 31st 999 something like this might have happened before.....  The poem is set twice, the first in a Latin paraphrase by the church historian Bede, also from the seventh century and the second in the original language.

The music falls into five sections, which are played without a break.

Section One begins with a kind of prologue in which three different instrumental groups from within the full ensemble are given there own material.

In Section Two the full ensemble is put together and this leads into a four-part chorus singing, in Latin, Caedmon's Creation Hymn.

Section Three is more energetic for the full instrumental group, accompanied by drum kit.

In the Fourth Section the chorus sing the Creation Hymn again, but this time in the original 7th century Northumbrian.

Section Five is a short, quiet coda, in which music from the prologue reappears to close the piece.

The commitment and team spirit of the whole group has been extraordinary and it has been a remarkable experience to work with them. Any good things that the performance contains are down to them. Any mistakes are mine

Gavin Bryars

Note : Texts of Creation Hymn

Texts of Creation Hymn

Nunc laudare debemus auctorem regni caelestis, potentiam Creatoris et consilium illius, facta Patris gloriae. Quomodo ille, cum sit aeternus Deus, omnium miraculorum auctor extitit, qui primo filiis hominum caelum pro culmine tecti, dehinc terram custos humani generis omnipotens creavit. 

Nu scylun hergan       hefaenricaes uard,

metudaes mecti      end his mogdedanc,

uerc wuldurfadur    sue he wundra gihwaes,

eci dryctin,     or astelidae;

he aerist scop     aelda barnum

heben til hrofe,    haleg scepen,

tha middungeard     moncynnaes uard;

eci dryctin      aefter tiadae

firum foldu    frea allmectig.

Translation of the Anglo-Saxon (the Latin is broadly the same):

Now let us praise the keeper of the kingdom of heaven, the might of God and the wisdom of his spirit, the work of the world-warden, in that he, the eternal Lord, ordained the beginning of everything that is wonderful. He, the holy Creator, first created

heaven as  a roof for the children of men; afterwards the keeper of mankind, the eternal Lord, almighty Governor, fashioned the world, the middle earth, for mortals.

Duration c. 8’
Instrumentation: Four voices (counter tenor, 2 tenors, baritone)
First Performance: The Orlando Consort, York Early Music Centre, St. Mary’s Church York, April 7th 2000

Note : Super Flumina (2000)

Super Flumina (2000)

for four voices (counter tenor, 2 tenors, baritone)

Commissioned for the Orlanda Consort by the York Early Music Foundation, Super Flumina was written specially for the opening of their new centre. To this end the piece marries the ideas that the Orlando Consort has begun to explore in developing works from 'fragments' of extant musical texts with the context of the piece's first performance. The piece focuses on a legend associated with St. Mary's Abbey in York whereby, in 1377, fishermen brought the lifeless body of a 14 year-old girl, who had fallen into the Ouse, into the chapel. The monks prayed that the Virgin would intercede and had begun to sing the anthem Ave Regina Caelorum when the girl regained consciousness. After a night in the chapel she recovered completely.

The piece does not attempt to tell the story in a literal way, but rather approaches the legend through a series of musical and textual fragments: the hymn Ave Regina Caelorum; the text of the Psalm "By the waters... (Psalm 137, but 136 in the old Latin bible); coincidences of phrases between the various texts, as well as divergences of text within different settings of the same material (for example, Dufay's setting of Ave Regina Caelorum sets substantially different words for the third line).

The piece was written specifically for the Orlando Consort with very particular attention to the tessitura of each voice and to the perceived ways of combining voices in different registers. One of the pleasures of working with early music performers is the intelligence and invention which they bring to the performance of music which has laid dormant or has never been heard before and which often involves decision making of a very high order.  This investigative approach is also something which they bring to the performance of completely new music which, until their intervention, can only remain on the manuscript paper like faint scratches on fading parchment.  

Gavin Bryars

Note : Text of Super Flumina

Text of Super Flumina

Text                                                                        Translation


Ave, Salve, Ave                                                         Hail, Hail, Hail

Salve radix, salve porta,                                            Hail root, hail gate

Salve radix sancta                                                     Hail holy root


Super flumina Babilonis                                             By the waters of Babylon

ibi sedimus et flevimus                                              there we sat down and wept

(salve)                                                                     (Hail)


Super salices in medio eius                                       We hanged our harps on the willows

suspendimus citharas nostra                                     in the midst thereof


Quomodo cantabimus                                               How shall we sing

canticum Domini                                                      the Lord's songs

in terra aliena                                                          in a strange land


Super flumina Eboracis                                            By the waters of York

ibi sedimus et flevimus                                            there we sat down and wept


Super omnes speciosa                                            More beautiful than all others

salve radix, salve porta                                           Hail root, hail gate

salve radix sancta                                                   Hail holy root


Ave regina Caelorum                                               Hail queen of heaven

Ave domina angelorum                                            Hail mistress of the angels

Gaude virgo gloriosa                                                Rejoice, glorious virgin

super omnes speciosa                                              more beautiful than all the others

Vale, O valde decora                                                Fairwell, most fair one


Ave regina Caelorum                                               Hail queen of heaven

Ave domina angelorum                                            Hail mistress of the angels

Salve radix sancta                                                   Hail, holy root

Ex qua mundo lux est orta                                       from whom light sprang over the world


Gaude virgo gloriosa                                               Rejoice, glorious virgin

Super omnes speciosa                                            more beautiful than all others

Vale valde decora                                                   Fairwell, most fair one,

Et pro nobis semper Christum exora.                        and entreat Christ for ever on our behalf.


Amen                                                                    Amen



Text: Blake Morrison
Duration c. 35’
Dedication: Rita and Martin Cadman
Instrumentation: 3, 4 and 5 voices (A.T.T.T.Bar)
First performance: (first 8) Espo, Finland, December 8th 2000; full set, Engers, August 2001

Duration: c. 18’
Dedication: Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra
Instrumentation: solo violin, strings (minimum
First Performance: Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra, De la Warr Pavillion, Bexhill on Sea, October 22 2000

Note : Violin Concerto ("The Bulls of Bashan") [2000]

Violin Concerto ("The Bulls of Bashan") [2000]

for violin and strings

The Violin Concerto, scored for solo violin and strings alone, was commissioned by the Primavera Chamber Orchestra for its leader Paul Manley and is the second piece that I have written for them.  The first, The Porazzi Fragment, for 21 solo strings, came about because of my admiration for the approach that the orchestra takes to performance - playing without a conductor, in effect as chamber musicians.  In the case of the concerto I did not want to write a virtuoso show-piece, but rather to draw on the orchestra's alertness as an ensemble.  The solo part is essentially lyrical and there is no cadenza as such.  But I was also conscious of the fact that, as with a baroque concerto, the soloist may also direct the work - and does so here.

Given the name of the orchestra and the fact that this is a violin concerto, there are a number of allusions to Vivaldi's Four Seasons.  There is also an extensive use of mutes, including  staggered transitions from muted to unmuted and vice versa, like a cross-fade in recording.  This use of mutes brought about the subtitle, which comes from an aside by Cecil Forsythe in his book on orchestration in which he pours scorn on the noise which string players would make when attaching mutes to their instruments (he was writing in 1914). Here is the passage in full.

"Unhappily the mutes remain something of a problem on the mechanical side of concert-room organisation.  When they are required the noise and fuss is most distressing, and, as these moments always occur when a pp is approaching, the musical attention of the audience is completely distracted. About fifty or sixty players all rattle their bows down on their desks in order to be free to search their waistcoat pockets.  When the mutes have been dragged out they are fitted to the bridges with a studied and elaborate caution which may be necessary to preserve the bridges from injury, but which gives an impression that the players are taking part in a solemn cabalistic rite.  And all this occurs in 1914 when inventors are as thick as bulls in Bashan."

The concerto is dedicated to Paul Manley and the Primavera Chamber Orchestra.

Duration: c. 12’
Dedication: Ensemble Tozai
Instrumentation: shakuhachi, violin, piano, Japanese untuned percussion
First performance: Ensemble Tozai, The Royal Pavilion, Brighton May 17th 2001

Note : Fax to Chris Hinkins (cc. Rachel Oakley/ Rosie Lindsell)

Fax to Chris Hinkins (cc. Rachel Oakley/ Rosie Lindsell)

April 19th 2001

Dear Chris

re. Toru's Mist

I need to add a couple of lines to the instructions for instrumentalists and I guess it would be best to put it on the page with the percussion instructions rather than on the prelims page (which Rachel will do).

If the text for the percussion part is tightened up on to three lines and the layout diagram is done slightly smaller maybe it could all fit? I realise however that the percussion layout would also need to be in the part as well as the score.

shakuhachi: although the part is written in a quite simple way, there are some indications of ornamentation and vibrato in the part, and the player is encouraged to extend this freely within the context of the overall musical texture.

piano: notes in the bass written as harmonics - diamond-shaped note heads - are to be depressed silently and held down, initially by the hand, though weights or matchsticks may be more effective. 

Is this OK? I know you're away until Monday of course.

All the best


Note : Toru's Mist (2001)

Toru's Mist (2001)

for shakuhachi, violin, piano and Japanese percussion

This piece was written for the Ensemble Tozai for a series of performances starting in May 2001. The combination of performers - two playing western instruments, two playing Japanese - gives a unique flavour to the instrumentation, and is the source of many of the musical ideas within the piece. It represents a kind of memorial to Toru Takemitsu, whom I met for the first time in Tokyo in the mid-1980's, and whose ability to reconcile (so-called) Eastern and Western sensibilities produced a subtle and moving synthesis. For my part, I have had a long and sustained interest in Japanese culture: I was active in judo as a teenager (taking a greater interest in the aesthetic formal structures than fighting); I attended classes of the late Christmas Humphries at the Buddhist Society in London and, following my time as a philosophy student, find Zen Buddhism to be the most coherent form of religion; I studied Japanese written language (as a hobby) for three years in the early 70's; and the performances of Gagaku which I saw at the Albert Hall in 1969 struck me forcibly as being as close to ensemble perfection as it is possible to be.

In bringing these four instruments together as an ensemble, I sought to form some kind of hybrid - rather than fusion - from the individual elements. The "western" piano and "eastern" percussion form a single sound world at times concentrating a great deal on resonance, while the shakuhachi and violin adapt to western norms, for example in a series of quasi-baroque suspensions. The percussion instruments, almost entirely untuned, or rather with unspecified pitch, are those which form part of Joji Hirota's multi-percussion set-up.

The piano is also used in such a way as to generate selected overtones which accord with the tuning of the shakuhachi. Given that the shakuhachi is essentially a pentatonic instrument, from a given pitch (here D) I concentrate on those 'open' notes which form the essence of its normal tone production, although the context is far from modal. The chromatic world in which it finds itself in this piece is often at odds with the instrument's modal character but constantly seeks to find an accommodation. The instrument can, of course, be completely chromatic but I use this element sparingly, either by implication or through inflection.

The title refers both to the sense of atmosphere and veiled recollection in Takemitsu's music, but also to the climactic conditions in the Western Isles which produce the single malts that he and I enjoyed together.

Gavin Bryars


Opera in 2 Acts, with Prologue and Epilogue
Libretto: Blake Morrison
Duration c. 2hours 30’
Dedication: Sandy Brown
16 soloists (2 sopranos, 2 mezzo sopranos, counter tenor, 2 tenors, 4 baritones, 3 bass baritones, 2 basses. 4 of these parts may be taken by choral soloist)
Chorus (S.A.T.Bar.B.)
2 flutes (both doubling piccolo); 3 cor anglais (1 doubling oboe, 1 doubling oboe d’amore)
1 clarinet (doubling E flat); bass clarinet; 2 bassoons; contrabassoon
5 horns (four doubling Wagner tubas)
2 trombones (both doubling alto); bass trombone; tuba
timpani; percussion (2 players)
harp; celeste/ harpsichord (one player)
strings (
First performance: Staats Theater Mainz, February 23rd 2002, designer Rosalie, Director Georges Delnon, conductor Gernot Sahler