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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.



Duration: 45’
Commissioned by the Tate Gallery Liverpool for its opening celebration.
Instrumentation: 2 cathedral organs, female choir, alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet,  percussion ( 4 players, see Percussion for details), 5 trombones, euphonium, 2 tubas.
Performed: Albert Dock, Liverpool, 24-26 May 1988.



(text by Pico della Mirandola)
Duration 15’
Dedicated to Frances Barber and Neil Pearson.
Commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble
Instrumentation: 4 voices (alto, 2 tenors, baritone)
First performance: Hilliard Festival of Voices, Lewes, August 1988.

Note : Glorious Hill (1988)

Glorious Hill (1988)

Glorious Hill was commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble and first performed by them at its summer Festival of Voices in Lewes, Sussex, in August 1988. It was the first piece I wrote for the ensemble and I focused on the singers' unique ability to move with ease from early music to tonal music of the present day. There were techniques which I asked for which I hardly needed to notate - the staggered breathing of the two tenors to supply a continuous unbroken held note for example - and the piece moves between passages for solo voices and sections of highly chromatic homophony, almost as if the music were switching between the 12th century of Perotin and the 16th century of Gesualdo. Each of the four voices is given its own solo passage - sometimes accompanied, sometimes quietly supported by the other voices.

The title, Glorious Hill comes from the name of the small-town Mississippi setting of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke. I wrote the music for the 1987 production of this play at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre, the first time I had written any incidental music for the stage. Williams makes very specific demands in terms of music and there is one particularly powerful scene, the penultimate one, throughout which music and atmospheric sound effects are continuous. The principle character Alma argues passionately about the vital importance of human choice with the man to whom she has, too late, admitted her love. I watched this section every night throughout the 4 week run of the play watching the different ways in which the actress, Frances Barber, played the scene. There is a powerful emotional and philosophical connection between the imagery of this scene and a passage from the Renaissance philosopher Pico della Mirandola's Oration on the Dignity of Man which forms the text of Glorious Hill. This passage has been described as one of the few passages in Renaissance philosophy to treat human freedom in a modern way. The text, which is sung in Latin, is addressed by God to Adam before the fall from grace.

Dedicated to Frances Barber and Neil Pearson

 

 



Text: Blake Morrison, based on Jules Verne.
Duration: 22’
Instrumentation: Solo soprano voice, solo piano (originally 2 pianos), string quartet, bass, bass clarinet, electric guitar, 2 percussion (originally including electric keyboard).
First performance: St George's Brandon Hill, Bristol, 11 November 1988.



(Text from Dante: La Vita Nuova and Pico della Mirandola: Conclusiones).
Duration: 7’
Dedicated to Erica, Robert and Vita Hewison.
Instrumentation: Solo alto, violin, viola, cello.
First performance: St Mary de Castro, Leicester, 1 April 1989

Note : Incipit Vita Nova (1989)

Incipit Vita Nova (1989)

Incipit Vita Nova is for male alto and string trio and sets those short phrases that appear in Latin rather than Italian in Dante's La Vita Nuova. It was written in February 1989 to celebrate the birth of Vita, the first child of my friends Erica and Robert Hewison. I wrote the piece at the same time as I was writing Cadman Requiem and, like that piece, it represents a personal response to a life. Both were written for the Hilliard Ensemble with whom I had developed a close working relationship. I chose this particular instrumentation because while Erica loves David's voice Robert is very fond of my string quartets. David effectively serves as an additional instrument to the string trio by achieving an imperceptible blend of voice with accompanying instruments at the beginning and at the end. Although I had decided to write the piece long before the birth I did not start the piece until after the baby was born, waiting until I knew whether the baby was a boy or a girl, and wanting to know the baby's name - Vita. I originally looked for all uses of the word "Vita" (life) among Pico della Mirandola's Conclusiones  (I had set Pico for Glorious Hill, my earlier piece for the Hilliard) and eventually added one of these sentences ("Omnis vita est immortalis") as the penultimate line of the text while working on La Vita Nuova ("The New Life") as the main source. The first performance was given by David James at St. Mary de Castro Church in Leicester on 1 April 1989, and shortly afterwards was performed with the first performances of Cadman Requiem in Lyon and Marseille.

Note : Text for Incipit Vita Nova

Text for Incipit Vita Nova

Incipit Vita Nova A new life is beginning

Ecce deus fortior me Behold a God more powerful than I

qui veniens dominabitur mihi. who comes to rule over me

Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra Your source of joy has now appeared

Vide cor tuum Behold your heart

Tempus est ut praetermictantur It is time for false images

simulacra nostra. to be put aside.

Nomina sunt consequentia rerum Names are the consequences of things

Hosanna in excelcis. Hosanna in the highest.

Bella mihi, video, Things beautiful to me, I see

bella parantur. beautiful things are being prepared.

(vita) qui est per omnia secula (a life) which is for all times

benedicta, benedicta. blessed, blessed.

Omnis vita est immortalis. All life is immortal.

Nomina sunt consequentia rerum Names are the consequences of things.

The piece is dedicated to Vita, Erica and Robert Hewison.



(Text: I. Requiem/Kyrie; II. Bede (Latin paraphrase of Caedmon’s Creation Hymn); III. Agnus Dei; IV. Caedmon Creation Hymn; V. In Paradisum.)
Duration 30’
Dedicated to Bill Cadman.
(I) Instrumentation: alto, 2 tenors, bass-baritone, 2 violas, cello (+ optional bass)
First performance: Conservatoire de Lyon, 17 May 1989
(ii) Instrumentation: (4 voices)+ viol consort (2 treble viols, 2 tenors, 1 bass, 1 great bass)
First performance: recording AIR studios November 17th 1997
(live: Westminster Cathedral December 21st 1998)

Note : Cadman Requiem (1989)

Cadman Requiem (1989)

Cadman Requiem was written in memory of my friend and sound engineer Bill Cadman, who was killed in the Lockerbie air crash in December 1988. It is in five sections and sets only two of the traditional requiem texts - "Kyrie" and "Agnus Dei" - with the addition of "In Paradisum" which, although from the Order of Burial, is set by Fauré and others. The other two sections, which come in between the traditional parts, are Bede's paraphrase of Caedmon's Creation-Hymn (in Latin like the three traditional movements) and the original Caedmon poem (in 7th century Northumbrian). The surname "Cadman" is a corruption of "Caedmon", the first English poet who, though he considered himself to lack any poetic skill, discovered the gift of poetic utterance when "a certain person" appeared to him in a dream.

The piece was written in the spring of 1989 for the four voices of the Hilliard Ensemble accompanied, in the original version, by 2 violas and cello, with optional double bass. Another version was made in the autumn  of 1997 for the Hilliard Ensemble to perform with the 6 viol consort Fretwork.

It is dedicated to Bill Cadman.

Note : Bryars' Cadman Requiem translation

Bryars' Cadman Requiem translation

I Requiem

Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

O Lord, hear my prayer, all flesh shall come to thee.

Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy.

 

II Caedmon Paraphrase (Bede) (tenor solo)

Praise we now the maker of Heaven's fabric, the majesty of His might and His mind's wisdom, work of the world-warden, worker of all wonders, how the Lord of Glory, first made Heaven for the children of men as a roof and shelter, then he made middle earth to be their mansion.

 

III Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, give them rest.

Let perpetual light shine upon them, together with thy Saints, for thou art good.

Eternal rest grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

 

IV Caedmon's "Creation Hymn" (baritone solo)

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 Father of glory, 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.

 

V In Paradisum

May the angels receive thee in paradise; at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee into the Holy City. There may the choir of angels receive thee and with Lazarus, once a beggar, may thou have eternal rest.



Duration: 15’
Dedicated to "my companions in France, Summer 1989".
Commissioned by the Delta Saxophone Quartet.
Instrumentation: Saxophone quartet (soprano, soprano, alto, baritone).
First performance: Phoenix Arts Centre, Leicester, 3 October 1989.

Note : Alaric I or II (1989)

Alaric I or II (1989)

(dedicated to my companions in France, Summer 1989)

This saxophone quartet is scored for two soprano saxophones, plus alto and baritone, rather than the more common SATB, to mirror the instrumentation and pitch ranges of the more familiar string quartet. I have been interested in the saxophone as a concert instrument for some time and had, of course, known the jazz repertoire fairly well from the time when I worked as a jazz musician in the early 1960's. Indeed, in my first opera Medea I included two saxophones (soprano doubling alto, and alto doubling tenor) in the orchestra both to replace oboes and at the same time to reinforce the chorus. I also wrote an operatic paraphrase, called Allegrasco, of that opera for soprano saxophone and piano in the early 1980's. I have always enjoyed Percy Grainger's views on orchestration and his thinking about the saxophone is particularly illuminating (he made transcriptions and arrangements of early music for the saxophone, for example, finding the instrument's tone quality, especially in ensemble, as a modern equivalent of the sound of medieval instruments).

Alaric I or II was written during the summer of 1989 when I had no access to any instrument or recording equipment and so the musical references which I wanted to include were done, imperfectly, from memory. These included parts of my second opera Doctor Ox's Experiment (then only existing in sketch form), the work of the Argentinean bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi and so on. I also included a number of extended techniques including circular breathing, multiphonics and extreme registers. The piece is technically quite difficult and, curiously, it is the lower instruments which have the hardest parts - the baritone sax having some altissimo passages and, eventually, ending the piece with a brief elegiac solo in the pibroch piping tradition. The piece is essentially lyrical and even vocal in character, thereby following Grainger's idea of the saxophone family (SATB) as a parallel to the family of human voices.

The title comes from the name of the mountain, Mount Alaric, in South West France, opposite the Chateau where I spent the summer. No-one seemed to know which of the two "King Alarics" the name referred to.

Gavin Bryars

 

 

 



Duration: 16’
Dedicated to Bill (Frisell and Cadman)
Instrumentation: Solo electric guitar, 2 violas, cello.
First performance: studio recording (ECM Records, Rainbow Studios, Oslo, 17, 18 September 1990.
(see 1998 for subsequent version)

Note : After the Requiem (1990)

After the Requiem (1990)

I had written the Cadman Requiem in 1989 for the Hilliard Ensemble in memory of my friend and sound engineer Bill Cadman, who was killed in the Lockerbie air crash. His death affected me very deeply and, pending a recording of this piece, Manfred Eicher asked if I might like to develop an instrumental work from this, using the same instrumentation for accompaniment and retaining the same opening bars as part of a new ECM album. The piece is "after" the Requiem therefore 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 wrote the piece in Venice in September 1990 and finished it in Oslo on the day of the recording, where I added the electric guitar of Bill Frisell. This, I felt, blended particularly well with low strings (originally 2 violas and cello; in live performance sometimes viola, cello and bass). Coincidentally, having used certain distortion effects on the guitar, we found that we were recording on the twentieth anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix. Within the music I use one or two modified extracts from the Cadman Requiem itself, and from its common source Invention of Tradition, for which Bill Cadman had done the sound design.

The piece is dedicated to the two Bills (Cadman and Frisell).



Duration: 30’
Commissioned by Rambert Dance Company for dance choreographed by Lucinda Childs.
Instrumentation: alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flugelhorn, horn, trombone, piano, electric keyboard, bass,, taped voice (or male alto), 2 percussion.
First performance: Apollo Theatre, Oxford, 16 November 1990.

Note : Four Elements (1990)

Four Elements (1990)

Four Elements was commissioned by Rambert Dance Company for the ballet by Lucinda Childs in 1990. I got to know Lucinda's work through the director Robert Wilson at the time I was working on his The CIVIL WarS. from 1981 to 1984. I had let Lucinda have some tapes and she made a solo dance, Outline, to one of these pieces (Out of Zaleski's Gazebo). The commission from Rambert provided the opportunity, finally,  for us to meet. The initial idea for the dance was hers and we discussed many times throughout that year the nature of the piece, its structure and relative pace. The music falls into in 4 sections: 'Water', 'Earth', 'Air' and 'Fire', each one being given a different musical character in terms of tempo, instrumental emphasis and colour; and theatrical character through different permutations of the 8 dancers ('Earth', for example uses only the 4 females, while 'Air' uses the 4 male dancers), the relative complexity of repetitive movement and the use of space.

Part 1 - 'Water' - is slow and features the bass clarinet and colouristic percussion (including the water gong).

Part 2 - 'Earth' - is at a medium tempo with a slow melodic line for tuned percussion and a mirrored line for wind instruments.

 Part 3 - 'Air' - is fast with an accompaniment by keyboards supporting high solo parts for (in sequence) alto saxophone, flugelhorn, and sax with French horn.

Part 4 - 'Fire' - is slow with overlapping lines for unison brass (trombone, horn, flugelhorn) and amplified double bass, using effects pedals, with bass clarinet, over slow keyboard arpeggios and ends with a Coda in which David James' alto voice sings a short vocalise over low drones from the ensemble....

As well as working closely with Lucinda I also had a fruitful collaboration with Roger Heaton, then music director of Rambert who is also clarinettist in my own ensemble. I deliberately chose to use a range of instruments that I had not used before - especially the combination of instruments in the wind section (alto saxophone, bass clarinet, flugelhorn, French horn and tenor trombone). The piece was first performed at the Apollo Theatre Oxford in November 1990 and subsequently filmed for BBC Television's Dancemakers series.



Duration: 25’
Dedicated to the Balanescu Quartet
Commissioned by the Balanescu Quartet.
First performance: St Paul's Hall. (Huddersfield, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival) 1 December 1990.

Note : String Quartet no.2 (1990)

String Quartet no.2 (1990)

The second string quartet was written in 1990 commissioned by the Huddersfield Festival and the Balanescu Quartet. By then I had worked with Alex Balanescu a good deal and had come to know members of the quartet personally. At that time the quartet had an interesting international mix of players: Rumanian first violin, American second, English viola and Scottish cello and there are passages which reflect that personal acquaintance, for example the quasi-Scottish lament played at the end by the cello answered by the first violin (Scotland 1 Rumania 1, rewriting football history). At the same time there were devices that I tried in an experimental way, such as the use of the 'bottleneck' to produce an extreme form of portamento to an extended cello melody (playing in unison with the viola) in an extremely high register giving an effect not unlike the sound of the Onde Martinot. There are moments in this quartet unlike anything else I have written, the very fast section for example in which the ensemble play pulsing chords at very high speed and then, little by little, melodies emerge as chords which have previously been played by single notes on the four stringed instruments are changed to double stops thereby freeing individual instruments to play melodic phrases. In a way the second quartet begins where the first quartet ends - with harmonics, though here only artificial ones and with normal tuning - rather like the second episode of a television series ("Previously on Twin Peaks....."). The second quartet is a more relaxed, easy-going piece than the first being less referential and paying closer attention to the ways in which this particular combination of strings can cohere in the diverse pairing of instruments, the use of solo versus accompaniment in surprising ways, in the contrasts between homogeneity and heterogeneity.