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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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: 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



(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.



First performance Estonia Symphony Hall, Tallinn April 6
Estonian National Male Choir, conductor Kaspars Putnins



Duration:  35'
Dedication: Julian Lloyd Webber
Instrumentation: solo cello, 2(1).1 + cor anglais, 2(1), 2(1); 2.0.0.0.; harp; perc.(2 players) (bells, marimba, vibes, 2 suspended cymbals, Tam-Tam, Bass Drum, timps - 4 drums); strings
First performance: Julian Lloyd Webber, cello, English Chamber Orchestra, cond. James Judd, Barbican, London November 24th 1995

Note : Cello Concerto (1995)

Cello Concerto (1995)

(Farewell to Philosophy)

I have a great fondness for the lower string instruments: I am a bass- player; my mother was a cellist, as are both my daughters; my own ensemble includes two violas, a cello and a bass, and in a number of orchestral works, starting with my opera Medea I omit the entire violin section from the orchestra. As I have written a number of works for solo instrument or voice with orchestra, I welcomed the opportunity to write a concerto for cello and orchestra and especially one which focuses particularly on the instrument's lyrical qualities.  The cello is, arguably, the most 'vocal' of instruments with its range going from the lowest notes of the average bass voice, to the highest notes of the soprano. Although the piece is in one continuous movement, and the soloist is playing almost without a break, it nevertheless falls into distinct sections which are recognisable by a shift of tempo, a change of instrumental focus, as well as by a change in the music's character.

One of the early ideas the original soloist Julian Lloyd Webber and I discussed was that it might form a companion piece to one of the Haydn concertos. This immediately suggested a number of particular musical references. The subtitle to my cello concerto, for example, combines the subtitles of two idiosyncratic Haydn symphonies and I allude to them in different ways - chiefly through orchestration. For The Philosopher I include a section in the concerto where the accompanying orchestration resembles that of the symphony's first movement (alternating pairs of English and French horns, muted violins and unmuted lower strings) as well as the implacably strict tempo. For The Farewell, the allusion is effected by the progressive reduction in orchestration towards the end of the concerto. Indeed, apart from the orchestral tutti in the last few bars, the last pages of the score are virtually for string quartet. Haydn was also, after all, the "father" of the string quartet.

The piece is not a show-piece calling for great virtuosic display, although it is not an easy work, but rather one in which the soloist is called upon to play extended melodic phrases, and to shape the piece, almost like the leader of a chamber music ensemble. There is no cadenza, but the piece calls for great stamina and bow control - the soloist is given only four or five bars rest in the whole concerto.

The subtitle of the cello concerto also refers to my own background as a philosophy graduate who moved into a career in music....

The piece was commissioned by Philips Classics for Julian Lloyd Webber and is dedicated to him.



Opera (incomplete) collaboration with Robert Wilson. Some sections of the music exist in completed form, as follows:
i) On Photography
(text Pope Leo XIII: Ars Photographica)
Instrumentation: Chorus(SATB), harmonium, piano.
First Performance, National Youth Chamber Choir, conductor Michael Brewer, Huddersfield, November 1994
(part of this is used for section 3 of Effarene
ii) 2B
Instrumentation: Percussion ensemble.
(part of this is used for Viennese Dance no.1
iii) Arias
For Marie Curie, The Queen of the Sea, Captain Nemo, The Japanese Bride.
(Marie Curie and The Queen of the Sea arias are used in Effarene)



For flute/ piccolo, cor anglais, bass clarinet/ B flat, bassoon/ contra, percussion, piano,
viola, double bass
Duration 17’
First Performance: Relache,
Prince Music theatre, Philadelphia, May 23 2005



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.



Text: traditional
Three female voices
First performance Trio Mediaeval, San Francisco November 15 2008



A piece for solo piano

Note : Dancing with Pannonica

Dancing with Pannonica

Thsi piece was written for the 70th birthday of Peter Hanser-Strecker, head of Schott Music. It is dedicated to him, and to the memory of Steve Lacy. The music relates to the solo piano music of Thelonious Monk for whom Pannonica, the nickname of the Englsih aristocrat Baroness Nica Rothschild. She was passionate about jazz and was Monk's patron for many years - Charlie Parker died in her New York apartment.