Gavin Bryars
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Portsmouth Sinfonia: Plays the Popular Classics (1973), 4/10
Sinking Of The Titanic (1974), 6/10
Portsmouth Sinfonia: Hallelujah - Live (1975), 5/10
Irma (1977), 6/10
Sinking of the Titanic (1990), 6/10
After The Requiem (1991), 6.5/10
The Sinking of the Titanic (1994), 6.5/10
Vita Nova (1994), 5/10
Raise the Titanic (1995), 4/10
The Last Days (1995), 6/10
Farewell to Philosophy (1996), 6/10
A Man in a Room Gambling (1997), 6/10
Cadman Requiem; Adnan Songbook (1998), 6.5/10
Joseph Holbrooke: Joseph Holbrooke (1999), 4/10
Biped (2001), 6.5/10
Three String Quartets (2002), 7/10
I Have Heard It Said That A Spirit Enters (2002), 7/10
A Portrait (2003), 6/10
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Gavin Bryars (1943), who had studied Philosophy and played in a jazz band with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley (a 1965 recording of their trio Joseph Holbrooke was released on Joseph Holbrooke by Incus), a pupil of John Cage and Cornelius Cardew, and an activist in the experimental commune Portsmouth Sinfonia (that also featured Brian Eno from 1970 until 1974), began composing orchestral music, in part inspired by John Cage's techniques but fundamentally more interested in representing real events. The Sinking Of The Titanic (1969), first released on Sinking Of The Titanic (Obscure, 1974), is a requiem for strings, musique concrete, female liturgical choirs, dissonant sounds that evoke the environment of the ship and voices of the passengers, that provides a commentary of sorts to the last moments of the Titanic. The strings mostly repeat sleepy and melancholy phrases but every so often they also seem to mimick (in slow motion) the music that a cruise ship's band performs in the grand salon. The piece is a calm and transcendental symphonic poem that blends the cinematic, impressionistic and psychological aspects.

Other experiments of this era include 1-2-3-4, released on Ensemble Pieces (Obscure), in which ten performers improvise while listening to the same tape played in their headsets, and The Squirrel on the Ricketty-Racketty Bridge, released on Machine Pieces (Obscure), a piece for four guitarists performed by Bryars himself with Derek Bailey, Fred Frith and Brian Eno, each playing two guitars in a percussive manner.

Gavin Bryars (1943), gia` studente di filosofia e bassista jazz in erba con gli amici Derek Bailey e Tony Oxley nel trio Joseph Holbrooke (a 1965 performance was released on Joseph Holbrooke by Incus), studente di John Cage e Cornelius Cardew, e presto animatore della comune sperimentale denominata Portsmouth Sinfonia (di cui fece parte anche Brian Eno dal 1970 al 1974), inizio` componendo musica per orchestra che si affidava in parte alle tecniche aleatorie di John Cage ma che sostanzialmente mirava a rievocare scene/eventi attraverso il suono. The Sinking Of The Titanic (1969), per esempio, pubblicata per la prima volta su Sinking Of The Titanic (Obscure 1, 1974), e' un requiem per archi, mescolati a musique concrete, cori femminili religiosi, dissonanze che evocano l'ambiente della nave e voci dei passeggeri, che "commenta" gli ultimi momenti del bastimento colato a picco con tutto il suo carico di vite umane mentre nel grande salone la banda continuava a suonare musica di intrattenimento. Gli archi per lo piu` ripetono frasi malinconiche ma ogni tanto sembrano anche scimmiottare la musica che la banda esegue su una nave da crociera, benche' in slow-motion. E` un calmo e trascendente poema sinfonico che fonde gli aspetti cinematico, impressionistico e psicologico. Fra gli esperimenti del periodo vanno citati almeno 1-2-3-4, pubblicato su Ensemble Pieces (Obscure), nel quale dieci musicisti improvvisano ascoltando lo stesso nastro in cuffia, e The Squirrel on the Ricketty-Racketty Bridge, pubblicato su Machine Pieces (Obscure), un pezzo per quattro chitarristi eseguito da Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Brian Eno e l'autore, ciascuno dei quali suona due chitarre percuotendole con le dita.
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), first released on Sinking Of The Titanic (Obscure 1, 1974 - Virgin, 1998), is one of his most poignant works. The piece is an electronic manipulation of a religious hymn sung by a tramp. First we hear the a-cappella version, then the strings join the singer, then the vocals began to sink under the weight of the orchestra. More and more instruments join the circular symphonic apotheosis. Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), pubblicato su Sinking Of The Titanic (Obscure 1, 1974 - Virgin, 1998), uno dei suoi capolavori, che elabora elettronicamente la registrazione di un inno religioso cantato da un vagabondo fino a trasformarlo in un'apoteosi sinfonica,
His first opera was Irma (Obscure, 1977).

An impressionistic masterwork came with the Hommages (1981), released on Hommages (Disques du Crepuscule, 1982 - LTM, 2008), aleatory compositions that are born out of quotations from contemporary music, notably the feathery My First Hommage and the languid Vespertine Park. Bryars' maturity was also announced by his first string quartet, released on Three Viennese Dancers (ECM 1323, 1986). A sublime essay of pulsing chromatic music, the quartet begins in a calm mood with a smooth if intricate section of minimalist counterpoint. It then suddenly plunges into a hysterical second part with expressionistic overtones. The wails of the strings become more and more anguished and the pace slows down until the music dies. The quartet is sandwiched between a sinister droning Prologue and an ecstatic droning Epilogue, two pieces for ringing percussion, and it is coupled with the loosely constructed First Viennese Dance for ringing percussions and French Horn.

Bryars also scored the opera Medea (1984) for Robert Wilson, sung in French and Greek, performed by a string-less orchestra with a lot of percussion instruments.

La sua prima opera fu Irma (Obscure, 1977).

Un capolavoro "figurativo" sono gli Hommages (1981), pubblicati su Hommages (Disques du Crepuscule, 1982 - LTM, 2008), pezzi impressionisti e minimali, generati in maniera aleatoria a partire da citazioni di musica moderna, in particolare l'impalpabile My First Hommage e il languido Vespertine Park. La maturita' e' annunciata invece dal suo primo quartetto per archi, sublime esercizio di pulsante cromatismo, pubblicato su Three Viennese Dancers (ECM 1323, 1986).

Bryars e' anche autore dell'opera Medea (1984) per Robert Wilson, cantata in francese e greco e suonata da un'orchestra priva di violini ma straripante di percussioni.

After The Requiem (ECM, 1991) collects four chamber works: After The Requiem (1990), a slow-motion elegy for string quartet (with the first violin replaced by Bill Frisell's electric guitar), which is one of his most moving pieces; Allegrasco (1983) for seven instruments, an ethereal ambience built out of an unassuming "repetitive" pattern; the saxophone quartet Alaric I or II (1989), very close to the most angst-ridden of Schoenberg's and Webern's scores, despite the minimalist undercurrent and "jazzy" solos; The Old Town of Loebenicht (1987) for a seven-piece chamber ensemble, another mournful piece but that fails to create pathos. These works prove that, while so many minimalist composers turned to the scales and styles of Asia, Nyman remained fundamentally faithful to the western canon.

After his second opera, Doctor Ox's Experiment (1988), directed by Atom Egoyan, and revisions of his masterworks with improved sonic quality and cast performances, including a live recording of the Sinking of the Titanic (Disques du Crepuscule, 1990), a new version of Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Point Music, 1993) and a new version of The Sinking of the Titanic (Point Music, 1994), and even a remix album with Aphex Twin, Raise the Titanic (Japan, 1995), Bryars returned to chamber music. Vita Nova (ECM, 1994) collects four chamber pieces: Glorious Hill (1988) for voices, Incipit Vita Nova (1989) for voice, violin, viola and cello, the lengthy and melancholy Four Elements for large chamber ensemble (one of his most blatantly minimast works), and Sub Rosa. The Black River was released on The Black River (ECM, 1993) with works by other composers. His quartets were collected on several releases: The Last Days (Argo, 1995) has String Quartet no.1 and String Quartet no.2; Three String Quartets (Black Box, 2002) has the dramatic String Quartet No.1 (1986), the confused String Quartet No.2 (1990), and the mournful String Quartet No.3 (1998); Gavin Bryars (Dapheneo, 1998) includes new versions of Allegrasco for saxophone and strings, and Alaric I or II for saxophone quartet, plus 3 Elegies for Nine Saxophones; A Man in a Room Gambling (Point, 1997) and Cadman Requiem (Point, 1998), which also includes the song cycle Adnan Songbook (1996), were named after two of his most ambitious vocal/chamber compositions, particularly the Cadman Requiem (1989), inspired by medieval music. Overall, Bryars' chamber works reveal how he fused his jazz roots and the classical/avantgarde techniques. His preference for jazz settings and jazz instruments is wed to patterns that hark back to John Cage, Steve Reich and Brian Eno.

In the late 1990s, the emphasis shifted towards larger-scale orchestral compositions. His shimmering Cello Concerto "Farewell to Philosophy" (1994), a robotic process of melodic counterpoint, appears on Farewell to Philosophy (Point, 1996), together with a piece for pitched percussion (the Nexus ensemble), One Last Bar Then Joe Can Sing (1994), and an orchestral solo for jazz bassist Charlie Haden, By the Vaar. I Have Heard It Said That A Spirit Enters (CBC, 2002 - Naxos, 2003) contains three songs for voice and chamber orchestra (including the title-track) but its highlights are the orchestral works: The Porazzi Fragment (1999), the ecstatic Violin Concerto (2000) and the less convincing Double Bass Concerto "By the Vaar" (2002). A Portrait (Universal, 2003) is a sort of "greatest hits" that includes "rarities" such as the saxophone concerto The Green Ray (1991), which ranks as one of his most poetic works, Adnan Songbook (1996), Titanic Lament, The North Shore (1994), besides the Cello Concerto and One Last Bar then Joe Can Sing.

Biped (GB, 2001) is the music for a Merce Cunningham dance performance, scored for electric keyboards, double bass, electric guitar, cello, violin and hand-held percussion.

G (2002) is his fourth opera.

The The First Book of Madrigals (2000) and Second Book of Madrigals (2002) are still unreleased.

Bryars' unique art is best represented by works such as Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), String Quartet No.1 (1986), Cadman Requiem (1989), After The Requiem (1991), The Green Ray (1991), Cello Concerto (1994), Violin Concerto (2000), which reveal the naive romanticism of his soul. They are moving but in a quiet way. In a sense, he is the Hindemith of minimalism.

The Sinking Of The Titanic (Touch Tone, 2008) documents a performance with Italian chamber ensemble Alter Ego and turntablist Philip Jeck.

The Church Closest To The Sea (Delphian, 2010) collects Eight Irish Madrigals (2004), Epilogue From Wonderlawn (1994) and The Church Closest To The Sea (2007), all performed by a small string ensemble.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Claudia Parma)

After The Requiem (ECM, 1991) racchiude quattro pezzi per musica da camera: After The Requiem (1990), lenta elegia per quartetto d’archi (col primo violino sostituito dalla chitarra elettrica di Bill Frisell) probabilmente uno dei brani più emozionanti; Allegrasco (1983) per sette strumenti, dall’atmosfera eterea costruita su una struttura “ripetitiva” modesta; il quartetto di sassofoni Alaric I or II (1989), simile ai maggiori tormenti angosciosi di Schonenberg e Webern, nonostante gli influssi minimalisti e gli assoli in stile jazz; The Old Town of Loebenicht (1987) per orchestra da camera a quattro elementi, altro pezzo triste che però non riesce a creare pathos. Queste opere provano che, mentre molti esponenti del minimalismo guardano con interesse a scale e stili del mondo asiatico, Bryars rimane sostanzialmente fedele ai canoni occidentali.

 

Successivamente alla sua seconda opera Doctor Ox’s Experiment del 1988, diretta da Atom Egoyan ed alla revisione dei suoi capolavori che migliora qualitativamente suono e prestazioni, compreso il live Sinking of the Titanic (Disques du Crepuscule, 1990), una nuova versione di Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (Point Music, 1993), di The Sinking of the Titanic (Point Music, 1994) e pure un remix con Aphex Twin Raise The Titanic (Japan, 1995), Bryars ritorna alla musica da camera. Vita Nova (ECM, 1994) include quattro brani: Glorious Hill (1988) per sola voce, Incipit Vita Nova (1989) per voce, violino, viola e violoncello, la lunga e melanconica Four Elements per ensemble cameristico (uno dei suoi lavori più rumoristicamente minimalisti) e Sub Rosa. The Black River fu pubblicato in The Black River (ECM, 1993) con lavori di altri compositori. I suoi quartetti furono inclusi in varie pubblicazioni: in The Last Days (Argo, 1995) ci sono String Quartet no. 1 e String Quartet no. 2; in Three String Quartets (Black Box, 2002) c’è la drammatica String Quartet no. 1 (1986), la confusa String Quartet no. 2 (1990) e la mesta String Quartet no. 3 (1998); Gavin Bryars (Dapheneo, 1998) comprende anche una nuova versione di Allegrasco per sassofono ed archi, ed Alaric I or II per quartetti di sassofoni, nonché Elegies for Nine Saxophones; A Man in a Room Gambling (Point, 1997) e Cadman Requiem (Point, 1998) che include il ciclo Adnan Songbook (1996) furono chiamati così in onore di due delle sue più ambiziose composizioni vocali/cameristiche, in particolare Cadman Requiem (1989), ispirato alla musica medievale. Nel complesso i lavori cameristici di Bryars rivelano quanto siano fusi fra loro radici jazz e tecniche classiche/avanguardistiche. La sua inclinazione per cornici e strumentazione jazz si sposa perfettamente con strutture che rimandano a John Cage, Steve Reich e Brian Eno.

 

Alla fine degli anni 90, l’attenzione si concentrò sulle composizioni orchestrali di più ampio respiro. La sua luminosa Cello Concerto “Farewell to Philosophy” del 1994, un processo robotico di contrappunto melodico, appare in Farewell to Philosophy (Point, 1996)  con un pezzo per percussioni determinate (the Nexus ensemble), One Last Bar Then Joe Can Sing (1994), ed un assolo per orchestra del bassista jazz Charlie Haden, By the Vaar. I Have Heard It Said That A Spirit Enters (CBC, 2002 – Naxos, 2003) include tre pezzi per voce ed orchestra da camera (compresa la title track) ma la parte migliore è senza dubbio l’orchestra: The Porazzi Fragment (1999), l’estatica Violin Concerto del 2000 e la meno convincente Double Bass Concerto “By the Vaar” (2002). A Portrait (Universal, 2003) è una sorta di “rassegna dei successi”che include rarità del calibro di The Green Ray, concerto per sassofono del 1991, considerato uno dei suoi pezzi più poetici, Adnan Songbook (1996), Titanic Lament, The North Shore (1994), oltre a The Cello Concerto e One Last Bar then Joe Can Sing.

 

Biped (GB, 2001) è colonna sonora per una performance di danza di Merce Cunningham per tastiere, contrabbasso, chitarra elettrica, violoncello, violino e percussione portatile.

 

G (2002) è la sua quarta opera.

 

The First Book of Madrigals (2000) e Second Book of Madrigals (2002) devono ancora essere pubblicati.

Il talento unico di Bryars è sicuramente ben rappresentato da lavori come Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me (1971), String Quartet no. 1 (1986), Cadman Requiem (1989), After The Requiem (1991), The Green Ray (1991), Cello Concerto (1994), Violin Concerto (2000), rivelatori della componente naive e romantica della sua anima. Commoventi ma in maniera dolce. In un certo senso Hindemith del minimalismo.

 

The Sinking of the Titanic (Touch One, 2008) documenta un’esibizione con un’orchestra da camera italiana l’Alter Ego ed il turntablista Philip Jeck.

 

The Church Closet To The Sea (Delphian, 2010) racchiude Eight Irish Madrigals (2004), Epilogue From Wonderlawn (1994) e The Church Closet To The Sea (2007), tutti eseguiti da un piccolo complesso di soli archi.

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