Gavin Bryars (born 1943) - The Sinking of the Titanic

Recorded Live on 2nd February 2014 at Islington Mill, Salford

Benedict Holland & Catherine Yates - violins
Vicci Wardman - viola
Jennifer Langridge - cello

Programme Note
Originating as the musical equivalent of a work of conceptual art, this piece has various performing versions, often arising from particular occasions and environments. All the materials used are derived from research and speculations about the sinking of the "unsinkable" liner on April 14th 1912 after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage. The initial starting point was the reported fact of the band playing the hymn tune "Autumn" in the final moments of the ship's sinking, together with other features of the disaster which generate musical or sounding performance material or which 'take the mind to other regions'. One idea is that the music would continue after the sinking and repeat over and over, fainter and fainter, until the ship returns to the surface. There was also a curious report at the time that one of the rescue ships received a radio message from the Titanic 1 hour and 28 minutes after it had finally gone beneath the waves.

Other material is superimposed on the hymn tune, including fragments of interviews with survivors, Morse sequences, musical references to different possible tunes for the hymn, the sound of the iceberg's impact, and so on.

About Gavin Bryars
Gavin Bryars has continually shunned convention, choosing to create his own distinctive and unique path: He studied philosophy at Sheffield University and became a professional jazz bassist and a pioneer of free improvisation working especially with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. In the late 1960s he worked with John Cage and this influenced his early works. He has formed fruitful collaborations with international artists from across the spectrum, from Merce Cunningham and William Forsyth to Juan Munoz and Robert Wilson. The Gavin Bryars Ensemble and GB Records continue to document his work. Serene, graceful and achingly beautiful, his music is characterised by a sense of contemplation that is revealed through harmony of underlying depth.

Psappha’s YouTube Channel

You can also visit Psappha’s YouTube Channel, where you can watch:

  • Films of works by emerging composers
  • Films of Psappha’s Hong Kong Residency (2013)
  • All of the films on Psappha’s website