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Bryars, (Richard) Gavin

Bryars, (Richard) Gavin

Bryars, (Richard) Gavin, significant English composer and teacher; b. Goole, Yorkshire, Jan. 16, 1943. He studied composition privately with Cyril Ramsey (1959–61) and George Linstead (1963–65) in England, and with Ben Johnston (1968) in the U.S.; also at the Univ. of Sheffield (B.A. in philosophy, 1964) and at the Northern School of Music (1964–66). After teaching at the Northampton Coll. of Technology (1966–67), the Portsmouth Coll. of Art (1969–70), and the Leicester Polytechnic (1970–85), he was prof, of music at De Montford Univ. (1985–96). In 1981 he founded his own Gavin Bryars Ensemble, with which he toured widely. Bryar’s output is generally experimental in nature. His works are indeterminate, replete with repetition, and often utilize electronics. His warmth and humor is evidenced in his The Sinking of the Titanic (1969), a multimedia, meditative collage work composed of excerpts from pieces the drowning orch. might have been playing. His poignant Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, originally composed for Ensemble and Tape (1971), became an international success in its later version for Orch. and Tape (1994), incorporating the raspy voice of Tom Waits. Bryars has also collaborated with a number of well-known musicians, including Eno, Reich, and Cardew, as well as with the preeminent American theater director, Robert Wilson.

Works

DRAMATIC: Opera: Irma (1977; realization of a work by Tom Phillips); Medea (1982; rev. version, Lyons, Oct. 23, 1984; rev. 1995); Doctor Ox’s Experiment (1994–96; London, June 15, 1998). other: Theater music, dance scores, and incidental music. orch. :2nd Suite from Irma for Piano and Strings (1978); 3 Studies on Medea (1983); Eglisak for Chamber Orch. (1984–85; Strasbourg, Oct. 10, 1985); By the Vaar for Double Bass, Bass Clarinet, Percussion, and Strings (London, April 6, 1987); The Green Ray for Soprano Saxophone and Chamber Orch. (Swanage, July 6, 1991); The North Shore for Viola, Strings, Harp or Piano, and Percussion (London, July 30, 1994; also for Viola and Piano, 1993); Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet forov Orch. and Tape (Winnipeg, Feb. 5, 1994; also for Ensemble and Tape, 1971); The East Coast for Bass Oboe and Chamber Orch. (1994; Winnipeg, Jan. 24, 1995); Cello Concerto, Farewell to Philosophy (London, Nov. 24, 1995); Epilogue from Wonderlawn for Viola, Cello, Electric Guitar or Piano or Harp, and Strings (1995; also for Viola, Cello, Double Bass, and Electric Guitar, 1994); The Sinking of the Titanic for Orch. and Tapes (1995; Glasgow, March 14, 1997; also for Ensemble, 1969); Allegrasco for Soprano Saxophone or Clarinet and Strings (Riga, Feb. 1998; also for Soprano Saxophone or Clarinet and Piano or Ensemble, 1983). instrumental:The Sinking of the Titan-tic for Ensemble (1969; London, Dec. 11, 1972); The Squirrel and the Ricketty-Racketty Bridge for 2 Guitars (1 Player) or Multiples of Same (1971; London, Dec. 11, 1972); Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet for Ensemble and Tape (1971; London, Dec. 11, 1972; also for Orch. and Tape, 1994); The Cross-Channel Ferry for Up to 12 Players (Paris, Nov. 16, 1979); Les Fiançailles for Piano, String Quintet, and 2 Percussionists (Vienna, May 22, 1983); Allegrasco for Soprano Saxophone or Clarinet and Piano (Leicester, Dec. 7, 1983; also for Clarinet or Soprano Saxophone and Ensemble, Ghent, Nov. 10, 1986); 3 string quartets: No. 1, Between the National and the Bristol (Vienna, Oct. 8, 1985), No. 2 (Hudders-field, Dec. 1, 1990), and No. 3 (Cheltenham, July 15, 1998); Viennese Dance No. 1 for Horn, Percussion, and Optional String Trio (1985; Paris, Nov. 20, 1986), and No. 4, A Man in a Room, Gambling for Pre-recorded Voice and String Quartet (London, April 17, 1992); Sub Rosa for Clarinet, Recorder, Vibraphone, Piano, Violin, and Double Bass (Ghent, Nov. 10, 1986); The Old Tower ofLôbenicht for Violin or Viola, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Horn, Cello, Double Bass, 2 Percussionists, Piano, and Electric Guitar (London, June 13, 1987); Alaric I or II for Saxophone Quartet (Leicester, Oct. 3, 1989); After the Requiem for Electric Guitar, 2 Violas, and Cello (1990); 4 Elements for Ensemble (1990; Oxford, Nov. 16, 1994); A Man in a Room Gambling for String Quartet and Prerecorded Voice (London, April 17, 1992); Die Letzten Tage for 2 Violins (Seville, April 19, 1992); Aus den Letzten Tagen for 2 Violins, Cello, Clarinet, 2 Percussionists, and Electric Keyboard (1992); The Archangel Trip for Ensemble (Bristol, April 18, 1993); The North Shore for Viola and Piano (Edinburgh, Oct. 19, 1993; also for Viola, String Orch., Harp or Piano, and Percussion, 1994); 3 Elegies for 9 Clarinets (1993); Epilogue from Wonderlawn for Viola, Cello, Double Bass, and Electric Guitar (Amsterdam, May 21, 1994; also for Viola, Cello, Electric Guitar or Piano or Harp, and Strings, 1995); One last bar then Joe can sing for Percussion Ensemble (London, Nov. 10, 1994); The South Downs for Cello and Piano (Bath, March 22, 1995); In Nomine for Viol Consort, after Purcell (London, May 2, 1995). piano :Out of Zaleski’s Gazebo for 2 Pianos, 6- or 8-Hands (Louvain, Dec. 12, 1977); My First Homage for 2 Pianos (N.Y., Nov. 11, 1978).vocal:On Photography for Chorus, Harmonium, and Piano (1983); Effarene for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, 2 Pianos, and 2 Percussionists (London, March 23, 1984); Pico’s Flight for Soprano and Orch. (Egham, Feb. 25, 1986; also for Soprano and Chamber Orch., Leicester, Feb. 11, 1990); Glorious Hill for Male Alto, 2 Tenors, and Baritone (Lewes, Aug. 10, 1988); Incipit Vita Nova for Male Alto, Violin, Viola, and Cello (Leicester, April 1, 1989); Cadman Requiem for Alto, 2 Tenors, Baritone, 2 Violas, Cello, and Optional Double Bass (Lyons, May 17, 1989; also for Alto, 2 Tenors, Baritone, and Viol Consort, Nov. 17, 1997); The Black River for Soprano and Organ, after Jules Verne (Leicester, Jan. 22, 1991); The White Lodge for Low Mezzo-soprano, Electronics, and Tape (London, Sept. 21, 1991; also for Low Contralto, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, 2 Double Basses, 2 Percussionists, and Electric Keyboard, Paris, Dec. 9, 1992); The War in Heaven for Soprano, Male Alto, Semi Chorus, Chorus, and Orch. (London, April 29, 1993); The Adnan Songbook for Soprano and Ensemble (1995–96; first complete perf., London, July 20, 1996); The island Chapel for Mezzo-soprano, Electric Keyboard, and Cello (St. Ives, April 26, 1997; also for Mezzo-soprano and Chamber Orch., Turin, April 18, 1998); Expressa Solis for Men’s Voices (Cambridge, July 29, 1997); 3 Poems of Ceceo Angiolieri for Soli and Chorus (Cambridge, Aug. 2, 1997); And so ended Kant’s travelling in this world for Chorus (Cambridge, Aug. 2, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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