GAVIN BRYARS - The Sinking Of The Titanic/ Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet - CD - CDVE938
Autores: Gavin Bryars, Sandra Hill, Angela Bryars, The Cockpit Ensemble, John Nash, Miss Eva Hart, Sandra Hill, Derek Bailey, Michael Nyman, John White
Editor: Venture (1998)
Formato: CD, remastered
Géneros: Electronic, Classical, Modern Classical, Minimalism, Tape Music, Orchestral
This piece originated in a sketch written for an exhibition in support of beleaguered art students at Portsmouth in 1969.
Working as I was in an art college environment I was interested to see what might be the musical equivalent of a work of conceptual art. It was not until 1972 that I made a performing version of the piece for part of an evening of my work at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.
During the next three years I performed the piece several times, including an American performance directed by John Adams in San Francisco, and in 1975 I made a recorded version for the first of the ten records produced for Brian Eno’s Obscure label.
That recording formed the basis for most subsequent performances until I re-recorded the piece ‘live’ at the Printemps de Bourges festival in 1990 when the availability of an extraordinary space – the town’s disused water tower dating from the Napoleonic period – and the rediscovery of the wreck by Dr. Ballard made me think again about the music. In any case the piece has always been an open one, being based on data about the disaster but taking account of any new information that came to hand after the initial writing.
All the materials used in the piece are derived from research and speculations about the sinking of the “unsinkable” luxury liner. On April 14th 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg at 11.40 PM in the North Atlantic and sank at 2.20 AM on April 15th. Of the 2201 people on board only 711 were to reach their intended destination, New York. The initial starting point for the piece was the reported fact of the band having played a hymn tune in the final moments of the ship’s sinking.
In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song – sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads – and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”. This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.
When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song – 13 bars in length – formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this.
The piece was originally recorded on Brian Eno’s Obscure label in 1975 and a substantially revised and extended version for Point Records in 1993. The version which is played by my ensemble was specially created in 1993 to coincided with this last recording.