The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryars
Performed live by the Aventa Ensemble on December 4, 2012
At the Vancouver Aquatic Centre
Presented by Redshift Music redshiftmusic.org
Most of the audience at the cavernous Vancouver Aquatic Centre are on the bleachers but a selection of adventurous souls choose to watch the concert while floating in the pool!
"The Sinking of the Titanic" is available through the courtesy of Schott Music Corporation/European American Music
Aventa Ensemble aventa.ca
Bill Linwood - director and percussion
Darnell Linwood - horn
Muge Buyukcelen - viola
Mieka Michaux - viola
Alasdair Money - cello
Darren Buhr - double bass
Corey Rae - percussion
Adrian Verdejo - electric guitar
AK Coope - clarinets
Colin MacDonald - saxophones
Lighting Design: Conor Moore
Sound: Will Howie
Production Manager: Nicholas Jacques
Audio Recording: Paul Luchkow
Cameras: Chris Porter, Chris Randle
Editing: Chris Randle
A Chris Randle Video
The Sinking of the Titanic 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 a performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.
The materials used in this work are derived from research and speculations about the sinking of the “unsinkable” luxury liner. At 11:40PM, on April 14, 1912, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank at 2:20 AM on April 15. Of the 2201 people on board, only 711 survived. The starting point for this piece was the reported fact of the band having played a hymn tune in the final moments of the ship’s sinking. A number of other features of the disaster, which generate musical or sounding performance material, or which ‘take the mind to other regions’, are also included. The final hymn played during those last 5 minutes of the ship’s life is identified in an account by Harold Bride, the junior wireless operator, in an interview for the New York Times on April 19, 1912.
This Episcopal hymn, then, becomes a basic element of the music and is subject to a variety of treatments. Bride did not hear the band stop playing and it would appear that the musicians continued to play even as the water enveloped them. My initial speculations centered, therefore, on what happens to music as it is played in water. On a purely physical level, of course, it simply stops since the strings would fail to produce much of a sound (it was a string sextet that played at the end, since the two pianists with the band had no instruments available on the Boat Deck). On a poetic level, however, the music, once generated in water, would continue to reverberate for long periods of time in the more sound-efficient medium of water. The music would then descend with the ship to the ocean bed and remain there, repeating over and over until the ship returns to the surface and the sounds re-emerge. (GB)
Gavin Bryars (1960)
Born in Yorkshire in 1943, Gavin Bryars began his career as a jazz bassist and pioneer of free improvisation with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley. He subsequently worked in the USA with John Cage and in Britain alongside Cornelius Cardew. His early iconic works The Sinking of the Titanic (1969) and Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971) enjoyed major recording success in various versions. He has written extensively for the stage, including three full-length operas and dance works for, amongst others, Merce Cunningham, Edouard Lock and William Forsythe. Bryars has a long list of instrumental, orchestral and vocal works to his credit for artists such as the Hilliard Ensemble, Red Byrd, Trio Mediaeval, the Latvian Radio Choir and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Bryars currently divides his residences between Leicestershire, UK and Metchosin, British Columbia. Gavin Bryars continues to perform internationally with his own ensemble.