Thursday 7 November 2019, 6pm, Ikon
Please note that this is an off-site event taking place at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham.
Keiko Yamamoto, founding member of OTOProjects, curates a series of concerts connecting Ikon, Centrala and the artistic community of Cafe OTO. Supported by The Estate of Barry Flanagan.
Free, suggested donation £3*
Gavin Bryars’ seminal work Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet established his reputation worldwide as a prominent figure in minimalist and experimental music. Here Bryars presents seven one-minute pieces written in response to Flanagan’s involvement in the College of Pataphysics, of which Bryars is also a member. This includes the premier of Calendar (“Le Calendrier Pataphysique”) (days 1–7). Bryars is joined by session, chamber and solo violist/violinist Morgan Goff.
Gavin Bryars was born in Yorkshire in 1943. His first musical reputation was as a jazz bassist working in the early sixties with improvisers Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley, forming the famous Joseph Holbrooke Trio. Bryars abandoned improvisation in 1966 and instead worked in the United States with composer John Cage, where his early influences of minimalism and the New York School on his work can be seen.
His first major composition, The Sinking of the Titanic, appeared on Brian Eno's Obscure Records in 1975 and alongside his seminal work Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, established his reputation worldwide as a significant figure in minimalist music. Both pieces have evolved and expanded over time, existing in different versions and collaborations. The Sinking of The Titanic was remixed by Aphex Twin in 1994 and released as Raising The Titanic. It was also performed throughout 2012 as part of the Titanic centenary concerts in an extended version with turbtablist Philip Jeck. Jesus’ Blood was re-released in the 1990s as special recording with Tom Waits, where Waits’s vocal are added to the original recording during the final section and for which Bryars was nominated for The Mercury Music Prize.
The version of Jesus’ Blood being performed as part of the Café Oto programme is a UK Premiere, adapted to suit the environment of the performance space and modified to work with the tone and atmosphere created by Bryars’ smaller ensemble. Alongside the instrumental and vocal works on the programme, such as The North Shore, The South Downs, The Island Chapel and Epilogue From Wonderlawn, this version of Jesus’ Blood forms a night of closer, more intimate playing and takes from a prolific catalogue of works some of the personal favourites of the Gavin Bryars Ensemble.
Bryars has written a considerable number of other works, including four operas, many concertos and a great number of instrumental pieces, many for his own ensemble. He has written several pieces for choreographers, including his hugely successful collaboration with Merce Cunningham,Bipedthat was in the Cunningham Company's repertoire and performed worldwide on the Cunningham "Legacy Tour", which ended the life of the company in December 2011.
Visual artists he has collaborated with include Juan Muñoz (A Man In A Room, Gambling), Robert Wilson (Civil Wars, Medea), Will Alsop and the Quay Brothers to name a few. From 1969 to 1978 Bryars taught in departments of Fine Art in Portsmouth and Leicester and has spoken of the interdisciplinary nature of these art schools being formative in his approach to collaboration and the creative process. During his time at the Portsmouth College of Art he was also instrumental in founding the legendary Portsmouth Sinfonia, an orchestra comprised of players using instruments they were completely unfamiliar with.
His work for voice has involved long-standing relationships with poets such as Etel Adnan, Marilyn Bowering (with whom he wrote his recent chamber opera, Marilyn Forever, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe) and Yorkshire poet Blake Morrison. Morrison and Bryars have just finished their most recent project together, The Stopping Train, a series of short pieces timed to be played along the train journey from Goole to Hull and back, with each piece telling a personal or local story from the area as the landscape passes by.