1st time on vinyl for the Eno-produced ambient classic "The Sinking of the Titanic", Gavin Bryars' first major composition written between 1969 and 1972, inspired by the tragic event of the British passenger liner's cross-Atlantic maiden voyage.
Bryars eloquently reconstructs the passengers' experience—at once forlorn and eerily calming—through assemblages of understated strings and indeterminate elements. A core principle of the piece is that the ship's band continued to play as the vessel went down. One of the most sublime works in the modern classical canon, Titanic remains Bryars' magnum opus.
"Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet", the album's second sidelong track, is based on a tape loop of a London street singer captured in the early 1970s. Featuring Derek Bailey, Michael Nyman and John White, Bryars' composition gradually builds around the cripplingly poignant voice until its emotional force is almost too much to bare. It's no surprise that Jesus' Blood is known as Tom Waits' all-time favorite piece of music.
Produced by Brian Eno in 1975 as the inaugural release on Obscure, "The Sinking of the Titanic" draws the listener in to a majestic world. While these exquisite, hymn-like recordings have not changed in nearly 50 years, their deeply personal nature and the audience's attention to their subtlety have only strengthened over time.
Richard Gavin Bryars (born 1943 in Yorkshire) is an English composer and double bassist. He has worked in jazz, free improvisation, minimalism, historicism, avant-garde, and experimental music. He is a member of the Collège de 'Pataphysique
. His first musical reputation was as a jazz bassist working in the early sixties with improvisers Derek Bailey
and Tony Oxley. He abandoned improvisation in 1966 and worked for a time in the United States with John Cage
. Subsequently he collaborated closely with composers such as Cornelius Cardew and John White. He founded the music department at Leicester Polytechnic (later De Montfort University), the Portsmouth Sinfonia and collaborated with Brian Eno
on his famed Obscure imprint. He has composed prolifically for the theatre and dance as well as for the concert hall and has written five full-length operas, four string quartets and a great deal of chamber music, much of it for his own ensemble. He has also worked with performers outside the "classical" music world such as Tom Waits, Natalie Merchant, Gavin Friday. He has also worked closely with Father John Misty. Among the visual artists who have worked with Gavin Bryars' music are: Tim Head, Bruce MacLean, James Hugonin, Bill Culbert, Jennifer Bartlett, Juan Muñoz, Christian Boltanski
, Robert Wilson, David Byrne, Will Alsop, and the Quay Brothers.