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And the Band Played on

Feature

A unique, 50th-anniversary performance of Gavin BryarsThe Sinking of the Titanic

The initial inspiration for The Sinking of the Titanic came from a report that the ship’s band was playing a hymn as it went down on 14 April 1912. The ship’s junior radio operator reported that the band never stopped playing, and the piece primarily poses the question of what happened to the music as it was submerged in the ocean.

Says Bryars: ‘I started on it in 1969 when I was working in fine art colleges and looking for the musical equivalent of a conceptual art work. I first had to make a physical realisation for a concert in 1972 when I assembled material from the various researches that constituted the basis of the piece. Over the years, as I found new information, the performance data expanded to include it. There was a dramatic development in the late 1980s when the wreck itself was found and the ship’s status changed from being a myth to reality.’

‘It’s important to me because it’s the earliest work that I have kept in my catalogue. Although earlier works have since appeared, they do not manifest the degree of enquiry, speculation, and conceptual thought that was a hallmark of my earliest work.’ This special production includes archival film images cued to live music by artists Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder, and vinyl-based samples by turntablist Philip Jeck. The result is a poignant and direct work that still resonates 50 years on.

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