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The Sinking of the Titanic

The influential and experimental 1969 Gavin Bryars composition The Sinking of the Titanic was inspired by reports that the RMS Titanic’s string ensemble continued to play the hymn Autumn as the ship sank in April 1912.

In 2012, the centennial year of the disaster, Gavin Bryars ensemble was accompanied by experimental turntablist Philip Jeck with projection design by artists Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder for a unique performance of The Sinking of the Titanic. Throughout the 72-minute performance Bryars and the ensemble weave refrains from Autumn with layers of Jeck’s sample-based materials, creating, at times, clamouring waves of sound that suggest the great engines and massive bulk of the vessel and the ocean that swallowed it. The result is a heartachingly intimate and direct work.


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The Sinking of the Titanic

Gavin Bryars, Philip Jeck, Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder
2012

The influential and experimental 1969 Gavin Bryars composition The Sinking of the Titanic was inspired by reports that the RMS Titanic’s string ensemble continued to play the hymn Autumn as the ship sank in April 1912.

In 2012, the centennial year of the disaster, Gavin Bryars ensemble was accompanied by experimental turntablist Philip Jeck with projection design by artists Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder for a unique performance of The Sinking of the Titanic. Throughout the 72-minute performance Bryars and the ensemble weave refrains from Autumn with layers of Jeck’s sample-based materials, creating, at times, clamouring waves of sound that suggest the great engines and massive bulk of the vessel and the ocean that swallowed it. The result is a heartachingly intimate and direct work.

  • Premiered

    Barbican, London, UK
    Birmingham Town Hall, Birmingham, UK

  • Credits

    The Sinking of the Titanic was created by Gavin Bryars, Philip Jeck, Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder in 2012. Produced by Forma in association with the Birmingham Town Hall and the Barbican.

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Performance of The Sinking of The Titantic, Barbican, London, 2012. Photo: Mark Allen

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Bill Morrison, The Sinking of the Titanic, 2012 (still)

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Performance of The Sinking of The Titantic, Barbican, London, 2012. Photo: Mark Allen

http://forma.org.uk/assets/_large/WhoByWater4.jpg

Bill Morrison, The Sinking of the Titanic, 2012 (still)

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Composed in 1969, performed in 1972 and first recorded for Brian Eno’s Obscure label in 1975, Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titanic was originally scored for small orchestra and tapes. Bryars’ exquisite piece has been interpreted, adapted and performed in innumerable subsequent configurations. It has been performed, among other spaces, in a Napoleonic-era water tower, a Belgian art nouveau swimming pool, a 1950s Swedish dance hall, a Huddersfield night-club, and the Guggenheim museum, New York.

Gavin Bryars is an English composer and double bassist based between Leicestershire, UK and British Columbia, Canada. Bryars, a pioneer of free improvisation with Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley, has been part of the British experimental music community since the late 1960s. He has also written extensively for the stage, including three full-length operas and dance works for Merce Cunningham, Edoaurd Lock and William Forsythe, and regularly performs internationally with the Gavin Bryars Ensemble.

Philip Jeck started working with record players and electronics in the early 1980s and has made soundtracks and toured with many dance and theatre companies, as well as with his own solo work, in the years since. Jeck often works with old records and record players salvaged from junk shops, turning them to his own purposes by playing them as musical instruments, and is perhaps best known for his award-winning work Vinyl Requiem with Lol Sargent (a performance for 180 Dansette record players, 12 slide-projectors and 2 movie-projectors).

Bill Morrison is an American filmmaker and artist based in New York. His work often makes use of rare archival footage in which forgotten film imagery is reframed as part of our collective mythology. Over the past twenty years, Morrison has built a filmography of more than thirty projects presented worldwide, collaborating with composers including John Adams, Gavin Bryars, Bill Frisell, and Steve Reich. Morrison's films are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Nederlands Filmmuseum, and The Library of Congress. He is a Guggenheim fellow and has received the Alpert Award for the Arts, an NEA Creativity Grant, a Creative Capital grant, and a fellowship from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.

Laurie Olinder is a painter, photographer and multimedia designer based in New York, USA. A founding member of New York's Ridge Theater, Olinder has designed projections for numerous contemporary composers, including John Adams, Philip Glass, Michael Gordon, Henryk Górecki, David Lang and Julia Wolfe. 


Background image: Performance of The Sinking of The Titantic, Barbican, London, 2012. Photo: Mark Allen