Gavin Bryars with Alter Ego and Philip Jeck – The Sinking of the Titanic

"The CD is enclosed in an A6 folder with a postcard, and copious notes about the sinking of the Titanic, an event that captured the imagination of artist Gavin Bryars so much that in 1969 he created an “open, semi aleatoric work”, under the guise of both a sound installation and a concert piece, sometimes in performances of varying lengths. "

 



Gavin Bryars with Alter Ego and Philip Jeck – The Sinking of the Titanic


http://www.touchmusic.org.uk/  http://www.konkurrent.nl/


 


What the hell is going on here? I picked this up because of its strange packaging, (download enthusiasts, take note). The CD is enclosed in an A6 folder with a postcard, and copious notes about the sinking of the Titanic, an event that captured the imagination of artist Gavin Bryars so much that in 1969 he created an “open, semi aleatoric work”, under the guise of both a sound installation and a concert piece, sometimes in performances of varying lengths.


 


Now with the help of the Alter Ego group and alt-experimental wizard Philip Jeck we have this new version which also links into a visual concept created by Andrew Hooker. The new work deals with (to put it incredibly crudely) the memory of a specific event; especially when it concerns the passage of time and how this memory time can be viewed, measured and manipulated. There’s also a marked obsession with the Titanic’s band, which reputedly carried on playing even when the ship was engulfed in water.


 


So much for the theory, how does it sound? Well, it clocks in at over an hour’s length and starts off with a great profusion of crackling. Soon the Alter Ego group begin to make their presence felt. The whole feel of the LP is cold and melancholy; and very English, in that damp, maudlin way only the English can pull off. I don’t know whether it’s deliberate but various percussion instruments do seem to try to create a feeling of dripping water, and the cello and violin perform in a very sparse setting.


 


Voices of survivors tell of the story of the orchestra playing on and create a diversion from the crushing sense of abandon the music creates. It does feel like a ghostly epitaph but there again I suppose that’s the point.


 


Enjoyable, meditative in the extreme and definitely not an offensive or provocative listen, but it is spooky. One for a winter’s afternoon in the company of a stiff scotch I’d say.


 


Words: Richard Foster.