Instrumentation: Flute, clarinet, vibes, piano.
First performance: Almeida Theatre, London, 1 July 1985.
Homage to Vivier (1985)
The piece was commissioned by the Almeida Festival for performance by Lontano. The 1985 Festival had, as one of its features, the music of the French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier. Richard Bernas had drawn my attention to Vivier’s music when we were working together in France the previous year and had given me a number of tape recordings of Vivier’s work. Most of the music interested me very little in fact and, to some extent, the most notable aspect of Vivier, for me, was the manner of his death.
However, there was one work, for soprano voice and orchestra, called Lonely Child, which I did find striking and consequently this became the focus of my piece for Lontano. There were a number of musical images that I used which derive from the title of the Vivier piece. These include Lonely Woman (by Ornette Coleman) and God Bless the Child (especially the last recording made by Eric Dolphy, for unaccompanied bass clarinet). I was unable, at the time, to recall any piece called “God Bless the Woman”… The instrumentation of the piece (flute, clarinet, percussion and piano) was prescribed for me, and I decided to use multiphonics in order to blur the distinctions between the wind instruments and, especially with the flute, to take it below its normal register.
On looking at the piece in 1991 I have little or no recollection of having written it and, indeed, the performance at the Almeida Festival was imperfect. For this reason the performance organised by Philip Grange in Exeter is, for me, its first performance.
Gavin Bryars, November 1991