Duration: 10’
Instrumentation: Clarinet, recorder, vibes, violin, piano, bass
First performance: Festival of Flanders, Gent, 10 November 1986.


July 1, 1986

Gavin’s Notes:

Sub Rosa (1986)

I wrote Sub Rosa for a concert in the Flanders Festival in Belgium in the autumn of 1986. Shortly before that time I had made my first recording with ECM (Three Viennese Dancers) and had been given a number of recordings that ECM had made over the years. Among these was a solo album by Bill Frisell called In Line, which I liked very much. I was particularly fond of the second track, Throughout, which I used to play on headphones during take-off on plane journeys to overcome my fear of flying. Sub Rosa is an extended paraphrase of and comment on this piece. I made a transcription of Bill’s solo and combined phrases in new ways, added others, altered the harmonic rhythm, and changed the instrumentation to fit that of my ensemble at the time. The room in the art gallery where we played was adjacent to a large circular room which had an astonishingly long reverberation time, and I placed the descant recorder in that off-stage space. Just as the distant recorder (a part now taken by the electric guitar) is generally paired with the clarinet, so the solo violin is initially mixed with the bowed vibraphone giving an equivalent sense of distance. When Bill Frisell and I met for the first time in Leicester during his British tour we had a meal together at the Curry Fever Restaurant and he listened to the Belgian recording on headphones between courses. “It was,” he said, “like some crazy dream”. Later Bill and I collaborated on a subsequent recording project for ECM (After the Requiem).

Sub Rosa is the music for the extraordinary final part of William Forsythe’s Slingerland for the Frankfurt Ballet where he takes the music into a further dreamlike state by having all the dancers move slowly through space supported by fly wires.

The piece is dedicated to Bill Frisell.

Gavin Bryars