Text: Jules Verne (from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea)
Duration: c.15’
Instrumentation: Soprano and organ.
First performance: Leicester Cathedral, 22 January 1991


January 1, 1991

Gavin’s Notes:

The Black River (1991)

for soprano and organ

This piece is one of a series of works that take texts or imagery from the work of Jules Verne. Here the text is taken from  20,000 Leagues under the Sea, a section in which Professor Aronnax describes the scene outside the Nautilus where countless varieties of sea-creatures escort the submarine along the current of the mysterious underwater  Black River. Coincidentally the first work that I wrote using Verne as a source, the cantata Effarene (1984), sets an earlier portion of the same chapter for its closing movement and I find the objectivity and invention of Verne’s language a constant stimulus. As Raymond Queneau said of Verne: “What a style! Nothing but nouns.”

The piece was written for a concert given by the organist Christopher Bowers-Broadbent at Leicester Cathedral in January 1991 and later recorded by him with soprano Sarah Leonard for ECM New Series in 1993.


Gavin Bryars