The music for Carolyn Carlson’s ballet Pneuma falls into seven sections, following the notes that Gavin Bryars was given by Carolyn. These notes, and the titles, come from poetic extracts from Bachelard’s book Air and Dreams (which happens to have been written in the year that both Gavin and Carolyn were born). The music falls into these seven sections, which have given ideas chiefly for tempo and atmosphere, but with a prologue and short interludes between them. These interludes are played by the improvising turntablist Philip Jeck, who Gavin has used on a number of works – notably The Sinking of the Titanic and The Stones of the Arch, commissioned for Steve Reich’s 70th birthday and performed by the Kronos Quartet and Theatre of Voices, along with Philip. Philip’s inclusion came at the specific request of Carolyn. The music is for a small orchestra with an unusual instrumentation: bass clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon, two French horns, two trombones, tuned and untuned percussion and strings without violins. An orchestra or ensemble without violins is something that Gavin Bryars has used on many occasions, starting with his first opera Medea in 1984 and indeed his own ensemble has at its heart two violas, cello and double bass giving the music a kind of homogeneity, as well as great richness and resonance.
There are many photographs from the performancd at the site below: