WORKS: A Man in a Room, Gambling No. 3, 4, 8, 9 & 10; Les fiançailles; The North Shore; The South Downs
PERFORMER: Gavin Bryars Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 456 514-2
I’ve finally figured out what Gavin Bryars’s recent music is most suited to: the soundtrack of a David ‘Twin Peaks’ Lynch movie. This could be doing the composer too big a favour: all that laid-back nonchalance and vaguely jazzy feeling, those melancholy melodies, piquant harmonies and perfumed textures, those lazy repetitions and pregnant pauses going nowhere. Are they really the work of a super-ironist, a surrealist post-postmodernist ripe for fully paid-up membership of the Lynch mob? Or are they just the detritus of an English experimentalist gone to seed?
The five extracts from A Man in a Room, Gambling (1992) at least mix the banal and the bizarre, wrapping what sound like musical cast-offs around Juan Muñoz’s somewhat sinister elucidations of gambling tricks; they easily steal all the attention. I expect they worked better as five-minute radio programmes, as originally intended.
Most works are for the composer’s usual line-up: various combinations of strings, piano and tuned percussion. Sound, sometimes a bit boxy, is variable. It was selfless of South West Arts to fund The South Downs (1995) for cello and piano, since its endless arpeggios and tremulous tremolandi actually celebrate a different area of southern England. Keith Potter