Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titanic first materialised in 1969 in the form of sketches and text – the musical equivalent of conceptual art – exploring the now well-known tragedy of the ‘unsinkable’ ship. Bryars’ initial inspiration came from a report that the ship’s band was playing a hymn as it went down on 14 April 1912. The ship’s junior radio operator reported that the band never stopped playing, and the piece primarily poses the question of what happened to the music as it was submerged in the ocean.
It wasn’t until 1972 that Bryars created a performance version, which has subsequently been heard around the world. This special production includes archival film images cued to live music by artists Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder, and vinyl-based samples by turntablist Philip Jeck. The result is a poignant and direct work that still resonates 50 years on.
First performance: Music Now Ensemble conducted by Gavin Bryars, December 1972, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Watch the documentary ‘Sounds for The Sinking of the Titanic’.