Gavin Bryars' music, post "The Sinking of the Titanic" and "Jesus' Blood...", is well known and often performed today. Less known are the earlier works featured on this CD, created during the years 1969-71. At that time, Bryars became associated with Michael Nyman, John Tilbury and Brian Eno - marrying ideas from Cage, Fluxus, free improvisation and experimentalism.
Some of the works recorded here appeared on Eno's avant-garde Obscure label in the mid-1970s.
In 1, 2, 1-2-3-4, the musicians listen to the same music on individual cassette tapes through headphones, playing along with what they hear rather than responding to each other. Bryars was curious about the "new" cassette technology, how the various tape decks would never be properly synced to each other; and so the musicians would drift further apart from each other over the performance's 30-minute plus duration - with amazing results. The audience hears the collective product of this private listening. In this realization, the performers respond to a collection of songs by The Beatles (Help; Helter Skelter; Glass Onion; Fixing a Hole; I Want You; A Day in a Life; Dear Prudence; and Good Night).
The notation of Pre-Mediaeval Metrics consists of pairs of phrases arranged in four columns on eight pages. Each phrase is made up of four symbols, either dashes ('an appreciable duration (at least one second)', instructs the score) or dots ('as short as possible'). Instrumentation is free but all instruments use only one sound throughout.
Made in Hong Kong is scored for "...toys, mechanically operated, manually operated, toy sustaining instruments and any other considered usable." Its humorous and cacophonous sound is an homage to the countless toys for children, commonly made at that time in Hong Kong.
The Squirrel and The Ricketty Racketty Bridge was written for guitarist Derek Bailey. The guitarist has to play two guitars simultaneously, placed flat on their backs, using a hammer technique which produces a pair of notes with the side of the finger. One hand plays constant quavers, like a bassist in conventional jazz, with two fingers across pairs of frets while the other plays isolated notes and phrases, like a lazy soloist.
Reviews"It's amazing how cutting-edge this music still sounds now, even after 30 years. Perhaps this is the greatest charm of this CD, which is highly recommended for those with a musical adventurous streak or fans of the experimental." - Edward Ortiz, The Sacramento Bee (California)