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Bryars: A Man In a Room, Gambling

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Album Review

The five variations of the title piece find Bryars returning somewhat to the more overtly experimental, not to say whimsical, aspects of his earliest work. They take the form of brief instructions in the fine art of cardsharping, with musical accompaniment, to be broadcast over radio during unoccupied stretches of airtime. A cultured, sometimes drolly amused, Spanish-accented voice announces "good evening" at the beginning of each section, then proceeds to give detailed instructions on dealing from the bottom of the deck, voiding oneself of an unwanted card, and other deceptions. All the while, Bryars' typically moody music rolls along behind him, often with dramatic flourishes investing the instructions with a surreal kind of urgency. The pieces are both effective and wryly humorous, especially if one imagines them suddenly issuing from a car radio late at night. The three works that complete the album are not very dissimilar from Bryars' general output since the mid-80's: somber, hazily romantic ruminations over minimalist derived rhythmic patterns. "Les Fiancailles" does possess a lovely yearning quality very reminiscent of parts of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time" that makes it stand out from the rest.


Born: 16 January 1943 in Goole, Yorkshire, England

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Arguably the most important British post-minimalist composer, Gavin Bryars mixes classical, jazz, and modern influences in his intellectually engaging (yet still emotionally touching) music. Though his style has changed somewhat since his first major piece, 1969's "The Sinking of the Titanic," Bryars has remained a provocative yet accessible composer capable of working in a variety of settings. Born in the small Yorkshire village of Goole, England, in 1943, Bryars' first musical love was jazz. Beginning...
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Bryars: A Man In a Room, Gambling, Gavin Bryars
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