giovedì 24 dicembre 2020

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Tramp and Tom Waits / Gavin Bryars full Orchestra

"Una voce straordinaria, e la più associabile a quella di un barbone ubriaco, avrà pensato Bryars prima di telefonare a Tom Waits. Il disco è straordinario, unico, notturno, struggente. E natalizio."

da "Non mi ha mai tradito" di Luca Sofri, Il Post, Luca Sofri 

"A 26-second recording of a nameless rough sleeper began composer Gavin Bryars’ musical quest for the heart of humanity"

da "Anthem for the homeless: mystery at the heart of a contemporary classic", The Guardian, Bryan Morton


La voce di Tom Waits appare e scompare durante il brano, per  prendere poi il largo verso il minuto 10

Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet is a 1971 composition by Gavin Bryars based on a loop of an unknown homeless man singing a brief improvised stanza. The loop was the singer's recollection of the chorus of a Gospel hymn, by James M Black, published in 1911. 

Rich harmonies, comprising string and brass, are gradually overlaid over the stanza. When later listening to the recordings, Bryars noticed the clip was in tune with his piano and that it conveniently looped into 13 bars. 

For the first LP recording, he was limited to a duration of 25 minutes; later he completed a 74-minute version. It was shortlisted for the 1993 Mercury Prize. 

Bryars says:

"In 1971, when I lived in London, I was working with a friend, Alan Power, on a film about people living rough in the area around Elephant and Castle and Waterloo Station. In the course of being filmed, some people broke into drunken song – sometimes bits of opera, sometimes sentimental ballads – and one, who in fact did not drink, sang a religious song "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet". This was not ultimately used in the film and I was given all the unused sections of tape, including this one.

When I played it at home, I found that his singing was in tune with my piano, and I improvised a simple accompaniment. I noticed, too, that the first section of the song – 13 bars in length – formed an effective loop which repeated in a slightly unpredictable way [in the notes for the 1993 recording on Point, Bryars wrote that while the singer's pitch was quite accurate, his sense of tempo was irregular]. I took the tape loop to Leicester, where I was working in the Fine Art Department, and copied the loop onto a continuous reel of tape, thinking about perhaps adding an orchestrated accompaniment to this. The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

I was puzzled until I realised that the tape was still playing and that they had been overcome by the old man's singing. This convinced me of the emotional power of the music and of the possibilities offered by adding a simple, though gradually evolving, orchestral accompaniment that respected the homeless man's nobility and simple faith. Although he died before he could hear what I had done with his singing, the piece remains as an eloquent, but understated testimony to his spirit and optimism."

Tom Waits

In April 2019, a 12-hour overnight version was performed in London's Tate Modern art gallery, directed by Gavin Bryars. Performers included two groups of homeless people (one vocal, one instrumental), together with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Southbank Sinfonia, and Bryars' own ensemble.

_ from Wikipedia

Gavin Bryars