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‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’

August 16, 2011 in PROJECT BLOG, R&D Process


This is Gavin Bryars’ ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’, featuring ‘Tramp’ and Tom Waits.
Here’s Gavin Bryars describing the events that inspired it.
‘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. 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 tramp’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.’
The version above features the original footage that accompanied it - and which is equally beautiful.

The Wilderness Downtown

August 16, 2011 in PROJECT BLOG, R&D Process

Arcade II


Have you experienced this yet? Kate alerted us to ‘The Wilderness Downtown’  while we were in Newcastle and, if you havent already, give it a go now. Arcade Fire, together with Google and artist Chris Milk, have created an interactive video set to the band’s track ‘We Used to Wait’ from ‘The Suburbs’ album.  Called ‘The Wilderness Downtown’, the online project makes use of Google Maps and Google Street View to incorporate images into the video. It’s an experience that’s both personalised and deeply personal as it takes you down memory lane through the streets where you grew up.

One of its achievements is that it creates an awareness in the viewer/participants of being both unique and interconnected.  It’s also interesting how they’ve created spaces within the work to be filled by the participant’s experiences. It’s changed my relationship to the song  – a good album track before, now it’s got specific emotional associations for me and now I play it much, much more. Avoid doing what I did though – just allow the different windows to come up on your pc and do their thing. We’re interested to know what you think. Here’s a great ‘behind the scenes’ link.