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DEREK BAILEY // COMPOSER

Composition No. 10: Five Pieces for Guitar (1965-66)*
Composition Nos. 18-20: Three Pieces for Guitar (1966-67)*
Composition No. 23: Bits (1967)*
*performed by Alex Ward (guitar)
With Apologies to G. Brecht (date unknown)**
**performed by Rhodri Davies (harp), Simon H. Fell (double bass), Alex Ward (clarinet), Mark Wastell (cymbal)

This concert marks the London premiere of Derek’s solo guitar compositions and the world premiere of With Apologies to G. Brecht, a Fluxus-influenced theatre piece conceived sometime in the late 1960’s.

PROGRAMME NOTES

In the course of three sets of pieces for solo guitar, Derek Bailey leaves behind his early influences and gradually incorporates a language which directly reflects the discoveries he was making through improvisation. (Bailey’s own recordings of these pieces generally include extemporised interjections, although these are not specified in the score; this option has been retained for this performance.)

No. 10 [Five Pieces for Guitar] 10’ (c. 1966-67)
The No. 10 pieces are generally Webernian in scale, but with a surprising lushness of harmony, and sporadic references to the guitar’s flamenco heritage. (This is perhaps the nearest Bailey comes to writing ‘repertoire’ guitar pieces.)

Nos. 18-20 [Three Pieces for Guitar] 6’ (1967)
In the 18-20 set Bailey’s compositional language has hardened into a more acerbic serialism, and these pieces have a harmonic tautness which gives them something of the intensity that Bailey admired in Webern. Bailey was now starting to lose interest in playing these pieces ‘straight’; by 1967 he was usually using such compositions as starting points for improvisations. (Nevertheless, his fair copy of the 18-20 score presents a self-contained composed suite, without improvisation.)

No. 23 [Bits] 4’ (c. 1967)
By No. 23 Bailey’s scores are tending to become sequences of notated gestures, each of which may provide raw material for extemporised development, rather than a fixed work in themselves. However, this is not to suggest that his interest in abstract structural questions had receded; although the score of No. 23 is not strictly serial, it uses several varied repetitions of an extended tone row, with the third of its three sections being a (slightly modified) retrograde of the opening section.

With Apologies To G. Brecht [first performance] (prob. mid-1960s)
This cryptic text score has an explicit relation to the work of George Brecht; during the late 1960s Bailey had played Brecht pieces with Gavin Bryars, John Tilbury, Evan Parker and others in the ‘Instelimp’ group, which preceded the Music Improvisation Company. (Bailey may also have had personal contact with Brecht, who lived in London from 1968 to 1971.) Whether Bailey’s piece is influenced by Fluxus or represents a reaction against the movement is a matter of debate; like many Fluxus scores the text is non-specific, and requires considerable input from the realising musician(s) – although it is also possible that the score that survives is actually incomplete. For this first performance Simon Fell has prepared a version which reflects the growing exclusiveness of Bailey’s commitment to improvisation at the end of the 60s.