Shamistha de Soysa
Limelight, Australia

The power of 'Burden of Truth' is that it evades tedium and engages by embedding repetition in an ever-changing context of multiple lines and harmonies. It builds fervour, devotion and texture, like meditating with chant or mantra, focusing on a single notion to the exclusion of other distractions to reach a higher plane, perhaps even an altered state of being … Bryars’s piece grows from acoustic out-takes of a 1971 documentary on homeless people in London. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the piece is a bespoke setting, reflecting a lengthy collaboration between ensemble and composer. The 32 voices sing around the loop of a homeless man crooning the title phrase in a voice that is frail, yet rings with the power of conviction. The hummed opening bars swell imperceptibly to entries from different configurations of voices … the piece builds in intensity through various iterations rising to a glistening soprano descant. The lower voices fade as the sopranos, ethereal in their simplicity, accompany the old man on his loop—an unwitting soloist, immortalised and endlessly re-incarnated in this piece. The power of repetition recurs in Transiens (2020), which Antony Pitts has composed from the fragment of Wylkynson’s melody (composed in the early 1500s) … during a road trip in outback Australia. In it, I hear the sounds of the landscape—the flocks of birds, the sunrise over a red horizon, unforgiving mountains and dusty sweeping plains; individual parts make their point through the impossibly rich tapestry. Playing with innovative configurations and rapturous repetition, the final part of this triptych sees the voices separated into two flanks of upper and lower registers with the solo ensemble centred between them. The piece reaches its transcendental conclusion, ignited by sparks from the high sopranos, pulsating variations in rhythm, thick cluster harmonies and a reprise of Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet … we see the attainment of purity through music.