The Sinking of the Titanic

There is an instrument (a tool, something constructed to do a job rather than soothe the spirit) among Gavin Bryars‘ ensemble that rips at minds. I have no idea what it is; it could be a violin turned percussive, or sheet metal riddled with rust and violence. No idea. I know though that last night it made me cry.

The Sinking of the Titanic is a powerful piece of music that has spent the last 33 years evolving (or, I guess, the last hundred years evolving, or the last n years, where n is the time elapsed since first a person was lost at sea and other were left to wonder what it felt like), and it was performed at the Barbican last night.

There was a passage played where the looping hymn is disrupted by an unnatural creaking that is, at once, ice and metal rending and hearts breaking. And I have no idea what makes that sound. What makes that sound made me think of cold water and metal hulks groaning in the silence. It makes me think of the quiet and the thing that happens to ice cubes in glasses of fluid but magnified to a size larger than my head can handle. It is deep and sharp all at once, all pitches, cutting across every other musician, emphasising the hopelessness of the hymn that loops. And I have no idea what makes that noise. But it made me cry.