One of Britain's foremost composers. His best known single work is Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971), based around a tape loop of a tramp; and he founded the notorious Portsmouth Sinfonia, the orchestra that accepted anybody. He has done a lot of work with theatre and ballet, and is becoming known as an opera composer; and has worked with Brian Eno.

Born in Yorkshire in 1942, he first played as a jazz bassist, but in 1966 went to the United States to study under Cage. In 1969 he returned to teach in Portsmouth and Leicester.

His first success as a composer was The Sinking of the Titanic (1969)*; this was followed by Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet. Both, and especially the latter, have remained very popular. A version was done by Tom Waits.

In dance he has provided music for William Forsythe, Siobhan Davies, Merce Cunningham, and Jiri Kylian, among others.

His first opera was Medea (1984); then in 1998 Doctor Ox's Experiment at the English National Opera, libretto by Blake Morrison after the story by Jules Verne, directed by the Canadian film-maker Atom Egoyan. His next opera G is about to open in Mainz, commemorating the 600th birth anniversary of Gutenberg: Blake Morrison again provides the libretto.

He has written a number of works for the Hilliard Ensemble. There is a Gavin Bryars Ensemble, founded in 1981.

* What sort of piece is The Sinking of the Titanic? Um... "Instrumentation: Indeterminate (possible materials include stereo tapes, string ensemble, percussion, low brass, brass quartet, bass clarinet, cassette tapes of speech, keyboard, 35 mm slides, visible sound effects, music box)."

It comes in versions of 25 min, 40 min, and 1 h.

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