Two lengthy art pieces packing emotional punch. Cast-iron testament that the experimental and constructivist may cleave to the power to move.
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (1971) loops around a field-recording of homeless man vocalising-improvising a hymn. Over the loop, are built rich harmonies, played by live ensemble; slowly increasing in density, and impact before gradual fade. The piece was first recorded for use in a documentary chronicle of street life in and around London’s Elephant and Castle:
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 Sinking of the Titanic (1969), indeterministically allows performers to render various sound sources related to the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Cue heart-tugging, uplifting and perfectly poised melodic motif of Nearer My God To Thee / Amazing Grace against ambient backdrop of chilly ocean noise.
[Sundry bonus sunderings and landings in Comments]