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Biography Of Michael Nyman Essay

1123 words - 4 pages

Biography of Michael Nyman

When Michael Nyman published his study Experimental Music: Cage and
Beyond (1974, reprinted 1999), he could hardly have foreseen his own
contribution to that 'beyond'. Disaffected with the then current
orthodoxies of international modernism, Nyman had abandoned
composition in 1964, preferring to work as a musicologist, editing
Purcell and Handel, and collecting folk music in Romania. Later he
wrote criticism for several journals, including The Spectator, where,
in a 1968 review of Cornelius Cardew's The Great Digest, he became the
first to apply the word 'minimalism' to music.

That same year, a BBC broadcast of Steve Reich's Come Out opened his
ears to further possibilities, and a route back to composition began
to emerge. In 1968 he wrote the libretto for Harrison Birtwistle's
'dramatic pastoral' Down by the Greenwood Side. Later, Birtwistle, by
now Musical Director of the National Theatre, London, commissioned him
to provide arrangements of 18th century Venetian songs for a 1976
production of Carlo Goldoni's Il Campiello, for which Nyman assembled
what he would describe as 'the loudest unamplified street band' he
could imagine: rebecs, sackbuts, shawms alongside banjo, bass drum and

Nyman kept the Campiello Band together after the play's run had
finished, adding his own propulsive piano-playing to the mix. A band
needs repertoire, and Nyman set about providing it, beginning with In
Re Don Giovanni, a characteristic treatment of 16 bars of Mozart. The
Band's line-up mutated, amplification was added and the name changed
to the Michael Nyman Band. This is the laboratory in which Nyman has
formulated his compositional style around strong melodies, flexible
yet assertive rhythms, and precisely articulated ensemble playing.

If works for the Michael Nyman Band have dominated his output, the
composer has written for a wide variety of ensembles, including
symphony orchestra, a cappella chorus and string quartet. He has
written several stage works, notably The Man who Mistook his Wife for
a Hat (1986), derived from a case study by Oliver Sacks; and has
provided music for such distinguished choreographers as Siobhan
Davies, Shobana Jeyasingh, Lucinda Childs, Karine Saporta and Stephen

His music has reached its largest audience by way of his film scores,
most famously for Peter Greenaway, with whom he collaborated on eleven
movies between 1976 and 1991. Other directors with whom he has worked
include Jane Campion (The Piano, 1992), Volker Schlöndorff (The Ogre,
1996), Neil Jordan (The End of the Affair, 1999) and Michael
Winterbottom (Wonderland, 1999 and The Claim, 2000). He also
collaborated with Damon Albarn on the music for Antonia Bird's
Ravenous (1998).

Nyman has provided music for a fashion show (Yamamoto Perpetuo...

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