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Michael Nyman

Celebrated for his modular, repetitive style, minimalist composer Michael Nyman was among experimental music's most high-profile proponents, best known in connection with his film scores for director Peter Greenaway. Born in London on March 23, 1944, he studied at the Royal Academy of Music and King's College, London, under communist composer Alan Bush and Thurston Dart, a musicologist specializing in the English Baroque. Under Dart's tutelage, Nyman was introduced to 16th- and 17th-century English rounds and canons, their repetitive, contrapuntal lines highly influencing his own later work; Dart also encouraged him to travel to Romania in the interest of seeking out the country's native folk music traditions. Upon graduating during the mid-'60s, Nyman found himself disconnected from both the pop music of the times and the school of modern composition heralded by Stockhausen; as a result, from 1964 to 1976, he worked not as a composer but as a music critic, writing for publications including The Listener, New Statesman, and The Spectator. In a review of British composer Cornelius Cardew, he first introduced the word "minimalism" as a means of musical description.

During this same period, Nyman did continue performing, appearing with artists ranging from the Scratch Orchestra and Portsmouth Sinfonia to Steve Reich and the Flying Lizards. In 1974, he wrote the influential book Experimental Music -- Cage and Beyond, an exploration of the influence of John Cage on a generation of composers and performers. Perhaps its most profound impact was on Nyman himself, who through writing the book seemed to discover his own muse; in 1976 he accepted an invitation from Harrison Birtwistle, Director of Music at the National Theatre, to arrange a number of 18th-century Venetian popular songs for a production of Goldoni's Il Campiello. Nyman's arrangements consisted of medieval instruments -- rebecs, sackbuts and shawms, bass drums, soprano saxophones, and the like -- designed for maximum loudness to produce a distinctive instrumental color; when the production ended, he began composing original music merely to keep the same group of musicians together. Originally an acoustic unit, when rechristened the Michael Nyman Band in the early '80s, amplification became essential to their aesthetic.

Nyman's first major success came in 1982 with the score to the Greenaway film The Draughtsman's Contract; his subsequent collaborations with Greenaway on pictures including 1988's Drowning By Numbers, 1989's The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, and 1991's Prospero's Books remain among his most high-profile works, their notoriety coming at the risk of overshadowing his forays into opera, chamber music, vocal music, and dance scores. The signatures of Nyman's work include not only his use of propulsive repetition, but also a palette of idiosyncratic instrumental touches -- thumping keyboards, "rude" bass clarinets, and baritone saxophones, and extreme high and low octave doublings. Mozart was a central influence in much of his work, including 1976's In Re Don Giovanni and 1983's I'll Stake My Cremona to a Jew's Trump; Schumann, meanwhile, was the major inspiration behind the acclaimed 1986 chamber opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, while Bartok shades 1988's String Quartet No. 2, commissioned for the Indian dancer and choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh.

In 1990, Nyman composed Six Celan Songs, a work based on the poems of Paul Celan, for the German cabaret singer Ute Lemper, with whom he first worked on the score for Prospero's Books. His most emotional compositions to date, they served as the clear impetus for his score to Jane Campion's 1992 film The Piano, easily Nyman's best-known work; like so many of his compositions, he obsessively reworked the music to The Piano time and time again, the haunting melodies reappearing arranged for standard piano concerto, for two pianos, for chamber ensemble, for soprano saxophone and strings (Lost and Found), and for soprano and string quartet (The Piano Sings). While 1992's The Upside-Down Violin reflected Nyman's continuing fascination with traditional ethnic musics, 1993's MGV, or Musique a Grande Vitesse, returned to the propulsive sounds of the Michael Nyman Band. Other major works include 1992's Time Will Pronounce, 1993's Yamamoto Perpetuo (a composition for unaccompanied violin written for Alexander Balanescu), 1994's solo harpsichord work Tango for Tim, and 1995's String Quartet No. 4. Among Nyman's film scores: 1995's Carrington and 1997's Gattaca. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: A Zed And Two Noughts (Original Soundtrack)

1. Angelfish Decay

2. Car Crash

3. Time Lapse

4. Prawn Watching

5. Bisocosis Populi

6. Swan Rot

7. Delft Waltz

8. Up For Crabs

9. Vermeer's Wife

10. Venus De Milo

11. Lady In The Red Hat

12. L'Escargot

x

Track List: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover: Music From The Motion Picture

1. Memorial (2004 Digital Remaster)

2. Miserere Paraphrase (2004 Digital Remaster)

3. Book Depository (2004 Digital Remaster)

4. Coupling (2004 Digital Remaster)

5. Miserere (2004 Digital Remaster)

x

Track List: Drowning By Numbers: Music From The Motion Picture (2004 Digital Remaster)

1. Trysting Fields

4. Drowning By Number 3

5. Wheelbarrow Walk

7. Drowning By Number 2

9. Fish Beach

10. Wedding Tango

12. Knowing The Ropes

x

Track List: Decay Music

1. 1-100 (2004 Digital Remaster)

2. Bell Set No. 1 (2004 Digital Remaster)

3. 1-100 (Faster Decay) (2004 Digital Remaster)

x

Track List: The Piano: Music From The Motion Picture

1. To The Edge Of The Earth

2. Big My Secret

3. A Wild And Distant Shore

4. The Heart Asks Pleasure First

5. Here To There

6. The Promise

7. A Bed Of Ferns

8. The Fling

9. The Scent Of Love

10. Deep Into The Forest

11. The Mood That Passes Through You

12. Lost And Found

13. The Embrace

14. Little Impulse

15. The Sacrifice

16. I Clipped Your Wing

17. The Wounded

18. All Imperfect Things

19. Dreams Of A Journey

20. The Heart Asks Pleasure First/The Promise (Edit)

x

Track List: Live

1. In Re Don Giovanni

2. Bird List

3. Queen Of The Night

4. Water Dances: I) Dipping

5. Water Dances: II) Stroking

6. The Upside Down Violin: I) Slow

7. The Upside Down Violin: II) Faster

8. The Upside Down Violin: III) Faster Still

9. The Piano: I) To The Edge Of The Earth

10. The Piano: II) The Promise/The Heart Asks Pleasure First

11. The Piano: III) Here To There

12. The Piano: IV) Lost And Found

13. The Piano: V) The Embrace

14. The Piano: VI) All Imperfect Things

15. The Piano: VII) Dreams Of A Long Journey

16. The Piano: VIII) Here To There (Encore)

x

Track List: Wonderland: Music From The Motion Picture

1. Molly

2. Eddie

3. Nadia

4. Dan

5. Debbie

6. Bill

7. Eileen

8. Jack

9. Darren

10. Unnamed

11. Franklyn

x

Track List: The Claim (Original Soundtrack)

1. The Exchange

2. The First Encounter

3. The Hut

4. The Explosion

5. The Recollection

6. The Fiery House

7. The Betrothal

8. The Firework Display

9. The Train

10. The Shoot Out

11. The Death Of Elena

12. The Explanation

13. The Burning

14. The Snowy Death

15. The Closing

x

Track List: Film Music 1980 - 2001

Disc 1

1. Bird List (Live)

2. Chasing Sheep Is Best Left To Shepherds (Live)

3. An Eye For Optical Theory

4. Homage To Maurice

5. Angelfish Decay

6. Time Lapse

7. Trysting Fields

8. Wheelbarrow Walk

9. Knowing The Ropes

10. Memorial

11. Skating

12. Peeking

13. Abandoning

14. Skirting

15. Miranda Previsited

16. Here To There

17. The Heart Asks Pleasure First/The Promise (Edit)

18. All Imperfect Things

19. Dreams Of A Journey

Disc 2

1. Escape

2. Fly Drive

3. The Infinite Complexities Of Christmas

4. If

5. Abel Carries Ephraim

6. Becoming Jerome/God's Hands

7. The Morrow

8. The Other Side

9. The Departure

12. Molly

13. Eddie

14. Dan

15. Eileen

16. The Shoot Out

17. The Burning

x

Track List: The Kiss And Other Movements

1. The Kiss

2. Nose-List Song

3. Tango Between The Lines

4. Images Were Introduced

5. Water Dances: I) Stroking

6. Water Dances: II) Gliding

7. Water Dances: III) Synchronising

x

Track List: The Draughtsman's Contract (Original Soundtrack) (2004 Remaster)

1. Chasing Sheep Is Best Left To Shepherds

2. The Disposition Of The Linen

3. A Watery Death

4. The Garden Is Becoming A Robe Room

5. Queen Of The Night

6. An Eye For Optical Theory

7. Bravura In The Face Of Grief

Comments

Report as inappropriate
jfkerler
Where's the bio?!
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mary7661
Indeed this is lovely! I love reading the biographies of these talented composers and performers and this one disappears.. . that happens too often!
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I had to stop writing my paper just to listen to this song, so, so beautiful.
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motomaddie
This coming on just made my whole day... it's sort of a lonely peaceful sound.
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breathtaking
Report as inappropriate
Having been to New Zealand (family) and traveled both islands, I can say that this music portrays the grandeur and wildness of the South Island west coast. I have never seen such wild landscape as this is. Recommend going if you can. And, don't miss the South Island. It is much prettier and uninhabited than the North Island.
Report as inappropriate
My sense is that the music also captures the spirit of the West Coast of New Zeland landscape, its unrelenting beauty, monumentalis m and sense of alonesss
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You can't help but feel empathy towards someone you know or have known and care deeply for them...
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angiejlamb
Heartbreakin g l y Beautiful...
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localpeople
the piano sheet music is beautiful as well
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kmez3
uplifting... grand.. transporting . . .
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lynn74
It is The Piano theme
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Should have won the Oscar. Lost to prozaic
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Most amazing songs ever this is why gattaca is my favorite movie of all time this music makes u see how beautiful life is and to cherish it, I am so glad God gave me the privilege to be able to hear such beauty:)

Report as inappropriate
Seamless soundtrack melding to the subject matter of one of my favorite films and favorite soundtracks.
Report as inappropriate
A sense of longing.
Report as inappropriate
My favorite from him is, The Heart Asks Pleasure First
Report as inappropriate
beautiful, simple beautiful... c a p t u r e s life, emotions
Report as inappropriate
screamingfor n e o n c r a y o n s
This is absolutely breathtaking .
Report as inappropriate
this soundtrack gives you a sense of desperation and longing that fit perfectly to the story, great stuff, heart felt and on the money.
Report as inappropriate
lizz_loves_0 7
Amazing(:

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