Michael Nyman (1944-present)

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01Nyman's Early Life2012070920140324

Nyman's early years, and how he became disillusioned with the contemporary music scene.

One of the most popular and yet controversial composers of our time, Michael Nyman exclusively in conversation with Donald Macleod.

Michael Nyman's music is instantly recognisable, frequently using repetitive piano chords, distinctive instrumental combinations often including saxophones, and yet there is a familiarity in much of the music, sometimes with a hint of Mozart or Purcell. Nyman rocketed to fame in 1992 with his score for the film The Piano. The soundtrack went on to sell over 3 million copies, and won Nyman an Ivor Novello award. Prior to this there had already been many successes, including his collaboration with Peter Greenaway on films such as The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), or music for the stage such as Nyman's opera, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1986).

Yet despite these accolades, including BBC commissions, the Michael Nyman Band performing at the BBC Proms and all over the world, and other awards for the composer, Nyman remains a controversial figure. Considered by some as a musical archaeologist, Nyman's use, quotation and transformation of the music of other composers, has often led to harsh criticism. Donald Macleod in exclusive interview with the composer, looks at the life and music of Michael Nyman, including more recent artistic activities as a photographer and film maker.

Michael Nyman's early life is a fascinating account of a boy, travelling around London, collecting things such as bus tickets, matchboxes and lolly wrappers. This Nyman of the past comes to life in the composer's opera, Man and Boy: Dada, as Nyman himself explains in conversation with Donald Macleod.

Music didn't play an important part in Nyman's formative years, until he met Leslie Winters at the Sir George Monoux Grammar School, who encouraged Nyman to explore music including playing the piano. Nyman frequently performs at the piano, directing the Michael Nyman Band. Music from the film Wonderland offers the opportunity of hearing Nyman performing solo at the piano.

Nyman went on to study music at the Royal Academy of Music, and then King's College, London. It was 1964 when Nyman went to Wardour Castle, and through his experiences there of serialism, he became disillusioned as a composer, and subsequently was silent for a decade; although he found other outlets as a musicologist and music critic. By the late 70s, Nyman was composing again, including his music for four or more pianos, 1-100.

An exclusive week of interview with Michael Nyman, with music spanning his entire career.

The Promise/The Heart Asks Pleasure First, from The Piano - Concert Suite (2003) 2.54

Michael Nyman Band

Michael Nyman, piano & director

Virgin CDVE924

CD1 tk10

Your mother will be mad - You followed me here, from Man and Boy: Dada (2003) 9.42

William Sheldon (Michael), boy-soprano

Vivian Tierney (attendant), soprano

John Graham-Hall (Kurt Schwitters), tenor

Paul McGrath, conductor

MNRcd 101/2

CD1 tks4-5

Franklyn, from Wonderland (1999) 2.29

Michael Nyman, piano

MNRCD103

CD1 tk3

String Quartet no.3 (1990) 15.43

The Balanescu Quartet

Argo 4330932

CD1 tks7-8

1-100 (1976) 13.40

EMI CDVE964

02Nyman's Early Collaborations2012071020140325

Donald Macleod is joined by Michael Nyman to explore the composer's early collaborations.

One of the most popular and yet controversial composers of our time, Michael Nyman exclusively in conversation with Donald Macleod.

By 1977, Nyman composed In Re Don Giovanni, which has been hailed as his first 'original' work. As a youth when Nyman's contemporaries were listening to pop music, Nyman was listening to Mozart. The Catalogue Song in Mozart's opera Don Giovanni stayed in Nyman's memory, and in In Re Don Giovanni it receives a truly Nymanesque treatment, subjected to rock 'n' roll, minimalism, and that emerging Nyman sound world.

During the 70s and 80s, there were a number of important collaborations for Nyman, including touring with Steve Reich in the UK. Another important collaborator was Peter Greenaway, and this relationship led to a number of significant and successful films, including The Draughtsman's Contract (1982).

An exclusive week of interview with Michael Nyman, with music spanning his entire career.

In Re Don Giovanni (1977) 2.48

Michael Nyman Band

Michael Nyman, piano & director

MNRCD123

CD1 tk2

Bird List Song (1979) 4.19

Lucy Skeaping, voice

CD1 tk5

M-Work (1979/81) 21.14

Falling Songbirds

CD1 tk7

Chasing sheep is best left to shepherds, and An eye for optical theory, from The Draughtsman's Contract (1982) 9.21

Michael Nyman, piano and director

MNRCD105

CD1 tks1&3

Ach! Tea from China, lovely fragrance - I cannot tell you what is wrong, from The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1986) 8.20

Emile Belcourt (Dr. S), tenor

Sarah Leonard (Mrs. P), soprano

Frederick Westcott (Dr. P), baritone

Alexander Balanescu, first violin

Jonathan Carney, second violin

Kate Musker, viola

Moray Welsh, first cello

Anthony Hinnigan, second cello

Helen Tunstall, harp

Michael Nyman, piano and conductor

CBS MK44669

CD1 tks20-21.

03Nyman The Music Archaeologist2012071120140326

Donald Macleod is joined by Michael Nyman to explore the composer's first concerto.

One of the most popular and yet controversial composers of our time, Michael Nyman exclusively in conversation with Donald Macleod.

Michael Nyman explores with Donald Macleod, his interest in music recycling. Many of Nyman's works take existing material by other composers, or previous works by Nyman himself, to create something new. One example of this is Memorial, used in the film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989), but linked to previous projects.

Nyman has also been keen to explore other cultures and their musical heritage for inspiration and potential collaborations. Nyman's second String Quartet (1988) uses rhythmic templates from the South Indian Bharata Natyam dance tradition, to create a work which links East and West, and was originally intended for solo dance performance. The programme ends with another exploration of another culture, in The Upside-Down Violin (1992).

The beginning of the 90s sees Nyman's first concerto. Where the Bee Dances (1991) is a concerto for saxophone, and recycles material composed for the film Prospero's Books, which never came to full fruition, marking the end of the Greenaway and Nyman collaboration.

An exclusive week of interview with Michael Nyman, with music spanning his entire career.

04Nyman And The Piano2012071220140327

Donald Macleod is joined by Michael Nyman to focus on the composer's success in the 1990s.

One of the most popular and yet controversial composers of our time, Michael Nyman exclusively in conversation with Donald Macleod.

In 1992, Michael Nyman's score for the film The Piano, was a huge success. The soundtrack went on to sell over 3 million copies, and won Nyman an Ivor Novello Award. Despite this great achievement, Nyman has felt that this has in some way colored people's perception of him when composing away from film. Further film successes have followed, including the soundtrack to the science fiction film, Gattaca (1997).

The 90s have seen for Nyman a number of significant works away from film, including concertos for harpsichord, saxophone and cello, and also a concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (1995). This piece is a dramatic work, and unlike many of Nyman's scores, is based entirely on original material.

Nyman has previously said when talking about his film music, that visual materials have never inspired him to compose. Exclusively in interview with Donald Macleod, Nyman discusses his process for writing music for another visual medium, opera, specifically his work Facing Goya (2000).

An exclusive week of interview with Michael Nyman, with music spanning his entire career.

05 LASTNyman: Composer, Photographer And Filmmaker2012071320140328

Donald Macleod focuses on Michael Nyman's collaborations.

One of the most popular and yet controversial composers of our time, Michael Nyman exclusively in conversation with Donald Macleod.

In recent years, Michael Nyman has had to juggle a very busy schedule performing in, and directing the Michael Nyman Band, composing, and other recent activities as both a photographer and filmmaker. Nyman in exclusive interview with Donald Macleod, discusses his recent career.

Collaboration remains an important part of Nyman's career as a composer. This has included working with the vocalist and song writer David McAlmont, recycling a number of older works by Nyman, and turning them into new songs. These works, such as 'Secrets, Accusations and Charges', or 'City of Turin', focus upon contemporary issues, sometimes sensitive, and sometimes poignant.

The final work, Three ways of describing rain (2000), is another example of Nyman collaborating across cultures. East meets West, and Nyman has described this as a "coming together" with Indian classical music cultures. It is a re-release, hot off the press, and Nyman explores this work with Donald Macleod.

An exclusive week of interview with Michael Nyman, with music spanning his entire career.