Nyman, Michael (Laurence)

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Nyman, Michael (Laurence)

Nyman, Michael (Laurence), notable English composer, conductor, and writer on music; b. London, March 23, 1944. He studied with Alan Bush at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1961–65) and with Thurston Dart at King’s Coll., London (B.Mus., 1967). From 1964 to 1976 he wrote extensively on music for The Listener, New Statesman, and The Spectator. He also publ. the important study Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (1974; 2nd ed., 1995). In 1977 he founded his own Michael Nyman Band, which served as a showcase for his music via concerts and recordings. He won his first great success as a composer with his film score to Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982). In subsequent years, he became widely known for his many dramatic works. In his output, Nyman attempts to bridge the chasm between art and popular music.


dramatic:The Masterwork/Award-Winning Fishknife, performance art/theater piece (1979); Basic Black,ballet (1984); The Kiss, opera (Channel 4 TV, London, Oct. 13, 1984); Portraits in Reflection, ballet (1985; N.Y., Feb. 1986); The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, chamber opera, after Oliver Sacks (London, Oct. 27, 1986); And Do They Do, ballet (London, Nov. 25, 1986); Vital Statistics, opera (London, June 3, 1987); Orpheus’ Daughter, opera (Rotterdam, Dec. 13, 1988); The Fall of Icarus, dance piece (Brussels, Oct. 1989); La princese de Milan, opera (Avignon, July 24, 1991); Letters, Riddles, and Writs, television opera (BBC TV, Nov. 10, 1991; first stage perf., London, June 24, 1992); Noises, Sounds, and Sweet Airs for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Instrumental Ensemble (Tokyo, Dec. 7, 1994); The Only Witness, opera (1999–2000). film:: Keep It Up Downstairs (1976); The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982); Brimstone and Treacle (1982); Nelly’s Version (1983); The Cold Room (1984); A Zed and Two Noughts (1985); Drowning by Numbers (1988); The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989); Monsieur Hire (1989); Prospero’s Books (1991); Le Mari de la Coiffeuse (1991); The Piano (1992); À La Folie (1994); Carrington (1994); The Diary of Anne Frank (1995); The Ogre (1996). orch.:A Handsom, Smooth, Sweet, Smart, Clear Stroke: or Else Play Not at All (1983); Taking a Line for a Second Walk (1983; Houston, Jan. 1984); Where the Bee Dances, concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Chamber Orch. (Cheltenham, July 13, 1991); MGV (Musique à Grande Vitesse) (Lille, Sept. 26, 1993); The Piano Concerto (Lille, Sept. 26, 1993; also for 2 Pianos and Orch.); Prospero’s Books (1994; Edinburgh, Jan. 19, 1995); Carrington (London, April 29, 1995); Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings (London, April 29, 1995); Trombone Concerto (Las Vegas, May 30, 1995); Purcell Practices (London, Nov. 9, 1995); Double Concerto for Saxophone, Cello, and Orch. (1996–97; London, March 8, 1997); Strong on Oaks, Strong on the Causes of Oaks (1997; London, April 14, 1998); Cycle of Disquietude (Coisas, Vozes, Lettras) (1997–98; Lisbon, May 19, 1998); Drowning by Numbers for Chamber Orch. (Warwick, Dec. 9, 1998). chamber:Bell Set No. 1 for Multiple Metal Percussion (1974); In Re Don Giovanni for 9 Players (1977); Five Orchestral Pieces Opus Tree for 9 Players (1981); M-Work for 9 Players (1981); Think Slow, Act Fast for 10 Players (1981); Four Saxes for Saxophone Quartet (1982); I’ll Stake My Cremona to a Jew’s Crump for Electronically Modified Violin and Viola (1983); 4 string quartets: No. 1 (London, Nov. 3, 1985), No. 2 (London, Sept. 15, 1988), No. 3 (1989; London, Feb. 16, 1990), and No. 4 (London, April 21, 1995); Zoo Caprices for Violin (1985; Paris, April 8, 1986); Shaping the Curve for Soprano Saxophone and Piano (1990); Masque Aria for Brass Quintet (1991); Time will Pronounce for Violin, Cello, and Piano (Cheltenham, July 14, 1992); The Upside-Down Violin for 9 Players (Seville, Sept. 21, 1992); For John Cage for Brass Ensemble (Ashford, Nov. 16, 1992); The Final Score for 14 Players (Channel 4 TV, London, Dec. 8, 1992); Songs for Tony for Saxophone Quartet (London, May 1, 1993); On the Fiddle for Violin and Piano (Vale of Glamorgan Festival, Aug. 27, 1993); Yamamoto Perpetuo for Violin (Tokyo, Dec.20, 1993); Three Quartets for Saxophone Quartet, String Quartet, and Brass Quartet (Tokyo, July 15, 1994); H.R.T for Chamber Ensemble (1995); Viola and Piano (London, Nov. 19, 1995); A.E.T for Chamber Ensemble (Salisbury Festival, June 5, 1996). keyboard: piano: 1–100 (1976). harpsichord:The Convertibility of Lute Strings (London, Nov. 17, 1992); Tango for Tim (1994); Elisabeth Gets Her Way (1995–96). vocal:Bird List Song for Soprano and 9 Players (1979); A Neat Slice of Time for Chorus and Amplified Piano, after Leonardo da Vinci (1980); Bird Anthem for Chorus and 9 Players (1981); Love is Certainly as Least Alphabetically Speaking for Soprano and 9 Players (1983); The Abbess of Andouillets for Chorus (1984); L’Orgie Parisienne for Soprano or Mezzo-soprano and 14 Players (1989); Six Celan Songs for Low Woman’s Voice and 14 Players (1990; Amsterdam, Feb. 1, 1992); Mozart on Mortality for Soprano and 6 Instruments (London, June 7, 1992); Self-Laudatory Hymn oflnanna and Her Omnipotence for Countertenor and Viols (London, June 11, 1992; also for Contralto and Strings, London, April 29, 1995, and for Countertenor and Wind Ensemble, Amsterdam, Jan. 21, 1999); Anne de Lucy Songs for Soprano and Piano (Huddersfield, Nov. 24, 1992); To Morrow for Soprano and Organ (Bath, June 8, 1994); The Waltz Song for Unison Voices and Piano (Lincoln, Oct. 14, 1995).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire