Nyman, Michael

views updated May 11 2018

Michael Nyman

Film composer

From Critic to Composer

A Decade of New Beginnings

Commercial Success and Critical Remarks

Selected discography


As if describing his own musical career, composer Michael Nyman told Time magazine, music is power, passion, pulse, pain. Indeed, he has reached the power of commercial success. He has exemplified the passion of compositionand has reacted passionately to the lack of respect he has sometimes received from British critics and contemporary composers. His long list of compositions has proved the nonstop pulse of his creative output. And despite his accomplishments, Nyman has discussed how the music community once defined him as a film composer and the pains he went through to break out of that confinement to gain recognition as a multitalented, crossover composer.

Nymans interest in music began in childhood. At the age of eight, his talent earned the attention of his instructor, Leslie J. Winters, at the Chase Lane School in Northeast London. I couldnt sing or play, but he saw some quality in me no one had noticed before, Nyman told Timothy White in Billboard. Its one of the mysteries of my life.

Nyman went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music and at Kings College in London. His mentors in school included English harpsichordist Thurston Dart and the composer Alan Bush. Nymans instructors purported the idea that serial musicmusic founded on a set of tones displaying a particular pattern and disregarding traditional tonalitywas the only music worth writing. Nyman attempted to write serial pieces, but he eventually gave up composing in 1964. Instead, he went to work as a music writer and critic for the Listener, New Statesman, and Spectator.

From Critic to Composer

In 1968 Nyman introduced the term minimalism to musical parlance in a review of English composer Cornelius Cardews The Great Learning. Nyman published a book on minimalism in 1974 titled Experimental Music Cage and Beyond. In his book, Nyman explained how the work of English experimentalists like John Cage and John White ventured into new areas of composing. He wrote that these composers gave permission to use a single phrase from a classical piece of the past as a resource for an entire composition. In fact, Nyman would later use this same technique in some of his own musical compositions.

Two years after Nymans book was released, Henry Birtwistle, the director of music at the National Theatre in England, asked Nyman to arrange the music for a production of II Campiello by Italian librettist Carlo Goldoni. Nyman formed a band for the stage production

For the Record

Born March 23, 1944, in London, England; son of Mark and Jeanette Nyman; married, wifes name, Aet. Education: Graduated from Royal Academy of Music and Kings College.

Music writer, 196476; wrote book Experimental Music Cage and Beyond, 1974; began composing professionally with II Campiello, 1976; released first film soundtrack, One to One-Hundred, 1976; composed opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, 1986; composed soundtrack for film The Piano, 1993.

Addresses: Record company Argo, Worldwide Plaza, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10019.

which featured a combination of period instruments, including rebecs and sackbuts, as well as other instruments, like the banjo and saxophone. During his participation in IICampiello, Nyman composed some incidental music that effectively revived his composition career. He continued working with the band hed formed, later known as the Michael Nyman Band, and found his own minimalist style in his composition of In Re Don Giovanni.

Nyman began his long collaborative relationship with filmmaker Peter Greenaway in the mid-1970s, writing the musical scores for Greenaways sequence of British Film Institute shorts. The two released the first of their 18 short and feature films, One to One-Hundred, in 1976. Unlike most film composers, Nyman wrote the music for Greenaways films in long, continuous streams before the film began shooting. Once Greenaway finished filming, he would trim the music to fit the visual images, making Nymans music an integral part of the production.

A Decade of New Beginnings

In 1977 Nyman released two of his works on the Obscure Records British music collection. Bell Set No. 1 and One to One-Hundred filled an entire side of Obscure 6: Decay Music. His music achieved international notoriety with the soundtrack for the Greenaway film The Draughtsmans Contract in 1982. Nyman and Greenaway continued their collaborative relationship throughout the 1980s, scoring films like A Zed and Two Noughts, Drowning by Numbers, and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

During the mid-1980s, Nyman wrote his first string quartet, String Quartet No. 1, for the Arditti Quartet. The foundation for this piece came from Schoenbergs String Quartet No. 2. He followed with String Quartet No. 2and String Quartet No. 3 in 1988 and 1990, respectively.

Another first in Nymans career came in 1986 when he released his own opera, titled The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. He based the story on a book by American neurologist Oliver Sacks about a music professor, Dr. P, who suffers from visual agnosia (the inability to recognize what he sees). Dr. P depended on certain songs to guide him through his disordereating songs, dressing songs, bathing songs. When I performed that piece for the first time in October 1986, Nyman told Billboard, I came off stage shaking with emotion. My attitude when writing it was very cool, analytical, yet I somehow injected the material with great empathy.

Commercial Success and Critical Remarks

Nyman ended his long partnership with Peter Greenaway after the release of the film Prosperos Books, based on William Shakespeares play The Tempest. Nyman used three singers from different genresrock, opera, and cabaretin the work. Prosperos Books was the first musical collaboration between Nyman and German cabaret singer Ute Lemper. It was the last of his pairings with Greenaway, however, because of changes and additions Greenaway made to Nymans original score.

In 1991 Nyman produced a flood of new compositions. In a single year, he signed a new record deal, with Argo/Decca/London; wrote Songbook, which included the Six Celan Songs that he wrote for Ute Lemper and with whom he performed them all over the world; and wrote six song-texts called Letters, Riddles and Writs, a music-theater piece for the BBCs Not Mozart series. The music for Not Mozart actually consists of reworkings from Mozarts Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and portions of his string quartets. The words came from letters written by Mozart and his father to each other. Nyman explained in the Independent why he feels such a connection to Mozart, a connection critics had not detected: Did Mozart write for love? No. He wrote for money. And he had a father who was more of a PR agent than Ive ever had: a man who walked around with his sons manuscripts in his back pocket ready to show off to any likely patron. No one held that against Mozart as they would against me.

Despite his break with Greenaway, Nyman continued to write for film. In 1992 he wrote the score for the French film The Hairdressers Husband, directed by Pierre Leconte. The film score that gained Nyman international commercial success, however, was The Piano, released in 1993. The Piano soundtrack reached gold record status in the U.S. and sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide.

Nyman celebrated his 50th birthday in 1994 with five orchestral commissions; two LPs, The Piano Concerto and MGV and Breaking the Rules; and the Michael Nyman Bands North American debut tour. The following year, he released the score for the dance opera The Princess of Milan by Karine Saporta. Like Prosperos Books, the story line is based on Shakespeares The Tempest. In early 1995, Nyman was working on a possible U.S. commission for his cherished operatic version of Tristam Shandy, which he describes as the ultimate stackable opera.

Despite his warm manner with close friends, reported ABC Radio 24 Hours, Nyman can seem aloof and confesses to a certain shyness. Work is a great avoidance mechanism, he explained, it allows me to distance myself from humans. Nymans long and prolific musical career has brought him prosperity. He lives in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in the French Pyrenees with his wife, Aet, and composes in a converted barn. He also maintains a four-story Victorian home in London with a studio on the top floor. I dont write music to grab a large audience, though Im pleased that I do, Nyman told Time. But success doesnt exactly help you confront that terrible blank page. When I sit down to write a piece of music, its still the same old Michael Nyman, excited and terrified at the same time.

Selected discography

One to One-Hundred, Argo, 1976.

Obscure 6: Decay Music (compilation), Obscure, 1977.

The Draughtsmans Contract, Argo, 1982.

String Quartet No. 1, Argo, 1985.

A Zed and Two Noughts, Virgin, 1985.

And They Do, Thats Entertainment, 1986.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, CBS, 1986.

Zoo Caprices, Thats Entertainment, 1986.

Drowning by Numbers, Virgin, 1987.

String Quartet No. 2, Argo, 1988.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Virgin, 1989.

Out of the Ruins, Silva Screen, 1989.

String Quartet No. 3, Argo, 1990.

Prosperos Books, Decca/London, 1991.

Flugel and Piano: For Flugelhorn & Piano, Virgin, 1991.

String Quartets 13, Argo, 1991.

The Convertibility of Lute Strings for Harpsichord, Argo, 1992.

For John Cage: For Brass Ensemble, Argo, 1992.

Time Will Pronounce, Argo, 1992.

The Essential Michael Nyman Band, Argo, 1992.

(With Ute Lemper) Songbook, Argo, 1992.

The Piano, Virgin, 1993.

The Piano Concerto and MGV (Musique a Grande Vitesse), Argo, 1994.

Breaking the Rules, Virgin, 1994.

The Princess of Milan, Argo, 1995.



Mertens, Wim, American Minimal Music, Alexander Broude, Inc., 1983.

Nyman, Michael, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, Schirmer Books, 1974.


ABC Radio 24 Hours, June 1993.

BBC Music Magazine, April 1993.

Billboard, October 23, 1993; September 10, 1994; October 1, 1994.

Classic CD, March 1992.

Gramophone, August 1991; July 1993.

Guardian, October 5, 1993; November 12, 1993.

Independent, November 8, 1991; December 1, 1993.

Keyboard, October 1993.

Music & Musicians, September 1969; October 1971; January 1977.

Musical Events, December 1969.

Musical Times, December 1973.

New Republic, July 27, 1992.

New York Times, May 5, 1991; March 15, 1992.

Observer Life, February 20, 1994.

Opera, July 1980; January 1987; June 1987; August 1987; October 1987; March 1990; September 1992.

Pulse!, May 1993.

Q Magazine, September 1993.

Sunday Times (London), January 9, 1994.

Sunday Times Magazine (London), October 31, 1993.

Time, November 14, 1994.

Wire, July 1993.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Virgin Records and Argo Records press materials, 1995.

Sonya Shelton

Nyman, Michael 1944-

views updated May 29 2018

Nyman, Michael 1944-


Full name, Michael Lawrence Nyman; born March 23, 1944, in London, England; son of Mark and Jeannette Nyman; married Aet Toome, May 16, 1970; children: Molly, additional daughter. Education: Studied musicology with Thurston Dart, Kings College, London, 1964-67; Royal Academy of Music (studied under Alan Bush), B. Mus. (with honors), 1965; attended Conservatoire and Folklore Institute, Bucharest, Romania, 1965-66.


Manager—Derek Power Company, 818 N. Doheny Dr., Suite 1003, West Hollywood, CA 90069.


Composer, music director, musician, and writer. Worked as a music critic for Spectator, New Statesman, and The Listener, 1968-78; MN Records, founder, 2005; also worked as a music lecturer. Campiello Band (later known as the Michael Nyman Band), founder, 1977; also performed with such groups as Flying Lizards, Scratch Orchestra, and Portsmouth Sinfonia.


Association of Professional Composers.

Awards, Honors:

Catalonian International Film Festival Award, best original soundtrack, 1989, for The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover; Cesar Award nomination, best music written for a film, Academie des Arts et Techniques du Cinema, 1990, for Monsieur Hire; named fellow of Royal Academy of Music, 1991; Australian Film Institute Award, best original music score, 1993, Film Award nomination, best score, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, and Chicago Film Critics Association Award, best score, 1994, all for The Piano; Catalonian International Film Festival Award, best original soundtrack, 1997, and Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, 1998, both for Gattaca; Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music nomination, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Golden Globe Award nomination, best original score—motion picture, 2000, both for The End of the Affair; Saturn Award nomination (with Damon Albarn), best music, Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films, Golden Satellite Award nomination (with Albarn), best original score, 2000, both for Ravenous; Polish Film Festival Award, best score, 2005, Eagle Award nomination, best film score, Polish Film Awards, 2006, both for Jestem.


Film Work:

Director, Love Love Love, 1968.

Pianist and harmonium player, A Walk Through H, 1973.

Music arranger, Keep It Up Downstairs, 1976.

Conductor, Vertical Features Remake, 1978.

Conductor, 1-100, 1978.

Conductor, musician, and still photographer, The Falls, 1980.

Music supervisor, harpsichord, and pianist, The Draughtsman's Contract, United Artists, 1982.

Conductor, Frozen Music, 1983.

Technical advisor (music), Modern American Composers I, 1984.

Musician, harpsichord, A Zed & Two Noughts (also known as A Zoo: A Zed & Two Noughts), Skouras, 1985.

Music director and pianist, Drowning by Numbers, Vendex, 1988.

Music director and pianist, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (also known as Le Cuisinier, le voleur, sa femme et son amant and Spica), Erato, 1989.

Conductor and pianist, Monsieur Hire (also known as M. Hire), 1989.

Music director and pianist, Prospero's Books (also known as L ltima tempesta), Miramax, 1991.

Conductor, The Piano (also known as La lecon de piano), 1993.

Music producer and pianist, A la folie (also known as Alice et Elsa and Six Days, Six Nights), New Light Films, 1994.

Music producer, Der Unhold (also known as The Ogre and Le Roi des aulnes), Kino International, 1996.

(Uncredited) Conductor, Gattaca, 1997.

Music producer, pianist, and conductor, Wonderland, USA Films, 1999.

Music arranger (Stephen Foster and Philip Phile pieces), conductor, and orchestrator, Ravenous (also known as Voraz), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999.

Pianist, Nabbie no koi (also known as Nabbie's Love), 1999.

Conductor, The End of the Affair, 1999.

Score music performer, The Claim (also known as Le maitre de Kingdom Come and Redemption), United Artists, 2000.

Executive producer, Subterranian, 2001.

Conductor and music producer, The Libertine, Weinstein Company, 2004.

Song arranger and music arranger, A Cock and Bull Story (also known as Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story), Picturehouse Entertainment, 2005.

Film Appearances:

Himself, I'll Stake My Cremona to a Jew's Trump, 1986.

The Michael Nyman Songbook (documentary), London Records, 1992.

Himself, Colonna sonora (documentary), 1992.

Contact, Hell's Paradox, 1995.

Himself, 9 Songs, Tartan USA, 2004.

Television Work; Miniseries:

Orchestrator, Nuremberg, TNT, 2000.

Television Work; Movies:

Conductor, The Cold Room (also known as The Prisoner), HBO, 1984.

Pianist, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, 1987.

Director, I Sold My Cadillac to Diana Dors: The Edmundo Ros Story, 2000.

Television Work; Specials:

Musical advisor, Four American Composers, 1983.

Television Appearances; Movies:

(Uncredited) Court pianist, Not Mozart: Letters, Riddles, and Writs, BBC, 1991.

Man in crowd, The Final Score, 1992.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Der Klang der bilder, 1995.

The pianist, Surrealissimo: The Trial of Salvador Dali, BBC, 2002.

Live Earth (also known as Live Earth 7.7.07, Live Earth: The Concerts for a Climate in Criss, and SOS: The Movement for a Climate in Crisis), 2007.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Court pianist, "Letters, Riddles and Writs," Not Mozart, BBC-TV, 1991.

"Michael Nyman and Man from Mazda," The Works, BBC, 1997.

Familia Comtal, 2005.

Sunday AM, 2005.

Miradas 2, 2006.

B 360 degrees, 2006.



(With Michael Nyman Band) Decay Music, 1976.

English Experimental Music, 1977.

Masterwork Samples, 1979.

From Brussels with Love, 1980.

Miniatures, 1980.

Michael Nyman, Sheet, 1981.

The Kiss and Other Movements, Caroline, 1985.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, CBS Masterworks, 1987.

And Do They Do/Zoo Caprices, That's Entertainment Records,1989.

La traveresee de Paris, 1989.

Out of the Ruins, Silva Screen, 1989.

The Nyman/Greenaway Soundtracks, 1989.

String Quartet Nos 1-3, London, 1991.

The Essential Michael Nyman Band, London, 1992.

Michael Nyman for Yohji Yamamoto, 1993.

Time Will Pronounce, 1993.

The Convertibility of Lute Strings, Argo, 1993.

For John Cage, Argo, 1993.

Goodbye Frankie, Goodbye Benny, Argo, 1993.

Michael Nyman—Live, 1994.

Noises, Sounds, and Sweet Airs, 1994.

Taking a Line for a Second Walk, 1994.

The Piano Concerto/MGV, 1994.

Plus que Tango, 1995.

The Piano Concerto/On the Fiddle/Prospero's Books, 1995.

The Piano Concerto and Other Themes, 1995.

After Extra Time, 1996.

Century XXI UK N-Z, 1996.

Concertos, 1997.

Enemy Zero, 1997.

The Very Best of Michael Nyman, 1997.

An Eye for a Difference, 1998.

Federico Garcia Lorca—Da Granada a la Luna, 1998.

Practical Magic, 1998.

Strong on Oaks, Strong on the Causes of Oaks, 1998.

The Piano Concerto/Where the Bee Dances, 1998.

The Suit and the Photograph, 1998.

Twentieth Century Blues—The Songs of Noel Coward, 1998.

Michael Nyman Band Live in Concert, 1999.

Nyman & Greenaway, 1999.

The Commissar Vanishes, 1999.

Minatures 2, 2000.

The Very Best of Michael Nyman Film Music 1980-2001, 2001.

Facing Goya, 2002.

String Quartets Nos. 2-4, 2002.

Sangam—Michael Nyman Meets Indian Masters, 2003.

Also recorded The Draughtsman's Contract, A Zed and Two Noughts, Drowning by Numbers, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, Bell Set Number One, and The Fourth Wall, all Virgin; Ariel Songs: Come and Go; While You Here Do Snoring Lie; Full Fathom Five, I Am an Unusual Thing, and Lorgie Parisienne, all Decca; Prospero's Books, London.


Film Scores:

5 Postcards from Capital Cities, 1967.

Keep It Up Downstairs, 1976.

Goole by Numbers, 1976.

A Walk through H (also known as The Re-Incarnation of an Ornithologist), 1976.

Tom Phillips, 1977.

1-100, 1978.

Vertical Features Remake, 1978.

Zandra Rhodes (also known as Insight: Zandra Rhodes), 1979.

The Falls, 1980.

Terence Conran (also known as Insight: Terence Conran), 1981.

The Draughtsman's Contract, United Artists, 1982.

Frozen Music, 1983.

Nelly's Version, 1983.

The Coastline (also known as The Sea in Their Blood), 1983.

Making a Splash, 1984.

L' Ange frenetique, 1985.

A Zed and Two Noughts (also known as A Zoo: A Zed and Two Noughts), Skouras, 1985.

The Kiss, 1985.

Inside Rooms: 26 Bathrooms, London & Oxfordshire, 1985 (also known as 26 Bathrooms), 1985.

Ballet Mechanique (also known as Charlot presente le ballet mecanique), 1986.

The Disputation, 1986.

Le Miracule, 1986.

I'll Stake My Cremona to a Jew's Trump, 1986.

Photographic Exhibits, 1987.

Fear of Drowning, 1988.

Drowning by Numbers, Vendex, 1988.

Death in the Seine (also known as Les Morts de la Seine), 1989.

Monsieur Hire (also known as M. Hire), Orion, 1989.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (also known as Le Cuisinier, le voleur, sa femme et son amant and Spica), Erato, 1989.

Hubert Bals Handshake, 1989.

Le Mari de la coiffeuse (also known as The Hairdresser's Husband), 1990.

Men of Steel, 1990.

Prospero's Books (also known as L ltima tempesta), Miramax, 1991.

Les Enfants volants (also known as The Flying Children), 1991.

Ich war ein glucklicher Mensch, 1991.

The Michael Nyman Songbook, London Records, 1992.

The Fall of Icarus, 1992.

The Piano (also known as La Lecon de piano), Miramax, 1993.

A la folie (also known as Alice et Elsa and Six Days, Six Nights), New Light Films, 1994.

Mesmer, Mayfair Entertainment/Nomadic Pictures, 1994.

Carrington, 1995.

Anne no nikki (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank), AF Production, 1995.

Der Unhold (also known as The Ogre and Le Roi des aulnes), Kino International, 1996.

Gattaca, Columbia, 1997.

Anzar, 1997.

Ravenous (also known as Voraz), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999.

How to Make Dhyrak: A Dramatic Work for Three Players and Camera, Truncated with Only Two Players (music adapted from Ravenous), 1999.

Wonderland, USA Films, 1999.

The End of the Affair, Columbia, 1999.

Nabbie no koi (also known as Nabbie's Love), 1999.

The Claim (also known as Le maitre de Kingdom Come and Redemption), United Artists, 2000.

Chelovek s kino-apparatom (also known as Living Russia, or The Man with a Camera, The Man with a Movie Camera, and The Man with the Movie Camera), 2001.

Subterrain, 2001.

Haute fidelitie (short), 2001.

24 heures de la vie d'une femme (also known as 24 Hours in the Life of a Woman), 2002.

The Actors, Miramax, 2003.

Nathalie, Koch Lorber Films, 2003.

Luminal, K Films, 2004.

The Libertine, Weinstein Company, 2004.

Detroit: Ruin of a City (documentary), Bristol Docs, 2005.

Jestem (also known as I Am), Dream Entertainment, 2005.

Close to Greenaway (documentary short), 2005.

Capturing "The Libertine" (documentary short), Weinstein Company, 2006.

Never Forever, Prime Media, 2007.

Teresa, el cuerpo de Cristo (also known as Theresa: The Body of Christ), 2007.

Genova, 2007.

Therese Raquin, 2008.

Film Music; Other:

Songs, Keep It Up Downstairs, 1976.

Title music, Tom Phillips, 1977.

Additional music, Brimstone and Treacle, 1982.

Song ("Water Dances"), La Stanza del figlio (also known as The Son's Room), Bac Films, 2001.

Songs, 9 Songs, Tartan USA, 2004.

Music ("If," "Rochester's Farewell"), The Libertine, Weinstein Company, 2004.

Television Music; Series:

Fairly Secret Army, syndicated, 1984.

Fairly Secret Army Series 2, 1987.

Theme song, Titch, CiTV, 1998.

Television Music; Miniseries:

Nuremberg, TNT, 2000.

Television Music; Movies:

Nelly's Version, 1983.

The Cold Room (also known as The Prisoner), HBO, 1984.

The Disputatoin, 1986.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, 1987.

Death in the Seine (also known as Les mortes de la Seine), 1988.

Not Mozart: Letters, Riddles and Writs, 1991.

The Final Score, 1992.

Act Without Words I, 2000.

Television Music; Specials:

Act of God, Thames, 1980.

Fairly Secret Army, 1987.

Television Movies:

(Adapter) The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, 1987.

Television Music; Specials:

Dancing in Numbers, Channel 4, 1988.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, ICA-TV, 1987.

Act without Words 1, 2000.

Television Music; Episodic:

"Shanghai: Sin nuan hao," Arsenal Atlas, 1987.

"Canton: Fens, yuans I renminbis," Arsenal Atlas, 1987.

"Touch the Earth," Danceworks, BBC2-TV, 1988.

"Out of the Ruins," 40 Minutes, BBC-TV, 1989.

"Men of Steel," Inside Story, BBC-TV, 1990.

"Letters, Riddles and Writs" (opera), Not Mozart, BBC-TV, 1991.

Also scored "Fela Kuti," Arsenal.


The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1986.

La Princesse de Milan (dance opera; written for a ballet by Karine Saporta; based on text from William Shakespeare's "The Tempest"), Avignon Festival, 1991.

(With Jeremy Newson) Letters, Riddles and Writs, Shaw Theatre, London, 1992.

Dance Music:

(With Paul Richards and Bruce McLean) The Masterwork/Award-Winning Fishknife (performance art/theatre work), Riverside Studios, London, 1979.

A Broken Set of Rules (ballet), Royal Opera House, London, 1984.

Portraits in Reflection (ballet), Lucinda Child's Dance Company, first concert performance, Almeida Theatre, London, 1985 first dance performance, Joyce Theatre, New York City, 1986.

And Do They Do (ballet), London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, 1986.

Touch the Earth (ballet), Rosemary Butcher Dance Company, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1987.

Miniatures (solo dance work), The Place Theatre, London, 1988.

Configurations (for three or four dancers), Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 1989.

(With Frederic Flamand and Fabrizio Plessi) The Fall of Icarus, Theatre de le Monnaie, Brussels, Belgium, 1989.

(With Francois Raffinot) Garden Party, first produced in Montpellier, France, 1990.

Video Game Scores:

Enemy Zero, 1996.


Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, Schirmer Books, 1974.

Also contributor to magazines and journals, including The Listener, Studio International, Spectator, and New Statesman.


Compositions by Nyman recorded by others include 1-100, Piano Circus, London; Polish Love Song, Mary Wiegold/The Composers Ensemble, NMC; and Where the Bee Dances, John Harle/Bournemouth Sinfonietta, London; music from A Zed and Two Noughts used in the television series Ryori no tetsujin (also known as Iron Chef).



New Statesman, November 14, 1986, p. 26.

New York Times, March 15, 1992, p. H36.

Time, October 26, 1987, p. 126.


Michael Nyman Website,http://www.michaelnyman.com, October 25, 2007.

Nyman, Michael

views updated May 21 2018

Nyman, Michael (b London, 1944). English composer and writer. Visited Romania to collect folksongs. Wrote on mus., 1964–76, in The Listener, New Statesman, and Spectator. Claims to have introduced word ‘minimalism’ as a description of mus. (in review of Cornelius Cardew's The Great Learning). In 1974 wrote Experimental Music—Cage and Beyond, in which he celebrated Cage's influence in freeing composers from restraints of academic serialism. In 1976 was invited by Birtwistle to arr. 18th-cent. Venetian popular mus. for Nat. Th. prod. of Goldoni's Il Campiello. Formed band to perf. it and after run of play ended, began to write mus. for band (all instr. amp.) to play. Collaboration with the film maker Peter Greenaway from 1977 established him as a leading film composer. Several of his works, e.g. I'll Stake my Cremona to a Jew's Trump (1983), metamorphose material taken from Mozart, symbolic of a distinctive style devised by creative synthesis of many strands from many periods. Works incl.:OPERAS: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat (1987); Letters, Riddles and Writs (1991).BALLET & DANCE: Basic Black (1984); A Broken Set of Rules (1984); Portraits in Reflection (1985); And Do They Do (1986); Touch the Earth (1987); Miniatures (Str. Qt. No.2) (1988); Configurations (Str. Qt. No.2) (1989); The Fall of Icarus (1989); Garden Party (1990); La Princesse de Milan (1991).FILM SCORES: A Walk Through H (1977); Tom Philips (1977); 1–100 (1977); Vertical Features Remake (1978); The Falls (1980); Brimstone and Treacle (1982); The Draughtsman's Contract (1982); Frozen Music (1983); Nelly's Version (1983); The Cold Room (1984); A Zed and Two Noughts (1985); L'ange frénetique (1985); The Disputation (1986); Ballet Méchanique (1986); Photographic Exhibits (1987); Drowning by Numbers (1988); La traversée de Paris (1989); The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989); Prospero's Books (1990); Les enfants volants (1991); The Piano (1992).ORCH.: A Handsom, Smooth, Sweet Smart Clever Stroke: Or Else Play Not At All (1983); Taking a Line for a Second Walk (1986); Where the Bee Dances (1991); The Upsidedown Violin (1992); MGV (1993); pf. conc. (1993).CHAMBER & ENS. (for Nyman band unless otherwise indicated): str. qts. No.1 (1985), No.2 (1988), No.3 (1990); Bell Set No.1, multiple perc. (1974); In Re Don Giovanni (1977); Waltz in F (1978); M Work (1981); Think Slow, Act Fast (1981); Five Orchestral Pieces Opus Tree (1981); The Disposition of the Linen (1982); Four Saxes, 3 sop. sax., 1 tenor sax. (1982); Queen of the Night (1982); Time's Up, gamelan (1983); I'll Stake My Cremona to a Jew's Trump, elec. modified vn. and va, and vv. (1984); Bird Work (1984); Swan Rot; Angelfish Decay, 2 vn., hpd. or pf.; Bisocosis Populi; Car Crash; Zoo Caprices, vn.; Child's Play, 2 vn., hpd. or pf.; Delft Waltz; Venus de Milo; Vermeer's Wife; Lady in the Red Hat (all 1985); Taking a Line for a Second Walk, 2 pf. (1986); Dead Man's Catch; Drowning by Number 2; Drowning by Number 3; Endgame; Knowing the Ropes; Bees in Trees; Sheep and Tides; Wedding Tango (all 1988); Book Depository (1989); Miserere Paraphrase, vn., pf. (1989), also for str. qt. and pf. (1991), 5 pf. (1991), sop. and band (1991); Cornfield; History of Sycorax, Miranda, Prospero's Curse, Prospero's Magic, Shaping the Curve, sop., sax., pf. (all 1990); Masque Arias, brass quintet (1991); Goodbye Frankie, Goodbye Benny, vn., vc., pf. (1992); The Convertibility of Lute Strings, hpd. (1992); For John Cage, 10-piece brass ens. (1991); Suite: The Draughtsman's Contract (1993); Songs for Tony, sax. qt. (1993).CHORAL & VOCAL: Bird List Song, sop., band (1979); A Neat Slice of Time, ch., amp. pf. (1980); The Abbess of Andouillets, solo SATB (1984); Memorial, sop., band; Miserere, sop., ch., band; L'Orgie Parisienne, sop. or mez., band; Out of the Ruins, ch., opt. org.; Ah!, ça ira, sop., ch., band (all 1989); 6 Celan Songs, mez., band; The Masque, 3 sop., band; 5 Ariel Songs, sop. or mez., band (all 1990); Letters, Riddles and Writs, mez. or counterten., bass, and band; Miranda, 5 sop., band; Miraculous Possession, 3 sop., band; Polish Love Song, sop. and 6 instr. (all 1991); Anne de Lucy Songs, sop., pf.; Miserere Paraphrase, sop., band; Mozart on Mortality, sop., 6 instr.; Self-Laudatory Hymn of Inanna and her Omnipotence, counterten. and viols (all 1992).

Nyman, Michael

views updated May 14 2018

Nyman, Michael (1944– ) English composer. In his early career, influenced by John Cage, he explored experimental music. His works include operas, notably The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat (1986), but he is best known for his film scores. These include The Draughtsman's Contract (1982), Prospero's Books (1991) and The Piano (1993). His accessible musical style is characterized by the repetition and variation of harmonic, melodic and rhythmic patterns.

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Michael Nyman

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