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Michael Nyman

Born: 1944

Nationality: British

Publisher: Chester Music

Photo © Anne Deniau


As one of Britain's most innovative and celebrated composers, Michael Nyman's work encompasses operas and string quartets, film soundtracks and orchestral concertos. Far more than merely a composer, he's also a performer, conductor, bandleader, pianist, author, musicologist and now a photographer and film-maker. Although he's far too modest to allow the description 'Renaissance Man', his restless creativity and multi-faceted art has made him one of the most fascinating and influential cultural icons of our times.

At this stage of a long and notable career, he might forgivably have been content to rest on his considerable laurels. Yet instead of looking back on a lifetime of achievement that ranges from his award-winning score for the film The Piano to the acclaimed opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, via a string of high-profile collaborations with everyone from Sir Harrison Birtwistle to Damon Albarn, he's still looking forward - pushing the boundaries of his art with a diverse and prolific burst of creativity as energetic and challenging as any new and iconoclastic young kid on the block.

The year 2009 saw the production of a new opera, a piece commissioned in honour of Ennio Morricone's 80th birthday and the first-ever exhibition of his photographs and video-works. Never one to sit around in an ivory tower, his diary bulges with a full international touring schedule with the Michael Nyman Band as well as a series of unique one-off performances with such diverse collaborators as the singer David MacAlmont, a Polish accordion trio and the innovative sound artist Carsten Nicolai.

Nyman first made his mark on the musical world in the late 1960s, when he invented the term 'minimalism' and, still in his mid-twenties, earned one of his earliest commissions, to write the libretto for Birtwistle's 1969 opera Down By The Greenwood Side. In 1976 he formed his own ensemble, the Campiello Band (now the Michael Nyman Band) and over three decades and more, the group has been the laboratory for much of his inventive and experimental compositional work.

For more than 30 years, he had also enjoyed a highly successful career as a film composer, the role in which - sometimes to his slightly rueful regret - he is probably best known by the general public.His most notable scores number a dozen Peter Greenaway films, including such classics as The Draughtsman's Contract and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; Neil Jordan's The End Of The Affair; several Michael Winterbottom features including Wonderland and A Cock And Bull Story; the Hollywood blockbuster Gattaca - and, of course, his unforgettable music for Jane Campion's 1993 film, The Piano, the soundtrack album of which has sold more than three million copies. He also co-wrote the score for the 1999 film Ravenous with his friend and sometime protégé, Damon Albarn.

His reputation among highbrow critics is built upon an enviable body of work written for a wide variety of ensembles, including not only his own band, but also symphony orchestra, choir and string quartet. He has also written widely for the stage. His operas include The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat (1986) and Facing Goya (2000) and he has provided ballet music for a number of the world's most distinguished choreographers.

In 2008, he published the sumptuous photo-book Sublime. His first gallery exhibition, Videofile, in which his photos are presented alongside a series of short films, runs at the De la Warr Pavillion from Jan-March 2009. An accompanying programme of live music and film features Nyman the performer, accompanying the singer David McAlmont on new settings of Nyman music and with his band playing his critically-lauded soundtrack to the 1929 silent film, Man With A Movie Camera.Michael was awarded the CBE for services to British music in 2008. His music is available via an extensive range of recordings on his own label, MN Records.

The music of Michael Nyman is published exclusively by Chester Music Limited
 Interview with Michael Nyman on WNYC
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