Pretty much the first film I saw after I started working at Atmosphere in April 1984 was at the Lumiere Cinema in St Martins Lane, and that film was The Draughtsman’s Contract directed by Peter Greenaway.
It had the most memorable soundtrack I had ever heard, one that fitted with the period and pace of the film in a way that few soundtracks are permitted to in this age where creative decisions are by committee and invariably reference another film or composer. Nyman’s soundtrack was unique and uncompromising. It echoed the baroque elegance of Handel, but had a nervous edge that completely set it apart from anything else at the time. I loved it, and I never thought that 25 years later I would have the opportunity to work with Nyman.
So imagine my trepidation on the first day in Angell Studios last year. Just a piano, Michael Nyman and me in the studio, and the man just sits there and asks me in a deadpan way “So, what do you want to record?”
To be fair, there was a pile of manuscripts and sketches sat on the piano, but he was asking me what I wanted! The upshot is that we have a wonderful selection of solo piano pieces; and pieces for piano and string quartet. They have a freshness and spontaneity, more than a touch of improvisation, as well as a poignant simplicity that I think is quite beautiful. In themselves they are wonderful to listen to, but they have that added Nyman quality of working brilliantly to film.
Its very difficult to find that space between sentiment and genuine sensitivity, where the music is strong enough to speak, but doesn’t overwhelm the images. I think this collection of tracks by Michael Nyman finds that balance perfectly.
Nyman first made his mark on the musical world in the late 1960s, when he invented the term 'minimalism'. 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. Most recently his music was used in the 2009 BAFTA and Oscar award winning film, Man on Wire.
This is the first of 2 Cds that Michael Nyman is recording for UPPM and is released on Chappell.