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Michael Nyman's music from and for the movies

Celebrated composer Michael Nyman talks to Sam Wonfor ahead of his gig at the Sage Gateshead

Composer Michael Nyman
Composer Michael Nyman

I have a sneaking suspicion that my call to the celebrated composer Michael Nyman at the time agreed with his people, may have woken him up.

Not that I could blame the recently turned 70-year-old for catching 40 winks wherever he can get it.

I find out later that in the three weeks before our conversation, Michael has clocked up a catalogue of stage appearances all over Europe, offering a useful snapshot of the many guises under which he performs.

“I’ve had three or four orchestral performances, some of which I conducted; two or three with the Michael Nyman Band and three or four as a solo pianist,” he says.

“I’m actively keen on presenting my own music in many forms. I’m still doing as many concerts as I was doing when I was 69... or 68... or 67.”

And aren’t his North East fans pleased about that. He and his band will be playing a date in Hall One, Sage Gateshead on Tuesday.

“I love it up there,” he says. “It’s a great venue and great place with obviously excellent programmes - otherwise I wouldn’t be there,” he adds with a laugh. Originally booked in for October, the concert was rescheduled to coincide with Michael’s 70th birthday, as well the 40th anniversary of the band which bears his name.

Part of the tour Michael Nyman: Music from and for Film, will feature some of Nyman’s most familiar compositions from film scores including The Draughtsman’s Contract; The Cook, The Thief, his Wife and her Lover; A Zed and Two Noughts; and Prospero’s Books among others, as well as a special performance of music from The Piano, which perhaps remains his most well-known work for the silverscreen.

“I started with the Michael Nyman band which has been my most frequent way to present my music since the late ’70s, so there is that sense of continuity there,” he says. “It’s fantastic that some people have been with me for such a long time.

“There’s real sense that we’ve all been here before, which is comforting.”

It’s a continuity and comfort Michael says has been ‘crucial’ to his ever-expanding career - so well worth celebrating.

As one of Britain’s most innovative and celebrated composers, his work encompasses operas and string quartets, the aforementioned film soundtracks and orchestral concertos.

Far more than a composer though, he’s also a performer, conductor, bandleader, pianist, author and musicologist.

And if that wasn’t enough, in recent years he as also added photography and film-making to the list of what he can get paid for.

His films can often be seen accompanying his solo performances.

“I’ve always had a camera in my hand, but never done anything seriously until the last 10 years or so - either as a photographer or film-maker,” he says.

“The films that I show when I do my solo concerts are part of a collection of 80 or so shorts - observational films that I’ve made in the last five or six years. I think film making can be more creative than writing music but it’s nice not to have to choose between them.”

  • The Michael Nyman Band play Hall One, Sage Gateshead On Tuesday. Call 0191 443 4661 or visit www.sagegateshead.com for tickets.


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