Michael Nyman


Nyman to perform soundtrack music for İstanbul concertgoers

Apr 14th, 2011

By HATICE AHSEN UTKU | Today’s Zaman

Michael Nyman is a living musical legend: a pioneer in minimalist music, famous for his operas, such as “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and “Facing Goya,” and for scoring many films, most notably for director Peter Greenaway and for Jane Campion’s “The Piano.” Now, the British composer-pianist-librettist-musicologist and his eponymously named band are taking to the Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall stage on Friday.

Despite his many titles, Nyman still adheres to a single one: composer. “All my other occupations have always been connected to each other but basically I’m a composer,” Nyman said in a recent telephone interview. “What I do is like a strange kind of little industry. But all this industry started with having a life dedicated to music—which is sitting down at the desk writing and conceiving all the technical things involved in writing a piece of music. Writing music has very little to do with inspiration. A piece of music has to be created and has to be constructed. And after you create it and construct it, a lot of other things come into play,” explains Nyman. Laughing, he adds: “Things that I’m not: I’m not a poet, I’m not a painter. And those things I will never be.”

Despite his work in diverse fields, the work that brought Nyman worldwide fame was his multi-platinum soundtrack album to Campion’s “The Piano.” Ironically, Nyman was criticized by certain musical circles for the same album for serving popular taste and being commercially oriented.

“That’s been one of the good things in my life,” says Nyman. “I think it’s a unique soundtrack, and I’m still very pleased about it. Yet, the people who run certain serious cultural circles in this world are very suspicious of composers who write these types of music. And they are also equally annoyed by composers who have commercial success. So ‘The Piano’ created a certain amount of disapproval of my music. What created this situation is the lack of curiosity among the people who are very powerful in the music culture. They assume that ‘The Piano’ is the only kind of music that I can write, but they have no inquisitiveness or curiosity about the rest of my music. But I’m still happy being here and doing what I’m doing.”

On the other hand, Nyman draws attention to an interesting irony about his “criticized” achievement with “The Piano.” “I don’t like commercial music,” Nyman says. “If I wanted to write commercial music, I would write pop songs. What is interesting is that the soundtrack of ‘The Piano’ was my most successful album in commercial terms, and this is also the most severely classical music that I’ve ever written. If you listen to other albums by me, you can observe the interaction from minimalism to rock music, folk music and world music. ‘The Piano’ is very seriously and severely and exclusively a kind of music written from a kind of classical point of view.”
‘Ask Ceylan to come to my concert’

Nyman, who has not written any soundtracks during the past five years, wants to meet famous Turkish film director Nuri Bilge Ceylan: “I wouldn’t have any desire to make any soundtrack [unless] the brilliant Turkish director [Nuri Bilge] Ceylan came up to me and said ‘Nyman, you’re the only person who we could work with for the film.’ If he comes to my concert, likes my music and asks me to write a soundtrack, I might be interested in writing a soundtrack because I think his films are brilliant and very intelligent. It doesn’t matter to me whether it is a low-budget or a high-budget film. It has to do with the quality of the project. If he wanted to work with me, I would work with him. So ask him to come to my concert.”

Nyman is quite familiar with Turkey. Having visited the country many times since 1966, Nyman traveled to many cities in Anatolia. “When I first came in 1966, Turkey was a center of crossroads, a kind of hippie-route,” says Nyman. “I spent six weeks here in the summer of 1966, and I was a kind of 20-21-year-old hippie, meeting people who were going to and coming from Afghanistan and India, so it was fantastic. Unfortunately, I knew very few Turkish people. I have travelled a lot all around Turkey, but then I didn’t come back to Turkey maybe for 30 years, and when I came back for a concert, I saw that things had changed. Turkey is simultaneously changing to make itself suitable for accession into the European Union, and it seems to be much more Islamic now than it was in the ‘60s and the following years. So it’s very curious, fascinating and also very intelligent and a very international place.”

Nyman says he was impressed with the Ottoman architecture in İstanbul, which made him consider renting an Ottoman house. “When I was in İstanbul last year for a festival, I met a lot of people, industrialists and art collectors,” he says. “So my last trip was based on a whole new side of İstanbul that I felt very close to and I became fascinated with. I was even talking to someone who owned one of these beautiful Ottoman houses. I’d like to rent one, but that hasn’t happened so far.”

For Nyman, the best thing about coming to İstanbul again is “to sit down and perform my music live.” Nyman will present a program made up mostly of his soundtracks at tomorrow’s concert, and says he regrets he won’t be able to present a more inclusive program: “The concert basically runs through the repertoire of my film soundtracks. It is the popular side of the Michael Nyman Band repertoire. But it would have been nice to give two concerts.”


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