The prospect of composer Michael Nyman and vocalist David McAlmont onstage, together, was a delicious one.
Nyman is best known for his soundtrack work, while McAlmont is rightly famed for his vocal acrobatics.
Saturday night’s performance, part of the excellent Minimal festival, had two distinct strands. The first was essentially a Nyman hits package. What was striking was that the music has held up better than many of the movies. Firmly rooted in systems-based composition, Nyman weaves an intriguing web of compelling piano motifs over which the 11-piece band plays with considerable gusto. The opening number, Franklyn, from Wonderland, was a case in point. For all the talk of minimalism the Nyman band is, at times, reminiscent of an outdoor brass band: big, bold and gallus.
Out of context and on their own, it is easier to recognise some of the reference points which Nyman has absorbed. There were two offerings from Prospero’s Books: Come Unto These Yellow Sands, over which the ghost of Gil Evans hovers, while the wonderful Miranda echoes the lyricism of Gershwin.
The second set introduced McAlmont to perform songs recorded for an album, The Glare, using his lyrics set against previously recorded Nyman compositions. While the result was occasionally underwhelming, with McAlmont’s voice set deep in the mix and competing for attention with the band, when his voice took full flight, as in A Great Day In Kathmandu and The Coldest Place On Earth, the hairs on the back of your neck stood to attention. Immaculate phrasing and a voice as sweet as Curtis Mayfield’s are McAlmont’s calling cards, and where did he buy that bling?
Star rating: ****
One evening but two very different aspects: the world premiere of NYman With A Movie Camera, Michael Nyman’s shot-by-shot update of Dziga Vertov’s groundbreaking 1929 mash-up film, Man With A Movie Camera, with Nyman’s score — composed for both films — played live by the 66-year-old and his 11-strong mini-orchestra. Nyman’s film said little but the aural-visual experience was senses-stretching.
Before that, Nyman and band were joined by singer David McAlmont to perform their inspired The Glare album, where McAlmont wrote and sang lyrics based on news stories, with existing Nyman pieces as backdrops. Magically sung, impeccably played, the collaboration was as absorbing on the thunderous throb of Friendly Fire as both the slower, wounded In Laos and the peek into Susan Boyle’s inner hell that is The Glare itself.
But this was a missed opportunity. Nyman was an island, silent and playing piano with his back to the audience throughout.
Worse, for all his charismatic delivery and the utter joy of A Great Day In Kathmandu, McAlmont was also mute between songs, leaving only awkward poses and no hint of what crime the Somali seemingly being extradited to the United States in Going To America had purportedly committed or what the apparent refugee in Fever Sticks And Bones was fleeing from and why. Surely I wasn’t the only one whose curiosity had been aroused…
The composer Michael Nyman explains the thinking behind his latest film, and reminisces about the parties held by a Frieze founder’s dad.
Michael Nyman is a composer of minimalist music as well as a film-maker and photographer. His work includes the score for Jane Campion’s film “The Piano”, Peter Greenaway’s films “The Draughtsman’s Contract” and “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, And Her Lover”, and the operas “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” and “Facing Goya”. He formed the Michael Nyman Band in 1976.
On October 27, as part of the 8th annual Lucie Awards, Michael Nyman will be the inaugural recipient of the Double Exposure Award – a new award that celebrates individuals who have achieved success in a number of fields, including photography. The ceremony will take place in New York City at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.
The Lucie Awards, produced by the Lucie Foundation, (a non-profit, charitable foundation), honor the achievements of the world’s finest photographers, discover emerging talent through the International Photography Awards and promote the appreciation of photography worldwide.
Other honorees include Tina Barney (Achievement in Portraiture Award), Howard Bingham (Achievement in Photojournalism), James Drake (Achievement in Sports), Graciela Iturbide (Achievement in Fine Art), Lee Tanner (Achievement in Documentary Photography Award), The Center for Photography at Woodstock will receive The Spotlight Award and The Eddie Adams Workshop will be presented with The Visionary Award.
More information: www.lucieawards.com
MICHAEL NYMAN – COMPOSER IN PROGRESS
A portrait by SILVIA BECK, featuring STEVE REICH and VOLKER SCHLÖNDORFF
26th Warsaw International Film Festival Official Selection
Flanders Film Festival Ghent 2010 Official Selection
47th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival Official Selection
This film is about a very special moment in the famous composer’s artistic life. Composing with innovative minimalism for films as memorable as “The Draughtsman’s Contract”, “The Ogre”, “Man on Wire”, and most famously for Campion’s “The Piano”, he has reached an international audience. But now, Michael Nyman is about to become a filmmaker himself. Featuring unprecedented access to the composer and his working life, this film shows one of the great composers of our time in all his diversity and endless energy. From London to Berlin, in Mexico, Poland, the Netherlands and Portugal this film is also a journey through the musical world today. It shows Michael Nyman, the musician, in his concerts with The Michael Nyman Band and live collaborations with other internationally known musicians or orchestras. But throughout his journeys, this film discovers Nyman’s increasing passion for filming and photography. Witnessing the development of Nyman’s visual works from the very first moment of inspiration, this film gives a unique insight into Michael Nyman’s very personal views, his thoughts and emotions; his world.