Notes & Reviews:
'Composer in Progress' is a film about a very special moment in the famous composer's artistic life. 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.
Notes & Reviews:
Run Time: 138 min.
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Terrific video collection to showcase this unique composer!
Michael Nyman is best known as the composer of the soul stirring soundtrack to the Jane Campion film, "The Piano". Even people who may not know his name have probably heard at least a bit of that particular soaring, beautiful Scottish inflected music featuring, of course, the piano. Michael Nyman, composer, though; has been around for a long time producing music that is minimalist in its template, completely tonal in its vocabulary and high energy in its sound. It is frequently loud, fast and energizing to some, confrontational to others. I first became aware of Nyman and a fan - I admit - with his film score to the Peter Greenaway film "The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, her Lover". That and so many other film scores with Nyman established that he had a unique compositional voice; one that simultaneously is grounded in the minimal approach but which also pays homage to early masters, such as Handel, Purcell, even Mozart. What is terrific about this new two DVD set from Art Haus is that we are introduced to a bit of Michael Nyman, the man, and his background. I did not know until seeing this film, wonderfully conceived and produced by English documentarian Sylvia Beck, that the composer is of Polish Jewish ancestry and owes much of his musical talent to his grandfather and uncle. (It is so easy for Americans to think of the English as English...) It was also fascinating to learn that Nyman, as a younger, struggling composer met the American minimalist genius, Steve Reich, who encouraged Nyman to be himself and write what he wants to write (At the time of Nyman's formal training, atonal and para-serialism was still the "expected" path even in British composers; Nicholas Maw for example) The Nyman sound has been called bold; it has been called shameful for its loud, rhythmically insistent palate and its use of the Baroque and Classical as points of departure. I like it and have for thirty years! I find the documentary fascinating but the real bonus is the concert disc. The 11 piece Michael Nyman band plays live on the second DVD at the London Studio Halle, performing sixteen of Nyman's works, including the first performance of his Handel inspired "Musicologist Scores". I do not see how anyone can watch this concert and not admire at least the physical workout required of his ensemble. It is quite exciting; sheer fun, to watch the kinetics involved with his string players (who admit to occasional tendinitis!) or his astonishing saxophone and brass section members who almost explode at times. I think special kudos are in order to Andy Findon who must blast his way through non-stop baritone sax parts to then pick up a piccolo and warble delicately without missing a beat! If you do like Nyman and his music, this is a must have! If you do not know Nyman; it is a must see! If you think you do not like Nyman, watch this entirely then decide. This set partially fulfills for me a life long ambition to see his group live.
Michael, if you read this, please come do a concert in America sometime: I'll be there!!
Submitted on 10/28/10 by Dan Coombs
Artist in overdrive
You gotta love a composer who discovered his signature sound by playing a Mozart aria filtered through the rockabilly aesthetic of Jerry Lee Lewis. Since that transcendent moment, Michael Nyman has plied his unique brand of frenetic minimalism in numerous operas, concerti and chamber works, although he’s most famous for his soundtracks for directors Peter Greenaway and Jane Campion. As Sylvia Beck’s excellent documentary on the composer reveals, Nyman is now extending his creativity into visual media: “For the whole of my career as a composer, my music has been united to images, but always other people’s images, never my own. And so for the first time I have the possibility of creating something which basically...represents the way that Michael Nyman looks at the world.” Beck’s film not only follows Nyman around the globe as he performs with his band in concert, it also shows him utilizing photography and film to create visual material that he combines with his music in his own inimitable style. German filmmaker Volker Schlondorff and fellow composer Steve Reich are on hand to deliver their takes on Nyman’s music. (Says Reich: “No harmony, no melody, no rhythm. That’s the rule.”) The result is an up-close look at the creative process that is never less than fascinating. Beck’s film is paired with a second disc that documents the 2009 premier of Nyman’s composition “The Musicologist Scores” in Halle, Germany. It’s an inspired and dynamic performance and confirms Nyman’s status in the upper echelon of modern classical music.
Submitted on 11/13/10 by Dean Brierly
Interesting Insight into a Living Composer
Michael Nyman is a living composer, and as such is generally the kind of thing that I stay away from. However, this two DVD set (Michael Nyman in Concert, and Michael Nyman – Composer in Progress) provides not only a positive concert experience but a series of interesting insights into the composer himself, the way he works, and the kinds of mosaic textures he puts together.
The concert DVD is a recording of the Michael Nyman Band live at Studio Halle. The audience is small, and given that the band primarily consists of brass players I am sure that the hall itself just reverberated with the music being performed. Mr. Nyman’s music could certainly be categorized as being in the semi-minimalist, repetitive camp…and at times it seems like certain pieces end abruptly simply because there is no place else to go. Don’t let yourself be overly distracted by this, as other pieces such as “Nadia”, “Molly”, “Musicologist Scores”, and “Diary of Hate” are fascinating and have much more to their mechanics and emotional impact than can be explained by “traditional” minimalist experiments. There is definite depth to some of this work.
As for the documentary, it follows Mr. Nyman to various international destinations as he travels with his band and explores his own family roots. It also delves into his interest in photography, video media, his drawing upon Mozart and Purcel in two of his better known pieces, and some of his time with Steve Reich (who made a real impact by encouraging Mr. Nyman to be himself in his music). It is always fascinating to get a sense of the individual behind compositions, and there are definite insights here that made this listener go, “Hmmm…that’s interesting”. It is a real pleasure to see him and his band play at the Proms – it is obvious that this opportunity means a great deal to Mr. Nyman, and that is communicated quite clearly both in what is said and in his body language.
If you are interested in this composer, then by all means pick up this 2 DVD set. You’ll be pleased.
Submitted on 01/10/12 by KlingonOpera