Michael Nyman

Michael Nyman CBE ( born March 23, 1944 in London) is an English composer, of The Piano ( The Piano ) is a widely publicized primarily through his music for the film.


Nyman studied, among other things piano and music history at the Royal College of Music and King's College London. Because he rejected the then prevalent atonal contemporary music, Nyman was composing in 1964 and worked as a musicologist. In a study published in 1968 by Cornelius Cardew's The Great criticism Digest he the first to use the term minimalism for a new musical style that was represented mainly by the composer Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

Reich's composition Come Out impressed him so much that he took back to practical music making: In 1968 he wrote the libretto for Harrison Birtwistle's Down by the Greenwood Side. It was also Birtwistle, the Nyman asked to edit for a stage production of Il Campiello Venetian songs of the 18th century. For this purpose, founded Nyman 1976, the " loudest, electronically unamplified street band" that one could imagine, the Campiello band whose music was played partly on old instruments such as the shawm, partly on modern instruments like the saxophone. Nyman's goal was to play as loud as possible without electronic amplification to use.

Nyman kept the group after the end of the play together, added her added his own piano and wrote for them In Re Don Giovanni, a variation on 16 measures of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He now also began to electronic amplification and named the formation around in Michael Nyman Band. Almost all pieces Nyman, whether written for symphony orchestra, choir or string quartet are first tried out in this band.

Nyman was especially familiar as a film composer, notably for the films of Peter Greenaway, but also more commercial productions such as Gattaca, The End of the Affair (The End of an Affair ) and especially Jane Campion's The Piano ( The Piano ), its largest public commercial success.

Published in 1974 Nyman an influential book on experimental music ( Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond ), in which he examines the influence of John Cage on contemporary music. Nyman, perhaps one of the most humorous of all classical composers, was a member of the infamous Portsmouth Sinfonia, the world's worst, according to self-description Orchestra, the delightfully varied mainly rock and pop classics such as Bridge over Troubled Water and deconstructed. Nyman founded a similar band called Foster's Social Orchestra, which focused on the music Stephen Foster. He has also recorded pop music itself, such as with the Flying Lizards.

In order to publish his works independently, Nyman founded in May 2005 his own record label MN Records.


Michael Nyman's music is rooted in the rejection of contemporary music, he found: " As a student [ ... ] I wrote in the style of Paul Hindemith and Shostakovich. Then I came in contact with the Manchester School - Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle and Alexander Goehr - and it was not only an absolute imperative to write serial music, but also all the other music that was not in series, as the music of idiots look at. [ ... ] I did not write a single note from 1964 to 1976 because I could not resign myself to write serial music. "

The encounter with the American pioneers of minimalist music led Nyman back to the music, but with one major difference: While the Americans used precisely controlled form systems without role models, Nyman went out with his less concentrated compositions from the model of the Western musical tradition to express " beautiful " to create music.

Composers whose works Nyman often winking has as a starting point for your own compositions are about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ( In Re Don Giovanni, Drowning By Numbers ), Henry Purcell (The Draughtman 's Contract ), Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (A Zed and Two Noughts ) John Dowland ( Prospero 's Books ) and Anton Webern ( Five Orchestral Pieces for Opus Tree ). Nyman combined here music-historical quotes, avant-garde form and catchiness.

"After a solid method Nyman [ ... ] selects very short verbatim quotes from the classic template and subjects them to a minimalist repetition. The tonal orientation is preserved, however, changed the harmonic progression. Finally, whole bars of the starting material and the harmonic levels are missing are suddenly next to each other, rather than logical to follow a cadenza. "The result is music that equally has appeal for the initiated as for music historically illiterate listeners as they are on the one hand intelligently plays on the tradition, but on the other hand, will never atonal.

In recent years, Nyman has strongly addressed the art music. So three operas were, for example, in cooperation with the Baden State Theatre in Karlsruhe between 2002 and 2005 premiered: 2002 Facing Goya, Man and Boy 2004: DaDa (Text by Michael Hastings ) and 2005 Love Counts (Text by Michael Hastings ).

At the Berlin Maerz Music Festival of Contemporary Music 2011 Nyman presented at the Berlin Volksbühne before Dziga Vertov's film of his new scoring a sixth of the world and he earned a lot of applause.

Nyman is the opposite of the composer in the Ivory Tower: He has no fear of contact, especially not with the new media. He not only wrote a series of popular film scores, but even works for a fashion show Yohji Yamamoto and for the computer game Enemy Zero.

Works (selection)

Awards and Nominations (selection)


  • Michael Nyman - Composer in Progress. Documentary, Germany, 2010 50 min, Director: Silvia Beck, production: Arthaus, Meeting of kino-zeit.de.