062-067 MICHAEL NYMAN / ISLINGTON, MEXICO





[RAINA LAMPKINS-FIELDER / LET’S START AT YOUR BEGINNING. I’M CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR OWN EARLY, PERSONAL BIOGRAPHY— THE ONE BEFORE THE ‘KNOWN’ ONE. AS A CHILD, DID YOUR FAMILY ENCOURAGE YOUR MUSICAL DEVELOPMENT?
MICHAEL NYMAN / NO. THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO MUSIC IN MY FAMILY. I COME FROM A FAMILY OF 1ST GENERATION EAST END JEWISH FURRIERS— BUT THE LOWER END, LIKE THE ARTISAN END OF THE FUR TRADE. BOTH SETS OF THEIR PARENTS CAME FROM VARIOUS PARTS OF POLAND & THEY LIVED IN THE EAST END OF LONDON, WHICH WAS THE JEWISH GHETTO I SUPPOSE. THEY MOVED OUT OF THE EAST END TO NORTH EAST LONDON, WHERE I WAS BORN. OURS WAS A HOUSE OF NO CULTURE REALLY, CERTAINLY NO MUSIC CULTURE. AROUND THE AGE OF 8, A SPARK OF MUSICAL TALENT WAS PERCEIVED BY A PRIMARY SCHOOL MUSIC TEACHER, WHO THEN PROCEEDED TO TRAIN ME TO BE A MUSICIAN FROM THE AGE OF 8 TO THE AGE OF 17.

[...]

RL-F / YOU’RE ALSO A FILMMAKER WHO HAS COLLABORATED WITH FILMMAKERS, SO YOU UNDERSTAND THE IMAGE. IF YOU’RE WRITING MUSIC WITH THE INTENTION OF IT BEING ACCOMPANIED BY VISUALS, HOW ARE YOU APPROACHING IT AS A COMPOSER?
MN / IN ALL MY EXPERIENCE OF BEING A FILM COMPOSER & OF WORKING WITH DIRECTORS WHOSE WORK IS VERY IMAGE BASED, ESPECIALLY GREENAWAY & JANE CAMPION, NEVER HAS A SINGLE IMAGE EVER SUGGESTED A MUSICAL RESPONSE IN ANY FILM I’VE EVER DONE— EXCEPT MY OWN FILMS STRANGELY ENOUGH. WITH THE EARLY GREENAWAY FILMS, NOT ONLY WAS THERE NO SENSE OF THE MUSIC RESPONDING TO IMAGES BUT ALSO OF NOT RESPONDING TO ANYTHING SEEN ON SCREEN AT ALL BECAUSE THE MUSIC WAS ESSENTIALLY WRITTEN BEFORE THE FILM WAS SHOT— IN THE CASE OF THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT— & IN THE CASE OF A ZED & TWO NOUGHTS, WHILE THE FILM WAS BEING MADE. I DIDN’T ACTUALLY HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE A SINGLE FRAME UNTIL I COMPLETED THE SCORE. WITH A FILM LIKE THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER, THAT BIG POWERFUL BAROQUE PIECE CALLED MEMORIAL— WHICH AGAIN IS BASED ON PURCELL— WAS WRITTEN AS A CONCERT PIECE 4 YEARS BEFORE THE FILM WAS MADE. WITH PROSPERO’S BOOKS, GREENAWAY USED A WHOLE ALBUM OF MUSIC THAT I HAD WRITTEN 2 YEARS BEFORE HE STARTED MAKING THE FILM. HE ACTUALLY USED MY MUSIC FROM AN ALBUM CALLED LA TRAVERSÉE DE PARIS, WHICH I WROTE IN 1989 AS A 200TH ANNIVERSARY GIFT FOR THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. WHILE HE WAS WRITING THE SCRIPT HE WAS LISTENING TO MY MUSIC. SO, IN A WAY… THE MUSIC WAS DRIVING THE VISUALS FOR THE FILMS. & IT VERY RARELY RESPONDED TO THE FILMS, TO THE IMAGES, THE PLOT… THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT GREENAWAY GAVE ME WERE TO DO WITH FORM & STRUCTURE— NOT SO MUCH CONTENT— & THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MUSICAL CATEGORIES, VISUAL CATEGORIES, OR LOCATIONAL CATEGORIES LIKE IN THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT, OR THE CATEGORIES OF DARWINIAN EVOLUTION IN A ZED & TWO NOUGHTS. WHAT WAS BRILLIANT ABOUT THAT IS HIS INSTRUCTIONS ALLOWED ME TO WRITE IN A KIND OF REPETITIVE VARIATION FORM, WHICH WAS MEAT & DRINK TO ME. AS FAR AS THE AUDIENCES WERE CONCERNED, HERE WAS MUSIC THAT WAS TOTALLY DEPENDENT FOR ITS EXISTENCE TO GREENAWAY’S FILMS, BUT HE HAD GIVEN ME THE FREEDOM TO BE MICHAEL NYMAN THE COMPOSER— NOT SIMPLY A FILM COMPOSER— TO WRITE ANY MUSIC THAT I CHOSE TO WRITE & THAT I WOULD HAVE WRITTEN IN THE SAME MANNER AS A COMPOSER ANYWAY. ALTHOUGH IF THERE HADN’T BEEN THE FILM THERE WOULDN’T NECESSARILY HAVE BEEN THE OCCASION TO WRITE IT...]


/ EXCERPT FROM A CONVERSATION BETWEEN RAINA LAMPKINS-FIELDER & MICHAEL NYMAN. ENTIRE ARTICLE ONLY IN THE PRINTED EDITION OF SOME/THINGS MAGAZINE CHAPTER005 / SHE HAS NO STRINGS APOLLO





MICHAEL NYMAN PHOTOGRAPHED BY MONIKA BIELSKYTE AT HIS HOME IN ISLINGTON [LONDON, 13 JUNE 2011]