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Remember, every time you listen to Michael Nyman’s music, a kitten dies.

I group him with those other two “populist-minimalist” composers who like to dabble in film music, Ludovico Einaudi and Philip Glass. None of them float my boat. It bothers me even more that they seem to take themselves far too seriously, unlike the relatively humble and likeable John Adams.

In all fairness, Nyman’s soundtracks to The Piano and Gattaca both fitted their respective films very well, but it’s not music I’d want to listen to out of context. In fact, rather than listen to it at all I would pull out my own fingernails, that’d be less painful.

In my humble opinion, he is a pop music composer masquerading as something else.

Nyman was originally a musicologist specialising in the music of Purcell. Eventually, he became interested in the experimental techniques being developed in America and even wrote a book about it called Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond. Then he wrote some music for a play which required it to sound like ancient music and be the loudest possible ensemble without amplification. He liked the sound, so this group became the Michael Nyman Band. His ensemble then went on to record several soundtracks for films, particularly Peter Greenaway films. By far his best music was written for films, but he also has some good non-film music, particularly his String Quartet No. 3.

Nyman is pretty addictive. He has a sound which is part ancient music (think Purcell) and part modern pop music. Like pop music you can listen to a lot of it for a long period of time, but then you need something else.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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