Monday, January 28, 2013

Michael Nyman | Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond

Michael Nyman
Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond
New York City, USA: Schirmer Books, 1974.
154 pp., 25 x 15 x 1.8 cm., cloth
Edition size unknown

Michael Nyman remains best known for his score for Jane Campion's The Piano, and for his longstanding creative relationship with director Peter Greenaway. Nyman scored films all of Greenaway's features from The Falls in 1980 to Prospero's Books in 1991, after which they had a falling out over what Nyman saw as a disrespectful use of his music.

Six years prior to their collaborations, Nyman published this early look at experimental music. The book looks at composers and musicians (John Cage, John Cale, Gavin Bryars, Earle Brown, Cornelius Cardew, Henry Cowell, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, etc.) as well as artists (George Brecht, Robert Ashley, Dick Higgins, Alvin Lucier, Nam June Paik, Robert Rauschenberg, etc.).

The chapters include:

1. Towards (a definition of) experimental music
2. Backgrounds
3. Inauguration 1950–60: Feldman, Brown, Wolff, Cage
4. Seeing, hearing: Fluxus
5. Electronic systems
6. Indeterminacy 1960–70: Ichiyanagai, Ashley, Wolff, Cardew, Scratch Orchestra
7. Minimal music, determinacy and the new tonality

Many scores are reproduced, though it is noted that copyright issues prevented the inclusion of notation by Cage, Christian Wolff or Morton Feldman. The second edition includes a new forward by Brian Eno (who included Nyman as one of the ten artists in his Obscure Records series in the mid-seventies) an updated discography, and a historical overview by the author.

The first ten pages of the reissue can be viewed here.

*Nyman was unavailable to provide music for the 1987 Greenaway film The Belly of an Architect, which was scored by Wim Mertens, who has also published a book on 'experimental music': American Minimal Music, 1988

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