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Michael Nyman MP3s

With the possible of exception of John Adams, composer Michael Nyman may be the most melodic of the major minimalists. Yeah, say that five times fast to a tune by Gilbert and Sullivan, and then head over to the Other Minds catalog at the Internet Archive (aka archive.org), which has in its coffers not one but four entries of Nyman’s music recorded live during OM’s 2005 concert series. These include two sets performed by the Del Sol String Quartet (String Quartet No. 3 and “The Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi,” the latter featuring soprano Cheryl Keller and visuals by Mary Kelly, though the MP3s, of course, include none of Kelly’s images) and two by Nyman himself (his soundtrack for Manhatta, a short silent film by filmmaker Charles Sheeler and photographer Paul Strand, and excerpts from his most widely heard work, the score for The Piano). Make that Nyman himselves, because the Manhatta piece, the most highly recommended download of the group, features him performing on piano along with two prerecorded piano lines. The result is a rambunctious mesh of staccato lines and complementary patterns, with Jazz Age echoes of Gerswhin in particular and futurism in general (it would make a good programming choice alongside Wynton Marsalis’ Citi Movement). As with Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint composition, it appears that Manhatta is intended to be realized by a combination of live soloist plus tape, not as an ensemble performance. The Sheeler/Strand film dates from the 1920s, but unfortunately it is not, as one commentator notes in the Internet Archive entry for Nyman’s Manhatta, in the vast public-domain repository at archive.org. (This link should go to a list of the Nyman entries; otherwise search the archive.) More on Nyman at michaelnyman.com and the Del Sol at delsolquartet.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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