am 2. März 2003
In this work originally published in 1974, Nyman discusses the work of composers and performers who shifted the boundaries of music as regards notation, time, space, and the roles of the composer, performer and audience. The author seeks to identify and explain a whole body of musical work that existed outside the classical tradition and the avant-garde orthodoxies that flowed from it. He thus explores the Anglo-American musical tradition loosely associated with John Cage. Since 1974 this book has been considered the classical work on the radical alternative to the mainstream avant-garde as represented by Berio, Boulez and Stockhausen. Many of the current popular composers like Glass and Reich trace their root to this experimental school. The most fascinating chapter to me is "Minimal Music, Determinacy And The New Tonality" in which the Theatre Of Eternal Music (Tony Conrad, La Monte Young, Marion Zazeela and John Cale) as well as the work of Terry Riley is discussed. Photographs, illustrations and musical notations enliven the text and the book concludes with a selected source bibliography, a discography of experimental music and a bibliography of publications since 1974. Brian Eno has contributed an interesting foreword to this edition. The text can get a bit technical for the non-musician, but it remains a detailed work on a radical musical direction that has borne great fruit in the years since it was first analysed in this thorough and scholarly work.
am 8. Mai 2000
Before Michael Nyman was a successful composer topping a millionaire gross worth, he was indeed a perceptive writer,with a turn of poetic phrase as when he described Cardew's magnum opus The Great Learning. There he described the confluence of Cardew's use of the Analects of Confucius with expression for the common man/woman,Cardew's intent utilized graphics as a common language read by anyone, a music for amateurs and professional instrumentalists to sing and play simultaneously.Nyman's rather modest pamphlet here when written, it was the only comprehensive explanation of what for the most part remained a confused, variegated,and fragemented avant-garde.One with no discernable direction,nor creative agenda accept possibly not to have one,in the typical Zen fashion of the times. The departures here and most of what Nyman discusses emanate from the Post-Cage realm of non-expression. The concern was in process,in graphic notation, in the means rather than the ends, how a process can undergo multiplication either through determinate means, actual writing of music or improvisation, or a mixtures of both.Cage began much of these departures along with associates Morton Feldman and Earle Brown, and later Christian Wolff.Here Cage with his various Variations, was the biginning marks where the performers needed to prepare a score to perform from a set of guidelines determining tones,rhythm,duration,physical placement and selection of instrument.The score was a set of instructions, a blueprint in a way.There was no right or wrong way merely one that didn't excite and inspire. This reduction of the creative process to its bare minimum was an exciting step hence there was plenty of room for divine intervention. Schoenberg, Cage's teacher had taught him the wealth of processes in music from the reservoir of variation form. And his use of it throughout his life, is akin to an unoffical hommage to the master of dodecaphonic thinking.Cage went on to compose seven such works each entitled Variations with a successive number. It was like a diary. Nyman is a perceptive writer discussing the minimalist expressions as well,a realm which came to work for him.Back when he wrote this work minimalism was just beginning to be recognized as a viable road a subversion of the Western Canon, and what was labeled as the tyrannical serial road as practiced by the Europeans. Reading Nyman today in retrospect is far more interesting however than appraising the repetitive patterns cadre today, for back in the late Sixties, early Seventies, these minimalists concepts, of transforming, scaling,nuanced timbral changes and permutating rhythm as mosaic patterns indeed opened up a creative chasm that has only been closed now. The market success of it is all a matter of history now.Even the Post-minimalists a la John Adams have exhausted its bleak emotive world. But Nyman was the first to discuss Reich's music, and that of Phillip Glass, and there early music was indeed much more exciting than their current homogenized,mannered and overlabored music today.Nyman was actually the shrewdest of the lot regenerating this creativity into the service (uncompromised) market. Improvisation also represented a new turn of the page, and a profound way of eradicating the package, the creator. The remarkable improvisors AMM, Keith Rowe and Eddie Prevost(later Cornelius Cardew,and John Tilbury) also make a great contribution here to Nyman's work. AMM was the first to adopt a post-Cage perspective,yet infusing their sensitive performances with more an ethic, a concern for the human condition which was a rather opaque and of mariginal value in the Cage edifice of creativity.Rowe utilized the radio as a sound source for instnace, but had projected a deep musicianship in its mixing it with his signature sound of the bowed electric guitar .A genre today where countless copy cats exhibit their expressions. Nyman also touches on the new use of melodic means, a realm that was to blossum wholeheartedly along all the creative avenues of the avant-garde throughout the Seventies coming ferociously up to the present times, with the homogenization of the commissioning agenda in today's orchestral venues.Melody represented a common experience a common language, and similar to jazz it was the focus of a piece.The work ends with Cardew's apostasy into Marxism and his utilization of revolutionary songs in arrangement form.Nyman short-changes this in some way, not realizing its implication, as no one else.