Michael Nyman

b. 1944



Michael Nyman is a composer, pianist, librettist, writer, musicologist, photographer and film-maker whose work encompasses opera, concert music and film soundtracks of which The Draughtsman's Contract and The Piano are the best-known. Since founding the Michael Nyman Band in 1977, which tours the world, he has worked with leading film directors and has collaborated with artists such as Mary Kelly, Damon Albarn, Carsten Nicolai and the Oscar-winning Man on Wire star Phillippe Petit. Recent work includes several contributions to what is an intended series of 19 symphonies. Further War Work: 8 Songs with Film is a powerful example of Nyman's work as a composer and also film-maker. His music is available via an extensive range of recordings on his own label, MN Records.
Critical Acclaim
When you listen to Nyman’s music you are taken on a tour of his frenetically inventive head.— The Observer


As one of Britain's most innovative and celebrated composers, Michael Nyman's work encompasses operas and string quartets, film soundtracks and orchestral concertos. Far more than merely a composer, he's also a performer, conductor, bandleader, pianist, author, musicologist, and a photographer and film-maker. Although he's far too modest to allow the description 'Renaissance Man', his restless creativity and multi-faceted art has made him one of the most fascinating and influential cultural icons of our times.

At this stage of a long and notable career, he might forgivably have been content to rest on his considerable laurels. Yet instead of looking back on a lifetime of achievement that ranges from his award-winning score for the film The Piano to the acclaimed opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, via a string of high-profile collaborations with everyone from Sir Harrison Birtwistle to Damon Albarn, he's still looking forward - pushing the boundaries of his art with a diverse and prolific burst of creativity as energetic and challenging as any new and iconoclastic young kid on the block.

The year 2009 saw the production of a new opera, a piece commissioned in honour of Ennio Morricone's 80th birthday and the first-ever exhibition of his photographs and video-works. Never one to sit around in an ivory tower, his diary bulges with a full international touring schedule with the Michael Nyman Band as well as a series of unique one-off performances with such diverse collaborators as the singer David MacAlmont, a Polish accordion trio and the innovative sound artist Carsten Nicolai.

Nyman first made his mark on the musical world in the late 1960s, when he invented the term 'minimalism' and, still in his mid-twenties, earned one of his earliest commissions, to write the libretto for Birtwistle's 1969 opera Down By The Greenwood Side. In 1976 he formed his own ensemble, the Campiello Band (now the Michael Nyman Band) and over three decades and more, the group has been the laboratory for much of his inventive and experimental compositional work.

For more than 40 years, he has also enjoyed a highly successful career as a film composer, the role in which - sometimes to his slightly rueful regret - he is probably best known by the general public.His most notable scores number a dozen Peter Greenaway films, including such classics as The Draughtsman's Contract and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; Neil Jordan's The End Of The Affair; several Michael Winterbottom features including Wonderland and A Cock And Bull Story; the Hollywood blockbuster Gattaca - and, of course, his unforgettable music for Jane Campion's 1993 film, The Piano, the soundtrack album of which has sold more than three million copies. He also co-wrote the score for the 1999 film Ravenous with his friend and sometime protégé, Damon Albarn. Most recently, the sound track to the highly praised documentary McQueen was sourced entirely from the MN Records catalogue.

His reputation within classical music is built upon an enviable body of work written for a wide variety of ensembles, including not only his own band, but also symphony orchestra, choir and string quartet. He has also written widely for the stage. His operas include The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat (1986) and Facing Goya (2000) and he has provided ballet music for a number of the world's most distinguished choreographers. Nyman is making a major contribution to symphonic repertoire via an in-progress series of 19 symphonies.

In 2008, he published the sumptuous photo-book Sublime. Further, over the past few years Nyman has produced and exhibited a series of multi-screen moving image installations, enhancing his international reputation as a composer with his work as a film-maker. Working in collaboration with film editor Max Pugh, Nyman has developed an impressive body of filmic works, drawing on his extensive collection of moving images and stills made over many years. These beautiful and striking films, recorded during his travels in many countries and locations are blended with his musical compositions to create unique and extraordinarily evocative works. Nyman’s innate eye for detail, timing, colour, form, pattern and movement, are combined with his sense of humor and acute understanding and appreciation of visual and conceptual art.

His multi-screen installation NYman with a Movie Camera combines and intercuts extracts and fragments from many of Nyman’s extraordinary short films with his soundtrack for Dziga Vertov’s 1929 masterpiece. The resulting twelve-screen installation is both a tribute to the original ground-breaking film and a showcase for Nyman’s love of cinema, his filmic eye and his sense of pace and rhythm.

Nyman’s subsequent large-scale film project War Work: 8 Songs with Film, commissioned by the War on Screen International Film Festival to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War, is a powerful and moving evocation of the horrors of war. The film draws together rare archive film material of the devastating trauma and destructive power of war on those who bore the impact of conflict and battle, with imagery by painters and artists who were both witness and victim. 

The music of Michael Nyman is published by Chester Music Limited.



19th November 2021

Tonbridge School Symphony Orchestra
Mark Forkgen
Chapel Tonbridge, Tonbridge, United Kingdom

6th January 2022

Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
Tallinn, Estonia

26th April 2022

Trish Clowes, saxophone; David Le Page, violin and Rose Redgrave, viola
Orchestra of the Swan
Michael Collins
Stratford Play House, Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom