• Michael Nyman
  • Symphony No 3 "Symphony of sexual songs” (2014)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)
  • 3(pic).2+ca.2+bcl.2bn.asx/
  • 24 min

Programme Note

Symphony No.3: Of Sexual Songs

As is evident from the title, this symphony was composed as a homage to Henryk Mikołaj Górecki.

Górecki's ‘Symphony No.3. Of Sorrowful Songs’ adds a soprano voice to slow orchestral music while my slow 3rd symphony removes a soprano voice from my ‘I sonetti lussuriosi’ for soprano and orchestra (2007), re-edits 5 of the 8 songs and repositions the vocal part orchestrally.
The texts were taken from a collection of erotic poetry by Pietro Aretino (1492-1556) and I really enjoy the irony of Górecki allowing a symphony as ‘sacred' as No.3 to be constantly used as a film soundtrack, he stipulated that it could never be used in sex scenes. As a film composer myself, working with directors like Peter Greenaway, Patrice Leconte, Neil Jordan and Jane Campion it was always inevitable that my music would have to accompany sexual acts.

I first met Górecki at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1985 and after he had heard the Arditti Quartet play my 'String Quartet No.1'. I gave him a copy of my most recently-released album - ‘The Kiss and Other Movements’ - and some weeks later he wrote asking me to send him the score of ‘The Kiss’. I have no idea what he did with it, but I do know that in the 38 years I have been writing music, no other composer has had the curiosity to want to look at any of my scores. And Chopin also brought us close together musically: ‘Corona’, the fourth of my ‘Six Celan Songs’ (1991) is based harmonically on the sequence from Chopin’s ‘Mazurka Op.17 No.4’ that follows the passage that Górecki used in his 3rd Symphony.

My film ‘The Art of Fugue’ which consists of a single 28 minute sequence shot in May 2012 in Plaza Luis Cabrera, a square near my house in Colonia Roma, Mexico City, will be screened simultaneously with the symphony. Interestingly, the soundtrack for that film is taken from the recording that Marie Angel and the Michael Nyman Band made of ‘I sonetti lussuriosi’.

Michael Nyman