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Review by Brad Green:
The pulse strides as steadily as a ponderous pixie or a tiptoeing giant. Up and down march Michael Nyman’s strings, relentlessly yet ambiguously, in regular four and eight beats that make emphasis an art-form. It has been the Nyman trademark since the earliest Peter Greenaway films, where the solid musical figures provided ballast and framework for Greenaway’s highly pictorial, cinematic vision.

Although he is now most recognised for his score for The Piano, Nyman’s signature soundtracks became a feature of almost a dozen Greenaway films, until director and composer split over the use of the music in Prospero’s Books. The fact is that Nyman often didn’t prepare scores for Greenaway in the traditional way; they weren’t usually a series of perfectly synchronised cues, just themes that Greenaway pasted against his images as he saw fit. Sometimes the soundtracks even drew from previous Nyman compositions, unrelated to the particular film. Which makes it less surprising that Nyman’s music forms magnificent partnerships with very different filmmakers to Greenaway; and without requiring a significant shift in the composer’s style.

Director Michael Winterbottom does share one particular attribute with Greenaway. Both of them are masters of mise en scene. Winterbottom’s scenic landscapes are as much a work of art as Greenaway’s most intricate set pieces. The nuances of Nyman’s music are the perfect compliment to such powerful imagery. The predictability of his rhythms affords us to the chance to revel in sublime chord changes and lyrical motifs.

Nyman has a very British sense of controlled emotion. His melodies follow a measured arc of sentiment, and instead of poking out from his rhythmic beds they fold neatly over the surface. They are short and accessible; one here is even reminiscent of the Genesis pop hit Land Of Confusion. And you won’t find more precision in orchestral voicings; each instrument articulates its own melodic contour, yet knits seamlessly into the tonal fabric.

The result is hypnotising. The pulse continues on its mesmeric way and the melodic lines entrance us with their coiled, potential energy. For we are not to expect dramatic climaxes from the man who coined the term “minimalism”. Nyman’s scores, and this one is no exception, soar on the back of no excess and fine refinement. It is a little glib to state that that the less the Michael Nyman orchestra play, the more they say; but with a stripped down version – the Michael Nyman “Band” – touring Australia in early 2002, audiences should hang on every note.

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TITLE: The Claim

ID: CDVE953

Virgin

SCORE: Michael Nyman

PERFORMERED BY: The Michael Nyman Orchestra

CONDUCTOR: Michael Nyman

TRACKS: 15







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