Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Michael Nyman at Waterford New Music Week

Nyman Band
Michael Nyman at Waterford New Music Week 2011

There was a bit of a buzz around the appearance of film composer, Michael Nyman at Waterford New Music Week, with the composer himself interviewed on RTE’s flagship arts magazine programme, Arena in the week of the festival.  So with my diary clear, daylight hours getting longer and the prospect of a sunny weekend ahead, I headed South East from the Banner County.

Nyman is lauded as one of  Britain’s most innovative and celebrated composers, with numerous film soundtracks and opera scores to his credit.  His work can elicit strong reactions and  as I write, twitter updates  report 'loud booing  for Nyman's bouncy gleeful score'  at Maerzmusik, Berlin. The long queue at the Good Shepherd Chapel on the WIT campus boded well and I made my way to the top to the ticket desk just as the doors opened and carried on to sit in the front row to get a good view of this ‘fascinating and influential cultural icon’.
That this was an AMPLIFIED band was immediately apparent as the 12 piece band struck up and plugged in and I moved swiftly back. The band dressed all in black consisted of brass trio; French Horn, trombone, trumpet, string quartet, bass guitar and wind trio of three reeds (sax and clarinet) with occasional doubling on flute and piccolo and the composer himself on piano. It was a boy band, save for one lady on viola who lacked none of her fellow band members fervour.

Cultural Icon Nyman

The e first half opened with a selection from the Wonderland  film (directed by Michael Winterbottom) and continued with music from several of his other film commissions. Throughout the programme, certain distinctive elements of his style were apparent; staccato  repeated block chords, a hypnotic repetition and layering of the motifs with strings laid on top of  reeds and in turn, brass with a final crescendo, cut off abruptly at the close ; ponderous electric bass guitar lines,  the absence of percussion and lots of vigorous scrubbing for the strings .  At times I was reminded of George Martin's string arrangements to Beatles numbers. Without the celluloid for which it was conceived, I felt much of the bouncy scores  would provide a  really good sound track to accompany some energetic sporting activity.  Joggers could do worse than  add it to their ipods

'Minimalist' Programme
  The second half opened with a selection of solo piano music including the very well known piece from The Piano before the band rejoined the composer. Not being very  au fait with Nyman's  oeuvre, I am presuming that the post interval selection was all from film work also  but I soon lost track of which score. There was a list of ten items on the  programme but no further clarification given.  Nyman looking a little like a very tanned Woody Allen, spoke not at all and offered no context for the music.  Whereas the music is fun and bouncy  and full of verve, Nyman's platform persona is solemn , somewhat aloof although always deferential to the audience . The programme note, promising much, being enfolded in an attractive glossy blue card cover ,delivered little, being merely a bare set list, roll call of band members and a biographical note. Between the considerable resources of Mr Nyman and the Music Dept of WIT, I think  a more complete note might have been produced for such prestigious event and  I would gladly have sacrificed the bank of amplification equipment for a screen and projector with  title stills of the films from whose soundtracks the music was drawn.

Eric Sweeney at the console 
The hall was well filled with 300 or so in attendance and the work was greeted with enthusiasm  and  cheering .   Eric Sweeney, Irish minimalist composer and founder of the 12 year old festival was in attendance (I note he had the good sense to sit well back!). He must be very pleased to see the festival take root as a firm fixture on the Waterford and regional festival itinerary. This is a good venue, although it lacks a foyer space or an adjacent pub for post concert revellers to gather . Once the concert is over , there is no convivial space to linger and one is funnelled down the corridor and out the door to the car park. It is good to see Waterford City Council and its pro active Arts Department involved in supporting the growing number of annual arts events in the city.  There seems to be good liaison between arts bodies with the event run in  conjunction with Garter Lane Arts Centre. WNMW followed fast on the heels of  Waterford Writers’ Weekend, The Waterford International Music Festival and Imagine Festival and brightened the winter and economic gloom in the latter part of 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment