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The Piano sung out at The Sage.

Byline: By Thomas Hall

Michael Nyman at The Sage Gateshead

A key player in the 1980s minimalist movement, Michael Nyman became best known for the propulsive rhythms and stripped-down harmonies distinguishing the Michael Nyman Band.

Simultaneously making his mark as a film composer, his name is linked with directors like Peter Greenaway, Jane Campion, Neil Jordan and Michael Winterbottom.

There are opera, concert and dance works too, but the solo The Piano Sings Tour focuses on the original piano versions of music later scored for the screen.

The End of the Affair, The Piano, Gattaca, The Diary of Anne Frank and Wonderland all won long applause and shouts of "bravo" that somehow seemed out of proportion to the predominantly wistful, sentimental music it acknowledged.

Until, that is, I began to get the point.

Nyman seems a man at one with himself, his unhurried stage manner and unostentatious playing style matching the musical personality. His sense of cool communicates to the audience until you too feel completely chilled and at ease with yourself.

What can seem like unchallenging mood music demonstrated its powers with the recently commissioned photographic slide sequence from Phil Maxwell ( monochrome shots featuring the young and old of London's East End ethnic melting pot, the bright-eyed, the care-worn and the streetwise among the litter-strewn markets and grimy alleys.

Nyman became the arch manipulator.

Two 1920s films brought more of the cinema pianist's art, the music's thrusting optimism reflecting breathtaking scenes of New York's towering cityscape and endlessly busy populace in Paul Strand's and Charles Sheeler's Manhattan.

Nyman's by turn vibrant and reflective score for Jean Vigo's surrealist A Propos de Nice sat perfectly with the rapid cuts and recurring images of a city at carnival time, winding up to a tremendous climax.
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Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2005
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