Dinner with Michael

24 Jul 2009
Posted by timecurve
Michael Nyman is in Brisbane with his band for a few days for a concert at the Queensland Music Festival, and last night Nora, Paul Draper, and I had dinner with him at Jellyfish. The last time Michael and I actually hung out together was at the New Music America Festival in Philadelphia in 1987. Before that, the most time we'd spent together was at the New Music/New York Festival in 1979, where I seem to remember participating in a Sunday morning performance of Paragraph 6 of Cornelius Cardew's The Great Learning that he directed. But even though we don't really have a chance to see that much of each other, we've always felt a certain kinship, I think, probably because we've always respected each other's writings as well as our music. Michael is, after all, generally acknowledged as the first writer to apply the term “minimalism” to music, and his book Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond from 1974 made a big impression on me. I used it as a text in my classes for a decade, or more. He, on the other hand, was intrigued that I had actually convinced La Monte and Marian to cooperate on a book about themselves, no small feat, as we both agreed. Last night's conversation was a three-hour romp through anything and everything we could think of to talk about, from the perils of writing music for the movies to the joys of moving to Mexico, and from the pleasures of New York and London in the '70s, to 'whatever happened to so and so'. But no matter how much time you have, there's never enough. I'm wishing now I'd asked him about his performances with the Portsmouth Sinfonia (known as the “World's Worst Orchestra”), or about his work with Flying Lizards, or his studies with Thurston Dart. But with a little luck there may still be time before he returns to London. We talked about having dinner again after his Saturday night performance, so there's still a chance we'll be able to cover a little more common ground.