Born in Stratford, London to a family of Polish secular Jewish furriers on 23 March 1944, Michael Nyman studied at King’s College London and was accepted at the Royal Academy of Music in September 1961, studying with Alan Bush and Thurston Dart, focusing on piano and seventeenth-century baroque music. He won the Howard Carr Memorial Prize for composition in July 1964. In 1965–66 Nyman secured a residency in Romania, to study folk-song, supported by a British Council bursary. He made his first work in 1963 and has continued to this day, writing operas, scores for ballets, film scores (most notably for ‘The Piano’ in 1993) and for TV series. He also published an influential book in 1974 on experimental music called ‘Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond’, which explored the influence of John Cage on classical composers.
He arranged the strings for Kate Bush’s song Reaching Out.
Michael Nyman about Kate Bush
My one experience of working with Kate Bush – a string sextet arrangement of Reaching Out on the Sensual World album – would, I thought be pretty brief. I told the players, who I believe may have included Bill Hawkes, that they would probably be out of the studio in 25 minutes or so as the arrangement was quite simple and would be lost in a rich texture that had already been recorded. Instead of which Kate impressively used the whole 3 hour session to micromanage the arrangement, the performance, the recording and the mix with scrupulous attention to detail than I have ever given to recording my own music. (A viola squawks at sainted Kate Bush, 1 September 2014)
Kate about Michael Nyman
I really like his stuff – the rawness of his strings. It’s a bit like a fuzzbox touch – quite ‘punk’. I find that very attractive – he wrote it very quickly. I was very pleased. (Tony Horkins, What Katie Did Next. International Musician, December 1989)