Obscure #6: Michael Nyman ‘Decay Music’


01 Michael Nyman ‘1-100’ (27:30)
02 Michael Nyman ‘Bell Set No.1’ (20:54)

Total time 48:24
LP released on Island Records, 1976
Picture above: M. Nyman, New York, 1979.

From 1968 to 1976, Michael Nyman worked as a music critic for various magazines (Studio International, Time Out, Tempo, The New Stateman or The Spectator). He studied 16th and 17th c. baroque music in the mid-1960s, composing only a handful of musical pieces prior to the present ‘Decay Music’ in 1976, the real starting point of his carreer as a composer. ‘1-100’ is an auto-generative composition for piano that feeds itself along the way while remaining fairly minimal throughout. The kind of music that makes sense at low listening level – I would advise trying the experience at least once. After all, this is inspired by Erik Satie’s musique d’ameublement (furniture music). ‘Bell Set No.1’ is a brilliant pseudo-gamelan composition with a slight touch of ‘Pump and Circumstances’. The interprets are Nigel Shipway and Michael Nyman on metallophones, ie: bells, triangle, gongs, cymbals and tam-tam. ‘Bell Set No.1’ is a system piece based on the percussions’ sharp attack and slow decay, alternatively enhancing each. It works perfectly as a sound installation devoid of progression or change, without beginning nor end. I think the piece bears some influences from Henry Wolff and Nancy Jennings’ 1971 ‘Tibetan Bells’, one of the earliest example of fusion between ethnic and meditative music. ‘Bell Set’ is a gorgeous piece of upper-class british gamelan played with tongues firmly in cheek as if composed for an imaginary tea ceremony at Windsor Castle. Note: as with the entire Obscure series, LP pressing quality is bad, probably made from recycled vinyl. It seems the Island Record A&R manager who commissioned it didn’t believe in any commercial potential for the series.

Download via Sendspace or Mediafire.

. . . . . . . . . .

Cover design for the Obscure series was provided by John Bonnis of CCS studio, whose other designs included some Bob Marley’s LP artwork.
The source information for these 3 Continuo posts came from:

  • Michael Nyman: ‘Experimental Music’ 1974 book.
  • David Toop: ‘Ocean Of Sound’ 1995 book.
  • Underground Events‘, Ian Hammond ‘s research on The Beatles’ Revolution 9, 1999.
  • The online Eno Shop bio page.
  • John Cavanagh’s article on Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
  • This good Obscure discography.
  • Peter Suchin’s article ‘Brian Eno and the Quiet Club’, 2002
  • Tom Recchion’s Obscure label Epiphany article, The Wire, Sep. 2008
  • Obscure#5 LP is Jan Steele and John Cage’s ‘Voices and instruments’ (1976), available at WFMU’s blog.

18 Responses to “Obscure #6: Michael Nyman ‘Decay Music’”

  1. 1 pan mietek December 19, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    oh damn…no sendspace, pleeease…they’re a damn lottery…

  2. 2 big dude December 19, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    you are a god, sir

  3. 3 continuo December 19, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    I don’t do any music myself, you know. Musicians deserve more praises than I.
    Re Sendspace: I had to use it while Mediafire was down yesterday. Sorry about that. I’ll provide a Mediafire link as quickly as possible.

  4. 4 syzygy December 20, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Splendid work in unearthing all these long lost classics. I only need Machine Music and Irma (which was subsequently re-recorded) to complete the Obscure set. Thanks once again!

  5. 5 frank December 21, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Love you forever for posting these obscure albums

  6. 6 continuo December 21, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Thank you all for the uplifting comments.

  7. 7 pan mietek December 21, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    thank you, the download is underway

  8. 8 Michael B December 27, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Excellent! There’s so much amazing music that will be lost to history, except for sites like this. Many thanks again!

  9. 9 continuo December 27, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Thank you, Michael.

  10. 11 continuo April 16, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    This album seems an amazing release, indeed. I just read an article about Vinyl Factory and Phonica in the May issue of HiFi News magazine.

  11. 12 greg April 28, 2010 at 4:28 am

    If it’s a red label, it’s a Polydor reissue. They sound MUCH worse than the black & white-label Island originals; better mastering and much better vinyl.

  12. 13 continuo April 28, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Thanks for the clarification.

  13. 14 DavidW in SF June 13, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Now available in a fully remastered digital format from Amazon for $1.87 as MP3 download. http://www.amazon.com/Decay-Music/dp/B001OCMWAY/ref=sr_shvl_album_1?ie=UTF8w

  14. 15 Vallaor May 10, 2011 at 9:25 am

    What a great post! It’s very hard to find Nyman’s music besides the soundtracks, but even more a rarity like this. Merci mille fois!

  15. 16 continuo May 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you.

  16. 17 JR October 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Enjoy this one. Thank you. I’m a fan of “The Piano” soundtrack. First time to hear this one.

  17. 18 continuo October 18, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    This disc belongs to Nyman’s experimental years, but I hope you”ll enjoy it anyway. Thanks for your comment.

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