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.
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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.