WORKS: Three Ways of Describing Rain; Compiling the Colours
PERFORMER: Michael Nyman Band, etc
CATALOGUE NO: 0927-49551-2
The unspoken word ‘project’ is stamped all over this effort. Nyman packed himself off to India to meet leading musicians and discuss collaborations. He eventually picked big international names whom he could have found without budging from London, and indeed did the subsequent work there and in Italy.
Resulting tours have not entirely been a triumphal progress. Curiously the album ignores the chasm between the two pieces. Nyman’s processes are better matched to the sparky rhythmic gymnastics of South India, personified by the mandolin-player U Srinivas. In Compiling the Colours, a rambling accompaniment to Srinivas’s improvisations grows into an independent superimposed piece, then a jaunty theme forces Nyman to try thinking Indian. Finally in this high-energy half-hour, two separate rhythms play simultaneously at speed, an exhilarating and honest expression of difference.
Against the totally different North Indian style of the Misras, Nyman devises a beautiful background of slowly shifting chords for Three Ways of Describing Rain. But soon it begins to sound like an insensitive harmonisation of music without harmonic content. The singers have their wings clipped and only the second of the three sections builds at length. Parts of the third resemble old-time Nyman Band music with voice-overs, until composed unisons put everyone – including an unexplained mandolin intervention – briefly on the same wavelength. Poor stuff, especially to an admirer of everybody involved. Robert Maycock