Michael Nyman is a composer, pianist, librettist, writer, musicologist, photographer and film-maker whose work encompasses opera, concert music and film soundtracks of which The Draughtsman's Contract and The Piano are the best-known. Since founding the Michael Nyman Band in 1977, which tours the world, he has worked with leading film directors and has collaborated with artists such as Mary Kelly, Damon Albarn, Carsten Nicolai and the recent Oscar winning Man on Wire star Phillippe Petit.
Songs For Tony for String Quartet was composed in 1993, in memory of Tony Simmons.
'I began writing a saxophone quartet on New Year's Eve 1992. In the early afternoon of 5th January 1993, I was informed that my friend and business manager, Tony Simmons, had died after a long and heroic fight against cancer. I immediately sat down and wrote the music which became the fourth song, in what became a 'memorial' quartet. The previously composed music was scrapped as I decided to give each player, in turn, an 'aria' of his own.
The first song is a transcription of an actual song - 'Mozart on Mortality' - which I wrote for the Composers Ensemble in the spring of 1992. The text, by Mozart himself, is all too appropriate: 'I may not see another day'. The second song is adapted from the music for the scene in Jane Campion's film The Piano, where the mute Ada (Holly Hunter) pushes her chief means of communication, her piano, overboard. This film was the last major deal that Tony negotiated on my behalf. The third song, a soprano sax solo, is based on a tune I composed some years ago, but was saving for a special occasion.' - Michael Nyman