Michael Nyman

I’m the impostor.

But it’s been a while since I’ve felt like this. I can sense the hairs spring up on the back of my neck like an army that had been buried in the sand, waiting. It’s only the first song too, ‘Chasing the Sheep is best Left to Shepherds’ and its baroque gallop urges me to beat my fists in the air and headbang. It digs me in the ribs and says COME ON! Around me everyone looks on stoically, not a head movement in sight. We’re a study group. I’m an island in a sea of mannequins. Am I missing the point?

I’d found Nyman inadvertently through Peter Greenway films while a pretentious high school student. Although not really understanding the greater themes, mortality by way of morality and the Renaissance aesthetic, it was probably just the cloak-and-dagger violence and nudity. We used to swap VHS tapes on Fridays.

”Ok I’ve got ‘Two Thousand Maniacs’ and ‘Blood Feast’. Whadda ya got?”
 “The Draughtsman’s Contract”
 “What the hell is that?”
“British Arthouse”
 “It’s a period piece. Funny costumes.”
 “Maybe I’ll just…”
 “There’s boobs and people die”
 “I guess I’ll take it”

I didn’t realise at the time but the soundtracks of these films had seeped into me, and years later I recognised a tune somewhere and joined the dots and bought as much of it as I could find. I mostly listened to it on tiny earphones traveling here and there. It had a way of making the places I was going seem more important. My fellow passengers became low paid extras. Now Michael Nyman is in Australia and performing with his 11-piece band and I’m going.

On the way to Brisbane I’d stopped in at the farm to cook my Nan dinner and do some chores around her house. In my rush earlier I’d forgotten to bring anything for later that might constitute ‘theater attire.’ I had only the old jeans, flannelet shirt and work boots I was already wearing, a fashion standard that could only match a good lawn mowing at best.

”You’re not wearing those to the concert?” she asked looking at the state of the jeans, different areas of my leg showing through the rips. The seat had nearly fallen out of them completely.
”I have to, there’s no choice now.”
”That’s bloody terrible. I’ll worry about that all night now,” she lay back on the lounge as if she couldn’t bear look any longer. I pondered what a great simple life it must be when some stranger’s fashion opinions of a Grandchild could keep you awake. Old people worry about a few weeds in the garden, meanwhile our whole planet warms up ready to pop.

I helped fill in a few blank boxes on her crossword. She couldn’t leave it alone.
 “I hope you don’t have an accident on the way.”
“Don’t worry about me, I drive slow,” I reassured her.
 “…Imagine what they’d think of you if you had to go to hospital dressed like that.”
Remember, our planet could explode at any second.

Thankfully by the time dinner was cooked she’d forgotten all about it and was now concerned at how successfully I’d boiled the broccoli. It needed to contain none of its original goodness and dissolve as soon as it hit the tongue.
 “What do you think about that Michael Jackson dying?” she asked me for the forth time this week. I wondered if I even had an opinion.
 “It was sad,” I answered again, supposing it probably is, “He had a strange life.” I realised this would be in the top percentage of most cliched answers given by anyone asked the same question.
The weekly celebrity gossip magazines, her glossy windows to the outside world, would have informed Nan of this. She knew all about this person Michael Jackson but I’m sure if I asked what her favourite track off ‘Thriller’ was she’d just look at me and say ”Hey?” I thought of her alone in the house on 450 acres in southeast QLD following the loves and diets of these fictitious characters from another universe. I know for sure she’s never seen a Jenifer Aniston movie.

I arrive at the QPAC theater without having had to be wheeled into Accident and Emergency under-dressed. I forget about my rags, and everything else as I rejoice in my padded seat. They play all my favourites.

This is the first such concert I’ve ever been to. Not a lyric in sight. I know it’s technically incorrect to call it ‘Classical’ as that only happened for a short while after 1750 or so. Wherever this music comes from I’m new to it’s machinery but it’s still all a string of melodies and rhythms that’s threaded in one ear and comes out the other rubbing over the brain as it goes and you either like it or hate it, understanding or not.

Some songs make me think of scribbling feverishly with a feathered quill, stopping every few bars to re-ink. Others attack me in a swarm of angry insects.

After an hour or so I do end up sliding back in my chair, blending with my seated allies. I’m letting go of the outward body movement and the energy rush has found its way inside. My eyes and ears are doing their job but can’t take all the credit. It’s beyond that now. My soul is swishing about like a friendly ghost. I can understand something completely but don’t ask me to explain it.

When the last note rings off most of the audience give a standing ovation. Although unmoving through the performance this is how we will best express our enjoyment and appreciation. We’ll clap three feet higher than in the chair.

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