Latest erotically charged work from composer Michael Nyman, 8 Lust Songs

The latest release from composer Michael Nyman, the 8 Lust Songs are based on texts by the Arezzo-born Pietro Aretino (1492-1556), who was known as the ‘Scourge of Princes’ for his outspokenness against the authorities of church and state. The sonnets belong to the first period of Aretino’s life in Papal Rome. In 1525 Aretino obtained the release from prison of Marcantonio Raimondi, an engraver who was responsible for I modi, a series of 16 engravings which depicted explicit sexual positions, based on works by the mannerist painter and Raphael pupil Giulio Romano (unfortunately, the original drawings have been lost). A second edition of I modi was published in 1527, this time with pictures and text-the first time an erotic text and pictures were combined.

Mr. Nyman has written:

“The origins of my settings of Pietro Aretino’s I Sonetti Lussuriosi, now known as 8 Lust Songs, lie in an exhibition of erotic art, that Marina Wallace and Martin Kemp were planning for the Hayward Gallery in 2005, and which eventually re-surfaced at the Barbican Centre as Seduced, in October 2007. The curators asked me to provide what would have become a tape compilation of erotic music of the past, but I preferred to explore my own approach to musical eroticism through the medium of 8 of the 16 of Licentious Sonnets, that Aretino wrote to ‘illuminate’ Giulio Romano’s I modi. The initial decision to ask Marie Angel to sing both the male and female roles was crucial to my attempt to dramatize and create as much variety as possible out of these repetitive dialogues of the sex act.

The 8 Lust Songs are the most recent in a long series of sex-related works that seem to have engaged me since the mid 60s when, as a student musicologist, I was asked by Professor Thurston Dart to make a new edition of Purcell’s Catches, which restored the dirty words that the Victorians had removed. From there, via the vast number of films that have required me to write music to accompany sex scenes – from The Draughtsman’s Contract to The Piano, from Carrington to The Libertine – to Acts of Beauty (2004), Love Counts (2005) and to the Sonetti, is a logical but haphazard progression. The Kiss (1985) and Facing Goya (2000) may, on the other hand, deal with non-sexual body art, but they, like the 8 Lust Songs and Acts of Beauty, are also concerned with adding a musical interpretation to verbal texts that are simultaneously coupled with the visual.”