MGV (Musique à Grand Vitesse - High-Speed Music) was commissioned by the Festival de Lille for the inauguration of the TGV North-European line and was first performed by the Michael Nyman Band and the Orchestre national de Lille under Jean-Claude Casadesus on 26 September 1993.
MGV runs continuously but was conceived as an abstract, imaginary journey; or rather five inter-connected journeys, each ending with a slow, mainly stepwise melody which is only heard in its 'genuine' form when the piece reaches its destination. The thematic 'transformation' is a key to MGV as a whole, where musical ideas- rhythmic, melodic, harmonic, motivic, textural - constantly change their identity as they pass through different musical 'environments'. For instance the opening bars establish both a recurrent rhythmic principle - 9, 11, or 13-beat rhythmic cycles heard against a regular 8 - and a harmonic process - chord sequences (mainly over C and E) which have the note E in common. (Coincidentally, MGV begins in C and ends in E). A later scalic, syncopated figure (again first heard over C, E and A) begins the second section, featuring brass, in D flat. And so on: the topography of MGV should be experienced without reference to planning, description or timetables.
Tempo changes, unpredictable slowings down, bear no logical relation to the high speed of the Paris-Lille journey, while the temptation to treat MGV as a concerto grosso, with the Michael Nyman band as the ripeno, was resisted: more suitably the Band (amplified in live performance) lays down the tracks on which MGV runs.
© Michael Nyman