Peter Michael von der Nahmer (“Mike) is a composer and sound researcher based in New York City. His American/German/Cuban heritage influences the questions of identity, complexity, and transcendent connection that shape his music. He has written over 27 works for music theater and dance, and over 50 works for concert and film; many have received national/international awards, and been performed around the world. Most recently he was awarded the 2016 McKnight Visiting composer residency, where he will work on new musical theater pieces concerning the German origins of residents of New Ulm, MN.
Mike holds a B.A. in composition from the University of Music and Performing Arts, Munich and an M.A. in Music Therapy from the University of Augsburg. He holds certificates in Film Scoring from the UCLA, and in Music Pain Treatment (music therapy treatment for patients with chronic pain) from the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences. In May 2015, he received an M.F.A. in Musical Theater Writing from New York University, where he held a Tisch School of the Arts Departmental Fellowship.
Mike studied under Broadway Composers Mel Marvin and Fred Carl, classical composer Hans Jürgen Wenzel, and film composers Thomas Newman, Jeff Rona, Lee Sanders, and Craig Stuart Garfinkle. He later studied traditional Chinese music with composer Wang Ai Qun. Beyond his formal training, he was influenced by his father, an artist and healer who was later a Hindu priest; by traditional forms of healing, fairytales and myth; and by traditional Jewish and Indian music. His work naturally connects western classical music with other musical forms.
Miky was born in Germany to a family of scientists and artists. His mother, a sound engineer at the local television company in Munich, introduced him to film, TV, and the synesthetic power of the audible to affect how we experience images. She became his first mentor when, at age 12, he ventured into music composition. This soon led him to create his first successful band, Authentic Dreams, in 1994.
Mike’s father, the son of an extraordinary scientist who would create one of the largest chemical factories in the world, was indifferent to conventional science. He pursued healing and art, becoming an expert in gem stones. He introduced Mike to traditional music cultures (especially Jewish and Hindu), and allowed him to play his beloved Veena, an Indian stringed instrument. He also encouraged Mike to believe that while there are phenomena that science cannot penetrate, there are still questions we can ask coming from the perspective of transcendent truth.
Mike’s barrier-breaking, eclectic background explains his passion for music both as artistic expression and as a means to connect disparate cultures. His desire to be an agent of radical connection – to literally create harmony out of apparent dissonance – is his defining motivation.
For the stage — Mike’s work for the stage includes the one act opera Zwischen Illusion und Wirklichkeirhpas sunconsciouslyt (1995), the musicals Lupus Albus (1998) (libretto by Martin Decker), The Ultimate Musical (2005) (libretto by Virginia Emrick), Von Zeyt Zu Zeit (2005) (libretto by Johannes Ponader, commissioned by the city of Neuburg,), one act opera 20 Minuten (2009) (libretto by Andreas Bisowski, awarded the Berlin Opera Prize 2010), the youth opera Klangwandler (2010) (libretto by Kai Ivo Baulitz, commissioned by the Neuköllner Opera Berlin), El Canguro (2011) (libretto by Cynthia Ferrell, selected for the California International Theater Festival 2011), SPAM: a song cycle (2008/2012) (libretto by Scott Guy), one act opera The Cookies Call – A Tragic Tragedy (2014) (libretto by Emily Roller), song Night After Night (2014) (commissioned by “Sing Away the Stigma”), the musical dramas Esther (2015) (libretto by Emily Roller) and A Hundred Thousand Places (2015) (libretto by Greg Moss), ballet chanté Talking City (2015 (libretto by John Dietrich, commissioned by Jonathan Haas) and the short opera Ho! Ho! Ho! (2015) (libretto by Kate Chadwick, premiered at the Hartford Opera Theater 2015), electropera Tightrope (2016) (libretto by Tatiana Wechsler, developed and premiered as part of the premiered 2016 Artists’ Beit Midrash Group of the Town and Village Synagogue).
Dance — His work for dance includes Darkness of Water (2001) (commissioned by a Dance Company in Tokyo/Japan), Circuit (2002) (commissioned by Art Illuminas), ABAYFOR (2002) (commissioned by ABAYFOR), Passing-Over (2014) (commissioned by the Jewish Community Center Manhattan, original choreography by Hala Shah), Mashrabiya (2014) (commissioned by the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, original choreography by Hala Shah,), Rosiland (2014) (original choreography by Hala Shah), the ballet chanté Talking City (2015 (commissioned by Jonathan Haas, libretto by John Dietrich, original choreography by Christen Svingos), the ballet chanté Frond (work in progress) (with choreographer Willa Brown, libretto by Ariel Mitchell, , developed and premiered as part of the premiered 2016 Artists’ Beit Midrash Group of the Town and Village Synagogue).
Concert – Mike’s awarded and commissioned works for concert are Atem (2000) and Sax’eon (2002) (both commissioned by Sax’eon), Symphony for the world (2001) (commissioned by Age of Harp), Persiflamia (2003) (finalist in the FAO’s 2006 International Composition Competition, USA), Fairy-Tale Adventure for Children (2003) (2nd Prize at the 20th Siegburger Composition contest 2008, Germany), The Monk and the Fish (2003/2004) (awarded the Masterworks Prize and Dr. J. Howland Auchinclose Prize at the Society for New Music), Intome (2004) (commissioned by Flaccord), Missa Brevis (2006) (2nd prize Oberschwäbische Chorverband, Germany), Hip Hop for Piano (2007) (winner of the Renée B. Fisher Composer Award, commissioned by the Neighborhood Music School with funds provided by the Renée B. Fisher Foundation), African Dream (2007) & Dance of the Fairies (2007) (both commissioned by CARISMA in Australia and recorded for ABC Classics), Rhythm some Blues (2007) (recipient of an Encore Grant from the American Composers Forum), Above the Sky (2008) (commissioned by the Nativity Episcopal Church, Minnesota), Anatomy of Rhythm (2008) (commissioned by Janus Percussion, underwritten by the American Composers Forum with funds provided by the Jerome Foundation), No Attetüde! (2008) (awarded 1st and special prize at the ISME-IVME 2nd international Composition Contest 2008, Belgium), Powerwalk (2003/2008) (Winner of the C. Keith Birkenfeld Composition Competition), Moving on… (2010) (Commissioned by Villa Musica Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany), Cage 100 – Party Pieces Project (2012) (commissioned by the “Forum Zeitgenössische Musik Leipzig”)
Awards, Scholarships, and Honors
In addition to the awards cited above, Mike has received numerous other awards, scholarships, and honors, including an Audience Favorite Award for Oscillate with choreographer Hala Shah at the Joy of Motion Dance Center’s annual “Dance Projekt” (2015) in Washington DC; ASCAPlus Awards; selection for the Society of Composers (SCI) Region II Student Mix Tape (2015) with Sprout; selection by the New Music Conflagration – Sounds by the Sea (2015), Florida, with Circuit; conference funding grant from NYU (2014); Kinder zum Olymp! (Children to the Olymp is just the translation of the original, we can simply use the English version, or stay with the German title) Award (2011); fellowship student at the OpenForum — the international Festival for alternative Music Theater “OpenOp 2010” in collaboration with the Neuköllner Opera; 5-month residency at the Herrenhaus Edenkoben (Germany) to work on his opera El Canguro (2009); guest composer at the Bar Harbor music festival with The Monk and the Fish (2008); Jerome Foundation Grant (2007); invitation to ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop (2007); composer in residence for Emrich Production Group (2006-2008); Susan and Ford Schuman Award & Maestro’s Circle Scholarship for participation in the Aspen Music Festival & School (2005); scholarship at 14th Annual O’Neill Puppetry Conference (Connecticut); one of 3 finalists for a call for composers for a new Broadway musical Stepping out of Time in New York (2003); composer in residence for Age of Harp (an unusual ensemble of 6 harps) (2001-2002); invitation to orchestra workshop for young composers with the orchestra pieces Zwischen Illussion und Wirklichkeit (1996) and Natura et Homo (1997) in Halberstadt, Germany.
In 2016, Mike was named Composer in Residence at FJK Dance (New York City), for which he developed two new dance pieces, Home (2016) and Reflections (2016), which premiered in spring, 2016. Reflections was supported by a grant from the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation.
He w part of the 2016 Artists’ Beit Midrash of the Town and Village Synagogue, where he developed the Electropera asTightrope with librettist Tatiana Wechsler, and the sung ballet Frond with choreographer and artist Willa Brown.
He is currently working on several projects, including a new piece for 150-member choir and orchestra to be premiered in 2018; a new musical about the American political cartoonist Thomas Nast; and other music theater pieces with connections to myths and fairytales from around the world.
In addition to his work as a composer, Mike has worked as a sound designer and consultant for interdisciplinary research projects such as at the BMW Group Research and Innovation Center in Munich, and has taught composition, film scoring, music theory, musical theater writing, music psychology, sound research and music therapy at the University of Augsburg and other academies institutions in Germany. His scientific research areas include the creative process, problem solving in music creation as a tool of diagnosis and therapeutic intervention, and composition/music theater writing and cognition. He has frequently given speeches about his artistic work and research at congresses, hospitals, schools and universities.
One current project connecting composition and music psychotherapy involves the development of a workshop in musical theater writing in collaboration with a psychoanalyst, Dr. Alfred Walter. In an academic setting, he is pursuing a project entitled “Acoustic realization of Auditory Hallucinations by individuals with and without mental disorders.”
Mike is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and ASCAP.