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Stephen Adams : Represented Artist

'Music is the space where contradictions resolve or are suspended in magical irresolution, where the shaping of time and sounding of voices strengthen our grip on experience...'

Random Audio Sample: Migrant hostel : SATB choir with orchestra by Stephen Adams, from the CD Federation celebration, 28th and 29th August 2002.

Photo of Stephen Adams

Stephen Adams lives in Sydney where he works as Producer, Australian Music Unit for ABC Classic FM. His work at the ABC includes commissioning and producing Australian music recordings and special projects, co-producing New Music Up Late with presenter Julian Day, and developing an Australian Music website (www.abc.net.au/classic/australianmusic) featuring downloads and audio-streaming of new and heritage Australian music. He was chosen as the ABC's Radio Music jury representative for the 2007 Prix Italia in Verona.

Adams studied composition with Peter Sculthorpe at the University of Sydney and with Richard Vella at Queensland University of Technology. His music is influenced by his performing experience in choral music, rock music, improvisation and contemporary music theatre, as well as language studies and extensive cross-cultural teaching experience in Australia and overseas.

His religious heritage and experiences of literature and other art forms have been fertile sources for musical ideas; likewise, what he describes as the experience of tactile synaesthesia. The common thread in his music is the embodiment of experience in the voice. The central creative tension is between the delivery of meanings and the ecstatic possibilities of vocalising.

Textual quotations from music, literature and the media in Adams's music function both as buried quasi-cantus firmae and as alchemical ingredients for the magical dissolving of the fault-lines in his identity and the contradictions in society.

Adams's vocal concert works have been frequently presented on radio and performed in tours and international festivals in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America. His best-known choral work, Sydney Dreaming, was the title track of ABC Classics' 1996 Contemporary Singers CD. His major work - memory pieces, composed for Sydney Chamber Choir using a text by performance poet Ania Walwicz, was released by Tall Poppies on the Chamber Choir CD Landscape's Creatures (2001).

Other works range through incidental music, songs, chamber music, collaborative 'improvisations', digital works and electronica, and a 70-minute a cappella 'opera' Sydney Dreaming Theatre. The multi-speaker, digital/vocal 'score' for The Audience and Other Psychopaths (2001-2004), was created in a theatrical collaboration with Nigel Kellaway's THE OPERA PROJECT, soprano Karen Cummings and writer Amanda Stewart. Recent projects include a series of short digital works for Radio National's The Night Air and new concert works for Sydney Chamber Choir and The Song Company.

Adams says: "Music is the space where contradictions resolve or are suspended in magical irresolution, where the shaping of time and sounding of voices strengthen our grip on experience, our sense of being in the world and of life's beautiful strangeness".

Stephen Adams — current to July 2011

Studied with

Peter Sculthorpe (1982 - 1986)

Richard Vella (2002 - 2004)


Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2015 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Vocal/Choral Finalist Afterwards

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Piano in a field of recordings (piano with pre-recorded sound) (2014) Commissioned for the Playing with Fire project.
Digital sheet music sample Afterwards : for choir with radios, and percussionist (2014) Commissioned for the Cloudburst program, 22 June 2014. The work was developed in consultation with conductor Liz Scott, Claire Edwardes, and the members of the choir.
Digital sheet music sample Overpainting : for flute (2013) Composed for, and in dialogue with, flutist Janet McKay.
Sometimes snow fell, sometimes darkness... (duos: soprano, mezzo-soprano with flute) (2013) Commissioned for the Kingfisher 15th birthday project.
Lyrebird: a performance : soprano with ensemble (2012) Commissioned by Chronology Arts for the Lyrebird Project with Halcyon. Developed through a workshop process with soprano Alison Morgan, and later percussionist Joshua Hill and violist Luke Spicer.
Digital sheet music sample Kalaya : Meeting place (2012) Commissioned as part of the '101 Commissions' project to celebrate the Conservatorium’s centenary

Analysis & Media

- Program note: Desires: movements towards the divine (1997) Stephen Adams (b.1963)

- Review: Desire Divine The Song Company 28 July 1998

- Program note: A Short Service 2007

- Review: The Song Company Cage Uncaged 15 September 2007

- Review: The Song Company Cage Uncaged 15 September 2007