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Michael Atherton : Represented Artist

I enjoy rhythmic energy, the sublimity of the singing voice and the instrumental timbres of the world. 'Collaboration, connection and community' is my mantra.

Random Audio Sample: Songs for Imberombera : for voices, percussion and strings by Michael Atherton, from the CD Voices of Gondwana

Photo of Michael Atherton

Photo: Tod Clarke


Following postgraduate research in literature at the University of NSW, Michael Atherton studied music at the University of Sydney and the University of New England, where he was attracted to ethnomusicology.

He played early music in the Renaissance Players (1974-1980); joined Rivendell as a music therapist (1978-80) in the team of Professor Marie Bashir; pioneered crosscultural music in Sirocco (1980-6); and directed his own ensemble, Southern Crossings (1986-93). He performed overseas for Musica Viva and appeared at major festivals prior to his appointment in 1993 as the Foundation Chair of Music at UWS, where he led the development of teaching and research with a focus on a range of Australian expressions in our time.

Michael is considered an expert in musical instruments and sound making objects, especially those of Australia and the Asia-Pacific. He is also composer, performer and researcher with broad experience in music for the concert hall, film, television and radio. Michael has made numerous CD recordings, documentary film scores and television themes, including the station music for TVS. In 2008 he was a featured composer in the Aurora Festival, with five world premieres.

Michael is also a member of SynC, an electroacoustic duo with Garth Paine. Performance highlights include: Aurora Festival 2008; New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) opening concert, New York, June 2007; and NIME/Agora Resonances, Paris, 2006. He is an elected fellow (FRSA) of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. His awards include a Centenary Medal (2003) for service to the community, and a high commendation for research training and supervision in the VCs Awards for Excellence (2008).

In 2009 he co-edited, with colleague Bruce Crossman, the publication Music of the Spirit: Asian-Pacific Music Identities. His other books include Musical Instruments and Sound Producing Instruments of Oceania (2010), and Australian Made, Australian Played, re-released as an ebook in 2014 by Vivid/Fontaine.

In 2012, he was a guest artistic director at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre, composing music for public events, including a spectacle for motorbikes, drum kits, synthesisers, brass, and voices.

He retired from the University of Western Sydney at the end of 2012 and was honoured with the title Emeritus Professor for his distinguished contribution to teaching and research in the field of music and service to the University over many years.

Michael has recently completed a commission for Gondwana Choirs, a choral opera entitled Walking in Footsteps.

Michael Atherton — current to October 2015

Collaborated with

Jim Franklin (2000 - current)

Garth Paine (2004 - current)


Studied with

Nigel Butterley (2006)


Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Songs of stone and silence : for voices, clarinet, piano and violoncello (2009) Commissioned by Ars Musica Australis for performance by Halcyon.
Jiriyai! : percussion (2006) 'Jiriyai!' means war cry in the Sydney language. It is dedicated to Pemulwuy, who led a resistance movement against invading Europeans
Digital sheet music sample Kalliopeia sopha : for SSA voices (2000) Commissioned by Sydney Children's Choir.
Digital sheet music sample Kamawarah : for orchestra, soprano, didjeridu, clapsticks (2000) Commissioned by the New South Wales Centenary of Federation Committee, for the celebrations in Centennial Park, Sydney, January 1st, 2001.
Songs for Imberombera : for voices, percussion and strings (1997) Commissioned by Sydney Children's Choir for performance by Gondwana Voices.
Digital sheet music sample The mahogany ship : for SSA choir, string quartet and percussion (1993) Commissioned by Sydney Children's Choir.