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Anne Boyd : Represented Artist

Boyd's music is based on the intersection of Christian Love with Buddhist silence. Some of her more recent work explores Christian mysticism.

Random Audio Sample: Goldfish through summer rain : arranged for tenor recorder and spinet by Anne Boyd, from the CD Blue skies, magpies and goldfish


Photo of Anne Boyd

Photo: Australian Composer Polaroid Project / Jim Rolon 2015

Anne Boyd enjoys a distinguished career as a composer and music educator. She graduated from the University of Sydney with a BA Hons in Music degree in 1967 and from the University of York in England with a PhD in composition in 1972. She has held academic positions at the University of Sussex (1972-77) and at the University of Hong Kong, where she was the founding Head of the Department of Music (1981-1990). She became the first Australian and the first woman to be appointed Professor of Music at the University of Sydney where her research work focuses upon the influence of landscape and of Aboriginal and as well as Asian traditions on Australian composers. She is currently exploring a collaborative 'two ways' approach in a trilogy of music theatre works on significant Australian women, all of whom worked closely with Aboriginal people (Daisy Bates, Olive Pink and Annie Lock).

Her struggles to ensure the survival of her department after the amalgamation of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with the University of Sydney (1989) gained international attention through the release of the Connolly/Anderson award winning feature length documentary film Facing the Music (2001). The Department of Music, now the Arts Music Unit of the Sydney Conservatorium, remains based on the main campus of the university and continues to thrive.

Born in 1946, Anne Boyd wrote her first compositions as a little girl growing up on a remote Outback sheep station in Central Queensland where her only music teaching was via ABC Radio (especially The Children's Hour's Mr Melody Man) and a recorder book sent to her by her sister Helen. Later a flautist, she studied under Victor McMahon at the Sydney Conservatorium (1960-64). She majored in Music in the University of Sydney's Faculty of Arts (1963-67) where she became a student of Peter Sculthorpe in 1963. Through Peter, who remained her most special friend, she inherited a lifelong fascination with the musical cultures of South East Asia, especially Japan and Bali. She regards the ancient court music of Japan as seminal influence, the closest musical representation of the Outback landscape of her early childhood.

Regarding her composing as essentially spiritual, she is much interested in the idea of music as meditation; a means of changing states of consciousness. Her music is based on the intersection of Christian Love with Buddhist silence. Some of her more recent work explores Christian mysticism and Aboriginal animistic beliefs encountered through collaborative work on her opera Daisy Bates at Ooldea (2012).

Anne Boyd's best known compositions include the choral work As I crossed a Bridge of Dreams (1975) and the meditation for solo piano Angklung (1974), one of several works written for pianist Roger Woodward which anticipated the advent of musical minimalism. Other works written for Roger include As it leaves the bell (1973), Book of the Bells I, II and III (1980/98) and the song cycle for voice and chamber ensemble Meditations on a Chinese Character (1996). Kabarli (Dawn) a test piece of the 2012 Sydney International Piano Competition, is dedicated to 'Roger on his 70th Birthday'.

Other well-known and much performed works for flute and piano include Goldfish Through Summer Rain (1979), Red Sun Chill Wind (1980), Cloudy Mountain (1981) and Bali Moods I (1987) and II (1988); some of these works have been rearranged for other instrumental combinations including shakuhachi and harp.

Her more recently commissioned works include Ganba for baritone saxophone and piano (2011) and String Quartet No 3 (2015) for the Huntington Festival, a memorial tribute to her beloved friend Peter Sculthorpe.

Boyd's music is published by Faber Music (London) and the University of York Music Press. In 1997, ABC Classics produced a disc solely dedicated to her work, Meditations on a Chinese Character, the royalties from which were dedicated in support of the Australian Women's Music Fund. In 2000, Tall Poppies released another disc of her music, Crossing a Bridge of Dreams.

Professor Boyd was honoured with an AM in the Order of Australia in 1996, an Honorary Doctorate from the University of York in 2003, the Distinguished Services to Australian Music Award at the APRA-AMC Classical Music Awards in 2005 and the 2014 Sir Bernard Heinz Award for service to music in Australia.


Biography provided by the composer — current to April 2016

Teacher/Influence on

John Bostock (2000 - 2004)

Peggy Polias (2000 - current)

Jane Stanley

Nicholas Vines (1995)

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2005 Classical Music Awards - Distinguished Services to Australian Music Winner
1996 Order of Australia Member of the Order In recognition of service as a composer and educator

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample The quiet place : for oboe, clarinet, viola and harp Commissioned by the Warwick and Leamington Festival for performance by Okeanos on their New Music Day on 14th July 2002.
Digital sheet music sample Yuya : for tenor recorder and string quartet Written at the request of John Turner for inclusion in a concert in Manchester to honour Tony Gilbert on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
Digital sheet music sample Kabarli meditation (Dawn) : for piano solo (2011) Commissioned for the 2012 Sydney International Piano Competition
Digital sheet music sample Missa Pacifica : for soprano, large choir, brass band and organ (2008) Commissioned for the 2008 Intervarsity Choral Festival
Digital sheet music sample Ex deo lux : for clarinet in B flat and string quartet (2007) Commissioned especially for the 2007 SSO Fellows Ensemble.
Gate of water : for alto flute/piccolo, bass clarinet, violin, 'cello and piano (2007) Commissioned by Ars Musica Australis, Rev. Dr Arthur Bridge for performance by Kammer Ensemble.

Analysis & Media

Book: Women of note : the rise of Australian women composers / Rosalind Appleby.

Book: Anne Boyd : the composer and her music. / by Deborah Crisp.

- Article: Regaining lost composure.

- Article: The Political Education Of Anne Boyd, Composer

- Article: Across her bridge of dreams

- Article: Women of note

- Program note: Flower Songs Ross Edwards

- Review: The Song Company Women and Music September 1994

- Program note: Revelations of Divine Love (1994)

- Review: Desire Divine The Song Company 28 July 1998

- Program note: Anne Boyd's "Jade flower song"
by Anne Boyd. © University of York Music Press