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Paul Copeland : Associate Artist

Copeland writes, 'In 2016, technology has reached a point where I can compose music, develop sound sculptures, produce high-resolution videos and create digital art that would have been impossible to produce previously. To me, artistic creation is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration'.

Photo of Paul Copeland

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Paul Copeland is an award-winning multi-genre composer, graphic artist, programmer, teacher, and author, based in his home city of Melbourne. His compositional styles range from neo-classical, jazz, ragtime, and musical theatre to electronic, avant-garde, post-avant-garde, and experimental music.

Born in 1947, Copeland grew up an only child in a musical household. His mother was a talented singer, his father an accomplished amateur pianist, composer of popular music, and internationally renowned travelling telepathist known as Argus The Boy Prophet. Copeland's musical studies commenced at the age of 16 when he began studying piano, and a year later, he enrolled at the Melba Conservatorium in pursuit of a Performer's Diploma.

Copeland found himself ill-suited to life at the Conservatorium, where he failed in all subjects except piano and harmony. The Conservatorium curriculum did not include composition classes; however, Copeland began composing on his own. When he showed one of his efforts his String Trio to the director of the Conservatorium, Harold Badger, Badger observed that the music was 'too difficult'.

After the death of his father, Copeland left the Conservatorium and began studying composition with Felix Werder, a noted composer, educator, and critic, who, in contrast to Badger, proclaimed Copeland's String Trio 'too easy'. Werder, Copeland's one and only composition tutor, taught Copeland privately for seven years, and never charged him for lessons.

Copeland is a recipient of a composition grant from the Australia Council of the Arts Music Board. Some of his most notable compositions include his String Quartet 1, a graphics-based aleatoric score premiered by members of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and Subterranean Rivers (for horn, oboe, trumpet, percussion and two synthesisers). Both have been broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The Australian Percussion Ensemble, (led by John Seal) premiered Copeland's Continuum for Six at the National Gallery of Victoria. The internationally recognised contemporary music ensemble Australia Felix, once led by Copeland's teacher, Felix Werder, has taken Copeland's music overseas to Germany and Italy. Copeland's musical theatre credits include a performance of Multitududinalpolychromatic Transformations by members of the Australian Ballet School, which included a montage of his electronic music and instrumental music.

An accomplished computer graphics artist and programmer, Copeland has also received a commendation in 1985 from digital art pioneer Laurence Gartel for his print Suspicious Shapes Number One, from the Diary of a Madman, which he entered in the world's first international computer art competition. Several of his prints have been sold to private collectors. Additionally, three of his books on computer programming have been published: Using your Vic 20 as a Music Synthesiser; The Penguin Book of Commodore 64 Games; and the Penguin Book of Vic 20 Games.

Copeland's work remains at the forefront of experimental multi-genre art, though he also enjoys composing easy piano works for children. He has been greatly influenced by Luciano Berio's Circles and Karlheinz Stockhausen's Klavierstucke I-IV Nr. 2


Jeremy Reynolds, a freelance music journalist based in Texas, USA — current to December 2016