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Barbara Durham : Pedagogical Artist

I am always trying to find a sound that has never been made before: I try to convey my deep inexpressible feelings through sound.

Random Audio Sample: Gum trees sighing on a stormy night (solo piano) by Barbara Durham, from the CD Blowing in the wind

Photo of Barbara Durham

Born in 1952 in Sunshine in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, Barbara Durham trained at Melbourne University obtaining the degrees of Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Music Education and Graduate Diploma of Librarianship at Canberra CAE. She studied harmony and counterpoint with Bernard de Oliveira, piano with May Clifford and Rodney Sigston and, later, flute with Frederick Shade and Dennis Dorwick.

Her career has included many years of private teaching mostly piano and 16 years with the Victorian Department of Education mostly as an instrumental (woodwind) teacher (Geelong and Swan Hill). The latter included teaching flute, clarinet, saxophone, some brass, leading ensembles and conducting concert bands. She currently teaches piano and woodwind privately.

After a period of illness, she started to compose music in 2001. Her works include mostly piano solos (intermediate to advanced), some choral, flute, ensemble and concert band music. Since 2002, she has self-published many of her works; but Wirripang has recently published two of her piano solo collections: Relaxation for Piano: Back to Nature and Blowing in the Wind, and two choral compositions: The Lyrebird (composed 2003) and Old Man Platypus (composed 2014). She has recently completed another collection of nature pieces for piano solo, Relaxation with Nature, which will be published shortly. Her self-published output includes mostly educational piano solos (intermediate to advanced), some choral music and music for flute choir. She has also written many short unpublished piano solos and ensembles including jazz and blues styles for her students.

Much of her music is inspired by nature and Australiana including the seaside coastal town of Aireys Inlet, along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Two pieces for piano solo are currently on the VCE Prescribed list of notated solo works: pianoforte: Wind Chimes and Gum Trees Sighing on a Stormy night (from Blowing in the wind: Australia / Blowing in the Wind). Two pieces for piano solo are on the Australian Music Examination Board Piano syllabus: Birds in the Swamp (Grade 5, from Relaxation for Piano: Back to Nature) and Wind Chimes. The choral work The Lyrebird (SSA, piano and temple blocks) had its premiere public performance by the Melbourne Women's Choir conducted by Faye Dumont in May 2014.

Most of Barbara Durham's works are totally unrelated to each other but each work is part of a collective unique sonority which suggests that they are written by the same person. They do not copy any particular style. Tempo and metric changes, melodic lyricism and varied articulations according to the nature of a particular piece are characteristic of Durham's style. Her harmonic language is summed up by Elizabeth Mitchell in her review of Durham's piano solo collection entitled Relaxation for piano: back to nature as 'often mildly dissonant: an effective introduction to more adventurous harmonic resources for those students who may be resistant to a wider chord vocabulary (Music and the Teacher, March 2003)'.

Barbara Durham — current to March 2015

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Wind chimes : for piano solo (2003) Dedicated to the Bells in Federation Square, Melbourne