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Michael Hannan : Represented Artist

For me composing is a form of listening. I listen to the sounds of nature, of technology, of other music makers and of my own imagination and then create mixes from all these sources.

Random Audio Sample: Fortune pieces (solo piano) by Michael Hannan, from the CD Piano games


Photo of Michael Hannan

Photo: Leonie Lane

Michael Hannan (b. 1949) is a composer, performer and music researcher based in Nimbin in Northern New South Wales, Australia. He studied musicology at the University of Sydney and was awarded a PhD in 1979. In 1980 he undertook postgraduate studies in composition with Peter Sculthorpe, with whom he had also worked as an assistant from 1969-1971 and later as a composition collaborator on film, theatre and radio projects

In 1983 he received a Fulbright Postdoctoral Award which enabled him to work for a year in the Program in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. While at UCLA Hannan also studied composition with Elaine Barkin. Other composers with whom Hannan has studied include David Ahern, Bernard Rands and Ton de Leeuw.

Hannan has written over one hundred works for concert hall, stage and screen, including electro-acoustic works and works involving improvisation. Many of his notated works have been published by Wirripang Pty. Ltd. He has received commissions from Lyndon Terracini, the Seymour Group, Sally Mays, Northern Rivers Performings Arts, the NSW Department of Education, and the ABC Listening Room.

The main inspiration for Hannan's work is the sounds of nature, particularly birdcalls, and he has written dozens of pieces, including the monumental Resonances I-IV (1987-1997), that employ transcriptions of the calls of the pied butcherbird and other Australian songbirds. As a composer Hannan is primarily interested in the complexities of natural sounds and complex combinations of instrumental timbres.

Central to Hannan's creative practice is the notion of comprovisation, where musical materials improvised by him (or others under his direction) are then used to construct musical works using digital editing software. In this genre he has issued a CD of his experimental piano interior works, Terrains (Tall Poppies Records, 2000) as well as Improvisations and Comprovisations, a collaboration with trumpet player, Scott Tinkler, and audio engineer Mic Deacon, (Wirripang, 2014).

In 1982 his critical biography Peter Sculthorpe: His Music and Ideas 1929-1979 was published by University of Queensland Press. He is also the sole auhtor of The Australian Guide to Careers in Music (UNSW Press, 2003) and The Music of Richard Meale (Wildbird, 2014).

Hannan's creative practice extends to garden design and the creation of outdoor sonic environments. The three-acre garden he developed with his partner Sue Boardman is his largest work and has been featured in Australia's Open Garden Scheme and on the ABC TV program, Gardening Australlia. Since 2014 Hannan has also developed a visual arts practice, exhibiting in the NSW Northern Rivers region.

Michael Hannan was a pioneer in the field of contemporary popular music education in Australia. In Lismore, NSW, in the late 1980s he developed the first music degree in this field at the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education (now known as Southern Cross University).

Hannan was Associate Professor of Contemporary Music at Southern Cross University (1989-2005) and Professor (2006-2014). Currently he is Adjunct Professor in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University. He was a member of the Music Fund of the Australia Council from 1999 to 2002, Chair of the Music Council of Australia from 2003 to 2004 and Chair of the ISME Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician from 2004 to 2006 and 2008 to 2010.


Michael Hannan — current to June 2016

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Resonances III : three movements for solo piano (1992) Commissioned by Sally Mays.
Bracefell's story : for baritone and piano (1990) Commissioned by Lyndon Terracini.
Garland piece : for large ensemble (1979) Written by invitation of the Seymour Group to celebrate the 50th birthday of Peter Sculthorpe