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Peter Sculthorpe : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Advance Australia fair : for orchestra with or without unison voices by Peter Sculthorpe, from the CD best of Peter Sculthorpe


Photo of Peter Sculthorpe

Born in Launceston, Tasmania, in 1929, Sculthorpe was educated at Launceston Church Grammar School, the University of Melbourne and Wadham College, Oxford. He is now Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney, where he began teaching in 1963. He has also taught at music institutions and universities both within and outside Australia, and he holds honorary doctorates from Tasmania, Melbourne, Sussex, Griffith and Sydney. In 1977 he was appointed OBE and in that year he was the recipient of a Silver Jubilee Medal. He was appointed AO in 1990.

Sculthorpe's catalogue consists of more than three hundred and fifty works and, apart from juvenilia, a good part of it is regularly performed and recorded throughout the world. The composer has written in most musical forms and almost all his works are influenced by the social climate and physical characteristics of Australia. Furthermore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island music, and the gamelan music of Indonesia, have been significant influences upon his musical language.

Sculthorpe has a deep love for his country and for its landscape, which he regards as sacred. Because of this, one of the most constant themes in his output is the protection of Australia's environment, as well as that of the whole planet. His preoccupation with the frailty of the human condition can be found in works such as the choral Requiem (2004) and String Quartet No.16 (2006). The former grew from his concern about women and children being killed in the war in Iraq, the latter from the plight of people in detention.

The recipient of many awards, Sculthorpe regards the most important as being chosen as one of Australia's 100 Living National Treasures (National Trust of Australia, 1997), Distinguished Artist 2001 (International Society for the Performing Arts), Honorary Foreign Life Member (American Academy of Arts and Letters, 2003) and one of the 100 Most Influential Australians (The Bulletin magazine, 2006).

Sculthorpe's work is discussed in books by Michael Hannan, Peter Sculthorpe: His Music and Ideas 1929–1979, St. Lucia, 1982, Deborah Hayes, Peter Sculthorpe: A Bio–Bibliography, Connecticut, 1993, and the composer himself, in his autobiography, Sun Music, Sydney, 1999. The first volume of Graeme Skinner's biography, Peter Sculthorpe : the making of an Australian composer, was published in 2007.


Biography provided by the composer — current to March 2008

Teacher/Influence on

Stephen Adams (1982 - 1986)

Barry Conyngham

Ross Edwards

Elliott Gyger

Matthew Hindson

Matthew Orlovich (1989 - 2000)

John Peterson (1987)

Peggy Polias (2005 - current)

Paul Stanhope (1995 - 1999)

Jane Stanley

Nicholas Vines (1995)

Christopher Willcock (1967 - 1973)

David Worrall

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2012 Art Music Awards: Distinguished Services to Australian Music Winner
2012 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Orchestral Finalist The Shining island
2007 Don Banks Music Award Recipient
2001 Order of Australia Centenary Medal For outstanding service to musical composition in Australia

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Sonata for strings No. 2 : string orchestra Commissioned by Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra.
A little song of love : clarinet with string quartet Written in honour of the Australia Ensemble's 30th season
Pastorale : orchestra (2013) Commissioned by HUSH Music Foundation.
Digital sheet music sample Riverina dreaming : for solo piano (2011) Commissioned by the Riverina Conservatorium of Music with support from the Wagga Wagga City Council. written especially for first performance by Michael Kieran Harvey at the opening recital of the 10th Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference
String quartet No. 18 : string quartet (2010) Jointly commissioned by Peter and Leila Doyle for the Flinders Quartet, and by the Edinburgh International Festival for the Tokyo Quartet
Sydney singing : clarinet with piano (2008) A joint commission from the festivals of Cheltenham and Sydney.

Analysis & Media

DVD: There's no time : Peter Sculthorpe, composer.

Article: The sound of home / Julian Day interviews Peter Sculthorpe.

Kit: Sculthorpe : an icon of Australian music / music resource kit by Graeme Skinner

Book: Peter Sculthorpe : his music and ideas 1929 - 1979 / Michael Hannan.

Book: Peter Sculthorpe : the making of an Australian composer / Graeme Skinner.

Book: Peter Sculthorpe : an Australian composer's influence / Gwyneth Barnes.

Book: Sun music : journeys and reflections from a composer's life / Peter Sculthorpe.

Article: Has Sculthorpe misappropriated Indigenous melodies? / Jonathan Paget.

- Article: Scored in black and white

- Article: Contrasting Composers Committed To Local Music

- Program note: Peter Sculthorpe's "Mangrove"

- Program note: Peter Sculthorpe's "Irkanda IV"

- Program note: Peter Sculthorpe's "Sun Music III"

- Article: Odd man out brings his many talents to town

- Document: Harbour Noise is a Fatal Distraction

- Article: Creating a musical mandala

- Article: Across her bridge of dreams

- Article: Performers sound out line-up for music festival

- Document: Five Songs of Hildegarde von Bingen Song Company and Sydney Philharmonia Motet Choir 1984

- Article: Tasmania in music

- Article: Dawn of a new world symphony

- Article: Cry of the earth

- Document: Profile – Peter Sculthorpe, A Self-Described Optimist

- Program note: Peter Sculthorpe's "New Norcia"

- Review: The Song Company Songs Signs and Stars 2 December 2004

- Program note: Peter Sculthorpe's "Love song"
by Peter Sculthorpe
Source: the score of this work

- Video: Life is too serious (excerpt)