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7 August 2009

Peter Tahourdin remembered

Peter Tahourdin Image: Peter Tahourdin  

In an article entitled 'A Bramdean Childhood' Peter Tahourdin gives a charming account of growing up in England – an account that embodies his familiar style: concise, clear, rich, broad-ranging yet understated, and, above all, inviting further exploration and thought.

Peter Tahourdin was born in Bramdean, England, on the 27th of August 1928, and began music studies in 1949 at Trinity College London where Richard Arnell helped him develop into a fine composer and teacher. These skills brought him to Adelaide in 1964 with his wife, Barbara, and daughters Julia and Sarah. After two years in Toronto doing his Master's degree from 1966, he returned to Adelaide where his involvement in electronic music and his effectiveness as a teacher were to blossom.

In 1973, Peter took a position at the University of Melbourne (where I met him when I joined the composition department two years later). This city was to become his base for the rest of his life, composing, teaching, pursuing his understated yet vibrant curiosity in chamber music, the orchestra, Indian music and music theatre. But it was his teaching and composing in electronic music that dominated this period. He developed one of the pioneering electronic studios in the world and he began a long friendship with Tristram Cary – another English composer who became an Australian one – and their lifelong exploration and enthusiasm quietly enriched our music and spawned a new generation of composers interested in the electronic field.

The sparkling eyes and a broad smile were never far away as he interacted patiently and lovingly with the people in his life – Barbara, his daughters, his second wife, Jane, close and casual friends and colleagues, and the numerous students he engaged with over a long and successful period at the Faculty of Music. To those who were drawn into his circle, the converted church in inner Melbourne in which Peter lived for many years was a wondrously quirky surprise – a reminder that, as well as an elegant, calm and considerate father, husband, teacher, colleague and friend, he was a also a challenging thinker and risk-taker, a person not daunted by the unusual, the new, the unexpected or the unconventional.

His quiet and diffident manner contrasted with the passion in his music. His reluctance to push himself forward or attract attention to himself obscured his desire to have his music heard. While he encouraged, and often genuinely enjoyed, the ambition – even brashness – of his Australian composer friends and students, his own style remained calm, sensitive and considerate.

Perhaps he always carried with him some of the small English village in which he was born. But he loved the Aussie sun and our lack of formality, and became one of this country’s creative sons. In his Bramdean article, Peter says 'I have no regrets about my move to Australia and I have lived a rewarding and productive life there, working as a composer and as a lecturer at both the universities of Adelaide and Melbourne. Now that I have retired from my university life, I still remain active as a composer and still enjoy life in Australia'.

Peter died peacefully at home in Melbourne on the 28th of July 2009, leaving a strong musical and personal legacy.

Further links

Peter Tahourdin at 80 - an interview on Resonate

Subjects discussed by this article:

Composer Barry Conyngham Barry Conyngham, presently Chair of the Australian Music Centre, worked closely with Peter Tahourdin at the Faculty of Music University of Melbourne from 1975 to 1989.


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