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Stephen Adams : Represented Artist

'Music is the space where contradictions resolve or are suspended in magical irresolution, where the shaping of time and sounding of voices strengthen our grip on experience...'

Random Audio Sample: Migrant hostel : SATB choir with orchestra by Stephen Adams, from the CD Federation celebration, 28th and 29th August 2002.

Photo of Stephen Adams

Photo: Jim Rolon (2014)

Stephen Adams lives in Sydney where he works as Producer, Australian Music Unit for ABC Classic FM. His music is influenced by his performing experience in choral music, rock, improvisation and contemporary music theatre, as well as his language studies, extensive cross-cultural teaching experience, and activities as a radio, web and music producer. Also by his composition studies with Peter Sculthorpe at the University of Sydney and with Richard Vella at Queensland University of Technology.

His work at the ABC includes producing and presenting the specialist weekly New Waves podcast of Australian classical and experimental music, and commissioning and producing Australian music recordings and special projects. He was co-producer with fellow composer and presenter Julian Day of the weekly radio program New Music Up Late (2006-2014). He was the ABC's representative on the Radio Music jury at the 2007 Prix Italia in Verona, a panellist at Soundstreams Canda's 2008 conference on music and new media, and the Australian delegate to the 2014 ISCM in Wroclaw, and to the International Rostrum of Composers in Helsinki (2014), Tallinn (2015), Wroclaw (2016) and Palermo (2017).

His religious heritage and experiences of literature and other art forms have been fertile sources for musical ideas; likewise, what he describes as the experience of 'tactile synaesthesia' which fuels his approach to improvisation. Voice and breath play a large part in his musical imagination, mining the creative tension between delivering meanings and the ecstatic possibilities of vocalising. Textual quotations from music, literature and the media, and more recently field recordings, have functioned as alchemical ingredients for the magical dissolving of the fault-lines in experience.

Adams's vocal concert works have been frequently presented on radio and performed in tours and international festivals in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America. His best-known choral work, Sydney Dreaming, was the title track of ABC Classics' 1996 Contemporary Singers CD. His major work - memory pieces, composed for Sydney Chamber Choir using a text by performance poet Ania Walwicz, was released by Tall Poppies on the Chamber Choir CD Landscape's Creatures (2001).

Other works range through incidental music, songs, chamber music, collaborative 'improvisations', digital works and electronica, and a 70-minute a cappella 'opera' Sydney Dreaming Theatre. The multi-speaker, digital/vocal 'score' for The Audience and Other Psychopaths (2001-2004), was created in a theatrical collaboration with Nigel Kellaway's THE OPERA PROJECT and writer Amanda Stewart.

Recent projects include several chamber works combining acoustic instruments with field recordings, flute music for Janet McKay, group and solo improvisations working with voice, flute, field recording material and lo-fi sound difusion, sonic interpretations of the writings of his partner Jen Craig, and the song recital project A Body of Water with soprano Karen Cummings. His work Afterwards for the Sydney Chamber Choir and percussionist Claire Edwardes was runner-up for Choral/Vocal Work of the Year at the 2015 Art Music Awards.

Adams says: "Music is the space where contradictions resolve or are suspended in magical irresolution, where the shaping of time and sounding of voices strengthen our grip on experience, our sense of being in the world and of life's beautiful strangeness".

Stephen Adams — current to April 2017

Studied with

Peter Sculthorpe (1982 - 1986)

Richard Vella (2002 - 2004)


Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2015 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Vocal/Choral Finalist Afterwards

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Piano in a field of recordings : for piano and field recordings (2014) Commissioned for the Playing with Fire project.
Digital sheet music sample Afterwards : for choir with radios, and percussionist (2014) Commissioned for the Cloudburst program, 22 June 2014. The work was developed in consultation with conductor Liz Scott, Claire Edwardes, and the members of the choir.
Digital sheet music sample Overpainting : for flute (2013) Composed for, and in dialogue with, flutist Janet McKay.
Sometimes snow fell, sometimes darkness... : for soprano and mezzo voices, with alto flute (2013) Commissioned for the Kingfisher 15th birthday project.
Lyrebird: a performance : soprano with ensemble (2012) Commissioned by Chronology Arts for the Lyrebird Project with Halcyon. Developed through a workshop process with soprano Alison Morgan, and later percussionist Joshua Hill and violist Luke Spicer.
Digital sheet music sample Kalaya : Meeting place (2012) Commissioned as part of the '101 Commissions' project to celebrate the Conservatorium’s centenary

Analysis & Media

- Program note: Desires: movements towards the divine (1997) Stephen Adams (b.1963)

- Review: Desire Divine The Song Company 28 July 1998

- Program note: A Short Service 2007

- Review: The Song Company Cage Uncaged 15 September 2007

- Review: The Song Company Cage Uncaged 15 September 2007