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David Ahern (1947-1988) : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Ned Kelly music : full orchestra by David Ahern, from the CD After Mallarme ; Ned Kelly music

Photo of David Ahern

David Anthony Ahern was born in Sydney in 1947. As a child, he learned violin and taught himself piano and composition. By the age of 15, he became convinced he was to be a composer. At age 16, having composed over 50 works, he went to study composition firstly with Nigel Butterley then later with Richard Meale. Under Meale's tutelage, Ahern wrote his first performed work, After Mallarmé for orchestra, which was recorded by the South Australian Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Patrick Thomas. The recording was immediately submitted by John Hopkins for the 1967 International Rostrum of Composers in Paris.

Subsequent pieces of note were Music for Nine for chamber ensemble, presented by Project New Music, and Arabesque for 48 strings. But of greatest notoriety is the piece Ned Kelly Music for orchestra, written for the Sydney Proms concert series - a work described as 'daring and bizarre'. The success of the piece elevated Ahern's importance within the avant garde.

Soon after, Ahern travelled to Germany, studying and working with Karlheinz Stockhausen, then to Germany to study with Cornelius Cardew. In 1969, Ahern journeyed again to both Germany and England, finding more affinity with Cardew's working processes. On returning to Australia in 1970, Ahern formed the ensemble AZ Music, drawing influence from Cardew's own Scratch Orchestra. The ensemble performed largely improvised works and comprised a number of younger performers and composers - Roger Frampton, Peter Evans, Geoffrey Collins, Ernie Gallagher, Geoffrey Barnard, Greg Schiemer and Peter Kinny.

David Ahern died in 1988, aged 40.

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Journal (radiophonic music) (1969) Commissioned by the ABC to commemorate the anniversary of Captain Cook's landing in Australia and was especially written for the medium of radio.

Analysis & Media

- Video: GTK: Roger Frampton & David Ahern 1971