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Ross Bolleter : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: With nowhere to turn (unaccompanied piano) by Ross Bolleter, from the CD Australian piano miniatures

Photo of Ross Bolleter

Photo: Antoinette Carrier

Artist website: http://www.warpsmusic.com

Ross Bolleter was born in 1946 in Subiaco, Western Australia. A composer and improvising musician, his work is focused on ruined pianos. His recordings are available on Emanem (London), Pogus (New York), New Albion (San Francisco) and Tall Poppies (Sydney), as well as on his WARPS (World Association for Ruined Piano Studies) label.

Bolleter completed a BA in Music and English at the University of Western Australia in 1967, and was inspired by the work of Webern, Boulez and Cage. After playing the piano for six years at the Parmelia Hilton in the 1970s, he went on to explore the non-conventional timbral and rhythmic possibilities of the prepared piano.

Over the past thirty years Bolleter has explored the timbral possibilities of ruined pianos: old pianos that have been exposed to the elements of time and weather thus acquiring novel and unexpected musical possibilities. A piano is ruined (rather than neglected or devastated) when it has been abandoned to all weathers and has become a decaying box of unpredictable dongs, tonks and dedoomps. The notes that don't work are at least as interesting as those that do.

Ross Bolleter has five ruined pianos in his kitchen, including the original ruined piano from Nallan Sheep Station, near Cue, 800 km north east of Perth, Western Australia. At Kim Hack's and Penny Mossops's olive farm, Wambyn, near York, Western Australia, Kim Hack and Bolleter developed the Ruined Piano Sanctuary, where some forty pianos are ruining in their own ways, and at their own pace, variously under trees, in dams, and on roofs. Each piano in decay is a long-running composition. Death comes to every piano, and dying, each sings a different kind of song.

Bolleter has released some twenty-five CDs, primarily of ruined piano compositions and improvisations. His CD Crow Country, released on the Pogus label as Pogus 7 6034-21021-2 (New York, 2000), was nominated as one of the 10 best albums of 1999 by Cadence Magazine (New York) and constitutes the best of his work from 1988 to 1999. Secret Sandhills and Satellites, released on the Emanem label, London, UK (2006), was voted best CD of September 2006 by Blow Up magazine (Italy), and number two CD of the year by dMute Magazine (Jazz and Improvised Music), France. Secret Sandhills and Satellites presents the best of Bolleter's work from 2001 to 2006.

From 1999 to 2017, he has worked with producer/composer Anthony Cormican in a collaboration uniting Anthony's work with the music editing program Protools with his own ultra-low tech ruined pianos. Since 2010, Bolleter has collaborated with the visual artist and composer Antoinette Carrier in work which includes her woven pianos as well as her creation of the first urban Piano Sanctuary in Bedford, Western Australia. Carrier's CD Nothing as a Thing was released on the WARPS label.

Bolleter performed as an accordionist/storyteller at the Adelaide Festival of 1998, and on ruined piano(s) at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) in 'Piano!' (2009), in the Ten Days on the Island Festival, where he created the project 'Ruined' (2008) and in various of Tura New Music's Totally Huge New Music Festivals under the artistic direction of Tos Mahoney, beginning with the Ruined Piano Convergence of 2005. Bolleter's work is regularly featured on ABC's Radio National and ABC FM.

Discography - CDs

Night Kitchen, Emanem 5008 (2002-9), London, 2010

Secret Sandhills and satellites, Emanem 4128 London, 2006

Crow Country, Pogus, New York, P21021-2, 2000

The Country of Here Below, Tall Poppies TP045, Sydney, 1994

Ross Bolleter & Martin Seddon: Inland Sea (2017) WARPS W25 - two solo improvisations on severalruined pianos

Ross Bolleter & Anthony Cormican: Quarry Music (2017) WARPS W24. Quarry Music is in 5.1 surround.

While my coffee cools (2015) - WARPS W22

Music of Chance (2nd edition) (2014) WARPS W 21

Frontier Piano (2014) WARPS W 20

High Rise Piano (2013) WARPS W19

Ross Bolleter & Anthony Cormican, Songs from the Third Watch (2013) W18

Antoinette Carrier Nothing as a Thing (2012) W17

Music of Chance (1st edition) (2011)W16

Gust (2011) W15

Solitary Light (2011) W14

Ross Bolleter & Anthony Cormican Spring in Iraq (2nd edition) (2011) W13

Piano Dreaming (2nd edition) (2011) W12

Five by Five (2009) W11 DVD of 5 pieces in 5.1 Surround.

Intimate Ruins (2009) W10

Pocket Sky (2004, 1991) W08

Satellites (2002) W06

Secret Sandhills (1st edition, 2002) W05

The Night Moves on Little Feet: Accordion Lives - Eulogies and Wakes

(with Rob Muir) W03 (1989, 1999)

Left Hand of the Universe (1997) W02


The Crow Flies Backwards: a collection of Western Zen koans with commentaries (Wisdom Publications, Boston, Massachusetts, July 2018)

The Well Weathered Piano/ Du Piano-épave: Translation into French by Marie-Hélène Estève (Lenka Lente Press, Nantes, October, 2017).

The Five Ranks of Dongshan: Keys to Enlightenment (Wisdom Publications, Massachusetts, May, 2014).

Piano Hill (Fremantle Press, 2008)

All the Iron Night (Smokebush Press, 2004)

Ruin (2013) Antoinette Carrier's photographs of Ruined Pianos.

Track Me Down: Selected Poems (2017).

Fostering Creative Improvisation at the Keyboard: a handbook for Piano Teachers (1979)

Writings about Ruined Piano and Ross Bolleter

Tim Rutherford-Johnson, Music After The Fall: Modern Composition And Culture Since 1989 (University of California Press, Oakland, California, 2017)

Interview de Ross Bolleter par Guillaume Belhomme (2007) - Le son du grisli. grisly.canalblog.com/archives/2007/01/15/5825300.html

Andrew Ford, 'Things fall apart in the music of Ross Bolleter', in A Defence of Classical Music (ABC Books, 2005) pp. 143-151

Film and video

An Invitation to Ruin - a film about Bolleter's work with ruined pianos by Rob Castiglione. Premiered at Tura's Totally Huge New Music Festival in May 2015.

Ross Bolleter performs on five ruined pianos and tells stories at the Round House - http://vimeo.com/92599609 - video by Antoinette Carrier

Bolleter's website for ruined activity


Ross Bolleter — current to November 2017

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Complete history of a minute : for accordion, bass accordion and reader (1992) Commissioned by Evos Music as one of a series of one minute pieces by West Australian composers to be played on Radio RTR during the Artrage Festival.

Analysis & Media

Book: Sound scripts : volume 5 (2016) / edited by Cat Hope, Adam Trainer and Susan Studham.