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Paul Cutlan : Associate Artist

Cutlan's composing work - connected to his creativity as an improviser - spans many styles: contemporary classical music, world music and jazz. Composition is the process of continually focussing on what matters most, and what best resonates with the human condition in sound.

Random Audio Sample: The Eleventh Hour : a suite in four movements for bass clarinet, string quartet and double bass, commemorating the centenary of the end of World War I by Paul Cutlan, from the CD Living

Photo of Paul Cutlan

Photo: Rachel Knepfer

Artist website: http://paulcutlan.com

Paul Cutlan's work as a multi-instrumentalist and composer is informed by many styles, including contemporary classical music, world music and jazz. His work as a composer is an increasingly significant extension of his main work as a performer and improviser.

Born in Hobart, Tasmania, Cutlan developed a passion for improvisation while at high school. He studied clarinet and composition at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music, graduating in 1987 with Honours in Composition. His early performance experience includes work with the Tasmanian and Sydney Symphony Orchestras.

Cutlan has since developed his skills as an improviser, performing with many of Australia's leading jazz musicians and groups. He has been a long-standing member of two groups which straddle a range of genres and cultures - world/jazz group MARA!, and the Australian Art Orchestra. The versatility of Cutlan's artistry has seen him work on productions for Belvoir, Sydney Theatre Company, Gurrumul, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Ensemble Offspring.

Cutlan's first major commission was as composer and musical director of a cabaret show for the 2003 Sydney Festival. Featuring jazz trio and narrator, Birth of the Cool celebrated the poetry and stories of the Beat Generation. Subsequent seasons in Edinburgh and Germany followed.

A desire to combine his passion for contemporary classical music with his practice as an improviser led to post-graduate study at Sydney Conservatorium of Music. While completing his Master's degree in composition, Cutlan developed a close working relationship with improvising string quartet The NOISE. They feature in several of his works, including Across the Top, for woodwind soloist, string quartet and double bass. This is the title work of Cutlan's debut CD as composer and leader, and is released by Tall Poppies.

Works from the last five years incorporate an eclectic range of styles and cultures. Most pieces have been written for colleauges, with commissioning bodies assisting, such as Ars Musica Australis, and Aurora New Music Festival. Artists who have performed Cutlan's work include didjeridu artist Mark Atkins, bass recorder virtuoso Alicia Crossley and viola da gamba specialist Jennifer Eriksson. Recent larger ensemble jazz works include Nock on Effect, premiered by Ten Part Invention, and The Darkness of Silence, commissioned by the Divergence Jazz Orchestra with the assistance of the Australian Cultural Fund.

The Paul Cutlan String Project remains the main ensemble for performing Cutlan's new works. The Eleventh Hour was written on the centenary of the end of World War I, as a personal, philosophical reflection on human-kind's predilection to fall into patterns of war and destruction. It is the major work featured in Cutlan's new recording Living (2020), available on Earshift Music.

Commissioned by the Sydney Improvised Music Association, Cutlan's 56 minute 'Colour Poem' Colour Therapy for improvising trio premiered at the Sydney Opera House in July 2022.

Paul Cutlan — current to October 2022

Influenced by

Benjamin Britten (1982 - current)

Igor Stravinsky (1982 - current)

John Coltrane (1987 - current)

Bernie McGann (1988 - current)

Bela Bartok (1995 - current)

Eric Dolphy (1999 - current)

Anthony Braxton (2007 - current)


Studied with

Don Kay (1983 - 1987)

Trevor Pearce (2007 - 2012)


Collaborated with

Sandy Evans (1995 - current)

Tony Gorman (1995 - current)

Andrew Robson (1995 - current)

Roger Frampton (1996 - 1999)

James Greening (1998 - current)

Gary Daley (2010 - current)


Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2021 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Jazz Finalist Living

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Colour Therapy : A Twelve Movement 'Colour Poem' for improvising trio (2022) Colour Therapy was commissioned by the Sydney Improvised Music Association, and premiered at its Jazz Now series 2022.
Digital sheet music sample More : The Sea (2022) Commissioned for the suite Zashto.
The darkness of silence : big band (2016) Commissioned by Divergence Jazz Orchestra.
Spinning forth : suite for viola da gamba and harpsichord (2014) Commissioned by Philip Pogson, Jennifer Eriksson.
Digital sheet music sample Affirmations (trios: recorder, didjeridu, cello) (2014) Commissioned by Aurora Festival with funds provided by APRA, Blacktown Arts Centre.
Merge/Emerge : for string quartet (2013) Commissioned by The NOISE string quartet, for inclusion in their CD Composed NOISE.

Analysis & Media

- Video: Perhaps next time