James Easton (1944-2001) : Represented Artist
James M Easton was born in Sydney on 3 August 1944 into a musical family. Educated at Harbord Public School, and later at Manly Boys' High, his first music teacher was his father, a talented pianist. He began formal lessons on the piano at the age of 7, studying mainly with Frank Hutchens at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, from which he obtained his DSCM and a high school Teaching Certificate.
Basically a self-taught composer (other than a brief period of study with Raymond Hanson), his first composition was played on television in a programme spotlighting talented young performers in 1958. He achieved success at the Conservatorium by winning first prize in the inaugural Composers Competition in 1963.
Composition was put aside whilst he completed his DSCM and teacher training, and taken up again during his teaching years. After five years in the Department, Mr Easton resigned from teaching, married and spent time in Europe, visiting various electronic music studios. It was at this point he became interested in music technology, a fascination that remained all his life.
Returning to Australia, he began a long association with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, first as a lecturer in History and Harmony, and later in music technology and computers. About this time, he began to be more involved with commercial music, including some years as Mr Music on ABC's Playschool.
In 1988, he was commissioned to write a children's opera for the Bicentenary, resulting in Gondwana!, which has been successfully produced throughout NSW. He has also produced the music for five documentary films, including a popular video on the life of May Gibbs. 1995 saw the composition of a large work for music theatre, Jack the Ripper, which saw its premiere in February 1999.
James Easton's compositional style is quite eclectic, embracing traditional melodic and harmonic palettes, along with popular, more commercial styles, as well as die-hard modernism. Influences have been the music of Mahler, Wagner and Shostakovich, as well as Bartók and Stravinsky. His most urgent aim in music has been to produce works with memorable melodies that the audience will recall after leaving the venue. He is comfortable writing in all forms and instrumental combinations, and especially enjoys writing for full orchestra.
Until the untimely end of his musical career due to Motor Neurone Disease, his main hobbies included producing large orchestral canvases via a sequencer and computer programming. James Easton passed away in Sydney on 27 August 2001.
|Vision 3 : for solo horn (1997)
|Commissioned by Jodie Lawson.
|Vision 2 : for solo violin (1993)
|Written for the composer's daughter, for HSC examination purposes.
|Gondwana! : musical (1988)
|'Gondwana!' was commissioned for the Bicentenary in 1988 by Lane Cove Public School, Sydney.
|Christmas fantasy : for violin & piano, on favourite Christmas carols (1986)
|Commissioned by Nicholas Milton.