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Ruth Lee Martin : Represented Artist

Composition is just something that you do and the least said about it the better.

Random Audio Sample: Carmina Gadelica (quartets: 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos) by Ruth Lee Martin, from the CD Sirens

Photo of Ruth Lee Martin

Photo: Brad Cummings

Dr Ruth Lee Martin is Senior Lecturer at the School of Music, Australian National University. Martin is active in many areas of music composition, performing and research in various combinations. Martin's compositional output is diverse, consisting of works for piano, small and large ensembles, choir and orchestra. As a Scottish migrant, she is strongly influenced by Scottish folk music. She has been commissioned to write works for some of contemporary music's foremost performers and her works have been performed and broadcast both in Australia and overseas. She has been awarded many major commissions including three commissions from the House of Parliament for music for documentaries and music for the 20th birthday celebrations. These works included A House for a Nation, a film about the House of Representatives and House on the Hill performed at celebrations in the Great Hall, Parliament House on the 10th May, 2008 by the Elektra String Quartet, with Phil South on percussion and Mark Atkins on didjeridu under the direction of Romano Crivici. Martin also wrote Two Australian Songs for this ceremony, performed by Susan West's children's choir. House on the Hill has been used in a documentary about the building of Parliament House, Pride of Place. Martin was awarded the prestigious ArtsACT Creative Arts Fellowship, which will allow her to spend the latter six months of the year composing vocal and choral scores.

Her focus lately has been on vocal music. Then the Prophet Miriam…for Trinity College Choir, Melbourne under the direction of Phillip Nicholls. She has recently completed a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittas, and a Gloria, as also 'I Heard a Loud Voice in Heaven...' from the Book of Revelation. This work was premiered at Evensong in Newcastle Cathedral in October by combined choirs of from Newcastle and Melbourne. She has also completed a setting of a poem by her sister theologian, poet and priest Dorothy Lee, 'Annunciation 2'. She is currently completing a commission for Halcyon for a song cycle.

One of Martin's research interests is the music of early Scots-Gaelic migrants to Australia. She is also a performer of traditional Scots Gaelic music and a member of touring world-fusion band Eilean Mòr (big island), and is currently undertaking studies in the Scots-Gaelic language. Her other interest lies in Australian choral and vocal music. Martin has been composer in residence, undertaken numerous radio interviews, and written many published articles in journals and books on aspects of Australian contemporary music and traditional Gaelic music. She has also taken many workshops on Scots Gaelic singing.

She has been instrumental (along with Dr Stephen Wild) in developing the ANU's folk and traditional music stream. Her course 'Folk Music: Theory and Practice', run in conjunction with the National Folk Music Festival and the National Library of Australia, is the first of its kind in Australia. She is a strong advocate for Australian music and runs courses and lectures on this topic.

Martin also composes in the folk tradition and her original songs form part of the repertoire of Eilean Mòr. Her songs include 'Edinburgh Hogmanay','Clearance of the Hill', 'Red Air', 'The Inbetween' and 'Lullaby for Baby George'. Eilean Mòr consists of Martin (vocals and percussion), Catherine Fraser (fiddle), Bill Grose (guitar), Bill Williams (double bass), and Ed Rodrigues (drums). Eilean Mòr have undertaken numerous performances nationally and internationally, to critical acclaim. In 2007 they toured Tasmania, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the UK. Martin also gave a lecture-recital at the National Library of Scotland in July 2007 on Australian Gaelic songs from the mid-1800s. Plans are underway for another tour to the UK in 2010.

Eilean Mòr released their first CD in 2006: 35 Degrees South was produced with the assistance of the Australia Council and has been very well received. Eilean Mòr's second CD Left of the Sun was completed at the end of 2008 and was launched in April 2009.

Martin has undertaken a series of interviews with Australian composers that can be found and heard at the National Library of Australia website: the interviews include composers Don Kay, Graham Hair, Felix Werder, Helen Gifford, Anne Carr-Boyd, and a marathon 8-hour interview with Larry Sitsky.

Ruth Lee Martin — current to October 2009

Studied with

Claudio Pompili (1991)

Larry Sitsky (1997)


Mentored by

Graham Hair (2000 - current)


Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
...and the burnished earth shimmers (solo lute) This work was commissioned by Pei Qian Chow.
Then the prophet Miriam : for church organ and SATB choir (2009) Commissioned by Philip Nicholls for performance by Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne.
Brindabella blues (quartets: 3 clarinets, bass clarinet) (2005) Commissioned by Clarity Clarinet Quartet.
Salmon of wisdom's song : from "Fionn and the Magic Quest' a musical play for children (2004) Commissioned by Music For Everyone.
Faeries romp : for voice with violin and piano (2004) Commissioned by Music For Everyone.
Island mists (violin ensembles) : for juvenile performer(s) (2004) Commissioned by Music for Everyone through funding from the Australia Council

Analysis & Media

- Article: Contemporary takes on modern meaning