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Ian Shanahan (1962-2021) : Represented Artist

Random Audio Sample: Lingua silens florum : recorder solo by Ian Shanahan, from the CD Reflections through a stained glass window


Photo of Ian Shanahan

Born in Sydney on 13 June 1962, Ian Leslie Shanahan studied composition and pure mathematics at the University of Sydney in 1980-85, where his composition teachers were Eric Gross, Peter Sculthorpe and Ian Fredericks (computer music). His particular area of interest was extended performance techniques on alto recorder, and he went on to complete a large Preliminary study on the topic before later enrolling in the University's PhD program. Shanahan got his PhD degree (Composition) in 2003, supervised by Professor Anne Boyd, and including a portfolio consisting of eleven of his own compositions.

Shanahan was well-regarded as an expert in contemporary techniques for the recorder and his work in this area did much to expand the possibilities for composers writing for this instrument. He was active as a recorder player and commissioned many composers, both from Australia and overseas, to write pieces for him to perform. He received commissions from ELISION (1987), austraLYSIS (1993), Laura Chislett (1993), and Roger Woodward (1993), among others.

He was the winner of a number of prizes, including the University Medal at the completion of his Bachelor's degree (1986), 2MBS-FM/NSW Premier's Department Composition Award in 1986 and the Adolf Spivakovsky Prize in 1991. In 1990, he was one of two Australians to be selected as Composer Fellow at the inaugural Pacific Composers' Conference in Japan.

Shanahan held positions at the NSW Conservatorium of Music, the University of Melbourne (where he was composer in residence in 1991), and Goulburn TAFE College, and taught at the University of Sydney. Formerly the President and committee member of the Fellowship of Australian Composers, he was very active in the promotion of new music as performer, lecturer, broadcaster and writer. He served as a committee member, secretary, and treasurer of the Australian branch of the ISCM; and on the Artistic Advisory Panel for the Sydney Spring Festival of New Music.

Ian Shanahan had an intense interest in a multitude of non-musical fields, such as mathematics, astronomy and chess, to which he frequently referred in his compositions.

Ian Shanahan died in Sydney's Westmead Hospital on 27 August 2021 after a long illness.


Teacher/Influence on

Jane Stanley

Keren Terpstra

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
1991 Adolph Spivakovsky Scholarship for the Composition of Music Winner

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
153 infinities : for solo (concert grand) piano and optional percussion (6 players) (1996) Commissioned for Sydney Spring International Festival of New Music
Zodiac : Crystal Orbit Improvisations : electroacoustic (1996) Commissioned by Roger Dean, austraLYSIS.
Lines of Light : Seven Improvisations on Aitheros Melos : electroacoustic (1993) Commissioned by austraLYSIS, Roger Dean.
Arc of light : for solo (concert grand) piano (1993) Commissioned by Robert Allworth.
Cycles of Vega : for sopranino clarinet in E flat and percussion (2 players) (1991) Commissioned by Ros Dunlop.
Lingua silens florum : recorder solo (1991) Commissioned by Music Dept of the University of Sydney