Andrew Harrison was born in Melbourne in 1971. He is a composer and pianist whose musical output spans across concert music and jazz, to music for film and theatre. Harrison is particularly interested in the nexus between improvisation and composition, and often explores new ways that pre-conceived notated concepts can inform and direct the improvisation process. He has also been drawn to historical narrative as a dramatic tool within his recent works.
Harrison recently completed a collaborative work with Detroit-based poet Jamaal May, composing a new chamber piece entitled Hum, commissioned by New Music Detroit. Hum was premiered by New Music Detroit in September 2016 at ‘Strange Beautiful Music IX’, Detroit’s annual experimental and contemporary music festival curated by the ensemble. The premiere performance featured Jamaal May reading his poetry with the group.
Earlier in 2016, the world premiere of Harrison’s clarinet quartet, Vier Klarinetten mach viel krach!, was performed by the Grainger Wind Symphony in Melbourne.
Gassed Shell (Severe), commissioned and premiered by Paul Grabowsky and the Monash Art Ensemble in 2014, was Harrison’s second composition to explore his family’s connection to World War One. Gassed Shell (Severe) was first performed at the Iwaki Auditorium in Melbourne, as part of the Monash Art Ensemble’s ‘Histories’ concert. The piece was subsequently recorded and featured on the Monash Art Ensemble CD Histories, released in September 2016. The recording features renowned Australian mezzo-soprano Dimity Shepherd and is available through Jazzhead Records.
In 2012, Harrison was commissioned by British-based Australian pianist Zubin Kanga to compose The drumfire was incessant, and continued all night with unabated fury. This was Harrison’s first World War One-inspired work. The drumfire, for solo piano, was premiered at the Melbourne Recital Centre and the Independent Theatre in Sydney in August 2012. Zubin’s performance of the work was nominated for ‘Performance of the Year’ at the 2013 APRA/AMC Art Music Awards.
Harrison’s Piano Fantasia No. 1, dedicated to jazz pianist and composer Andrew Hill, was given its world premiere in 2011 by Peter Dumsday as part of the Astra Chamber Music Society’s Spring Piano Plus concert series.
Harrison has also written numerous scores for film and theatre. Aboriginal Heart—Harrison’s collaboration with producer Tim Duncan and director Michelle Blanchard—premiered at the 2013 Sydney Film Festival and won the ‘Indigenous Award in Filmmaking’ at the 2014 St Kilda Film Festival. It also screened at Flickerfest and the London Film Festival. In 2010 Harrison wrote the music for Stop Rewind, produced by Red Stitch Actors Theatre in Melbourne. The play toured regional Victoria and had a season in Sydney in 2011. Between 2005 and 2008, Harrison was commissioned to compose music for a series of plays produced by Eagle-Eyed Productions in Bendigo, Australia. His score for their staging of The Laramie Project has subsequently been used in Australia and internationally for various versions of the play.
As part of his continued research into World War One, Harrison recently completed a chapter on Australian composers and their relationship to the conflict for the book The Great War and the British Empire: Culture and Society, published by Routledge Press in 2016.
Harrison is the pianist and composer with Melbourne-based jazz quintet Shol, who released their self-titled debut album through Newmarket Records in October 2014. Over the course of two decades, he has played with numerous ensembles and musicians in Australia and the United States, including his own groups Spot The Phantom Dog and The Andrew Harrison Trio, as well as Adrian Sherriff’s Wuru Wuru, Spak!, George E. Lewis and the UCSD Improvisation Band.
After finishing his undergraduate studies at the La Trobe University Music Department in the early 90s, Andrew Harrison completed a Graduate Diploma in Jazz Composition and a Masters in Composition at the Australian National University, studying with Professor Larry Sitsky. In 2013 he returned to the ANU School of Music, where he is currently undertaking a PhD in Music Composition, working again with Larry Sitsky. Harrison has also studied composition and jazz performance with composer Anthony Davis and trombonist George Lewis at UCSD in San Diego, California, and Paul Grabowsky in Melbourne.
Andrew Harrison is a Represented Composer at the Australian Music Centre, where many of his scores are available. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and two sons.
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