Michael Hannan is a composer, performer and music researcher based in Nimbin in Northern New South Wales. He studied musicology at the University of Sydney and was awarded a PhD in 1979. In 1980 he undertook postgraduate studies in composition with Peter Sculthorpe, with whom he had also worked as an assistant from 1969-1971 and sporadically throughout the 1970s. In 1982, his critical biography, Peter Sculthorpe: His Music and Ideas 1929-1979, was published by University of Queensland Press. The following year he received a Fulbright Postdoctoral Award that enabled him to work for a year in the Program in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). While at UCLA Hannan also studied composition with Elaine Barkin.
Michael Hannan has written over seventy works for concert hall, stage, screen, and digital distribution, including experimental works and works involving improvisation. In 2001 as a performer, he issued Terrains, a collection of ‘piano interior’ works composed by himself and by Peter Sculthorpe (Tall Poppies Records). In this project he developed what he calls a “comprovisation” practice, where recorded improvisations are collaged into new electroacoustic compositions using digital audio editing software. In 2013, in collaboration with Scott Tinker (trumpet) and Mic Deacon (co-composer and audio engineer), he issued a CD titled Improvisations and Comprovisations on the Wirripang label.
The main inspiration for Hannan’s work are the sounds of nature, particularly birdcalls, and he has written dozens of pieces, including the monumental Resonances for piano (1987-1997), that employ transcriptions of the calls of the pied butcherbird and other songbirds. As a composer Hannan is primarily interested in natural sounds and complex combinations of instrumental timbres.
Hannan’s creative practice extends to garden design and the creation of outdoor sonic environments. The three-acre garden he developed with his partner Sue Boardman is his largest work and has been featured in Australia’s Open Garden Scheme and on the ABCTV program, Gardening Australia.
Michael Hannan is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University. He was a member of the Music Fund of the Australia Council from 1999 to 2002, and Chair of the Music Council of Australia from 2003 to 2004. He is the author of The Australian Guide to Careers in Music (UNSW Press, 2003) and The Music of Richard Meale (Wildbird, 2014) and was Chair of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician, 2004-2006 and 2008-2010.
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