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Michael Atherton : Represented Artist

I enjoy rhythmic energy, the sublimity of the singing voice and instrumental timbres of the world. 'Collaboration, connection and community' is my mantra.

Random Audio Sample: Nonna mi l'ha detto! : for solo piano by Michael Atherton, from the CD Childhood in music

Photo of Michael Atherton

Photo: Tod Clarke


Following postgraduate research in literature at the University of NSW (BA Hons, MA Hons), Michael studied music at the University of Sydney and the University of New England, where he was attracted to ethnomusicology. He researched cultural history at UTS Sydney (PhD). He played early music in the Renaissance Players (1974-1980); joined Rivendell Adolescent Unit as a music therapist (1978-1980) in the team of Professor Marie Bashir; pioneered cross-cultural music in Sirocco (1980-1960); and directed his own ensemble, Southern Crossings (1986-1993). He has performed for Musica Viva internationally and throughout Australia.

In 1993 he was appointed Foundation Chair in Music at Western Sydney University, where his teaching and research focused on current Australian music expressions. In 1998 he was elected to Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. In 2003, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to the community.

Michael is a multi-instrumentalist with expertise in composing and performing music for the concert hall, screen and radio - creating numerous CD recordings, documentary film scores and television themes throughout his career. In 2008, he was the featured composer in the Aurora Festival, with five world premieres.

Michael's published books include Musical Instruments and Sound Producing Instruments of Oceania (2010); Australian Made, Australian Played (1991, re-released in 2014); and the co-edited Music of the Spirit: Asian-Pacific Music Identities (2009).

Michael Atherton is also a member of SynC, an electroacoustic duo. Performance highlights include: the New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) New York (2007); and Agora Resonances, Paris (2006).

In 2012 Michael was guest artistic director for the Powerhouse Discovery Centre, composing music for public events, including a spectacle for motorcycles, drum kits, synthesisers, brass and operatic voices.

Recent compositions include a choral opera for Gondwana Choirs, Walking in Footsteps (2014) and Sing and shout, all the earth (2015) for SCEGGS Darlinghurst. In 2013, Michael was honoured with the title Emeritus Professor for his distinguished contribution to teaching and research in the field of music and service to the University over many years.

Michael Atherton — current to February 2017

Collaborated with

Jim Franklin (2000 - current)

Garth Paine (2004 - 2011)

Jon Drummond (2015 - current)


Studied with

Nigel Butterley (2006)


Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Shout and sing, all the earth : for SSA choir and piano (2016) Commissioned by SCEGGS Darlinghurst for its Compose - 120 Project, celebrating the school's 120th Anniversary
Digital sheet music sample Songs of stone and silence : for voices, clarinet, piano and violoncello (2009) Commissioned by Ars Musica Australis for performance by Halcyon.
Jiriyai! : percussion (2006) 'Jiriyai!' means war cry in the Sydney language. It is dedicated to Pemulwuy, who led a resistance movement against invading Europeans
Digital sheet music sample Kalliopeia sopha : for SSA voices (2000) Commissioned by Sydney Children's Choir.
Digital sheet music sample Kamawarah : for orchestra, soprano, didjeridu, clapsticks (2000) Commissioned by the New South Wales Centenary of Federation Committee, for the celebrations in Centennial Park, Sydney, January 1st, 2001.
Songs for Imberombera : for voices, percussion and strings (1997) Commissioned by Sydney Children's Choir for performance by Gondwana Voices.