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Lisa Illean : Associate Artist

Random Audio Sample: Januaries : large chamber ensemble by Lisa Illean, from the CD Composers' academy


Photo of Lisa Illean

Lisa Illean is a composer of acoustic and acousmatic music, based in the U.K. Her music has been described as "exquisitely quiet shadows shaded with microtunings" (The Sydney Morning Herald) and "a compelling exercise in stillness and quietude" (The Australian). Illean's work spans pieces written for orchestra to those commissioned for new, prepared or adapted instruments, and sound works conceived for unique spaces. This has led to her working with BBC, Sydney and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras, The Philharmonia and London Philharmonic Orchestra, and presenting music around the globe, including at Festival Présences (Paris), Taiwan International Festival of Arts, BBC Proms, Unerhörte Musik (Berlin), Angelica Festival (Bologna), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Extended Play (Sydney) and Metropolis New Music Festival (Melbourne), in venues ranging from Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg) to the industrial bays of Sydney's Carriageworks and London's Café Oto.

Many of Illean's compositions arise out of working with non-tempered tuning systems, playing close attention to sonority, subtly unfolding harmonic forms, auditory phenomena and perspective. In recent years she has oriented her practice as a composer to include making long-form pieces with both performed and pre-recorded material, in close development with one or two others. This process incorporates unadorned, 'everyday' instruments-often simply-made zithers; exploring visual analogies and tactile ways of sketching. She has also made a number of pieces for voice, including A though-grown earth (2018) for Juliet Fraser and Sleeplessness … Sails (2018) Sarah Connolly. Cantor for soprano and ensemble was named Instrumental Work of the Year at the 2018 Australian Art Music Awards.

This autumn new pieces will be presented at Donaueschinger Musiktage (Trio Accanto/Experimentalstudio des SWR), Transit Festival and November Music (Juliet Fraser/Explore Ensemble). Autumn performances are also scheduled with Ensemble 10/10, London Sinfonietta, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Juliet Fraser, and musicians at the Royal Academy of Music, where Lisa is composer-in-residence for the academic year 2021-22 alongside teaching at the University of Cambridge.

Lisa is published exckusively by Faber Music.

" [Illean] shows an extraordinary sensitivity to colour and timbre and creates an absorbing sound-world which lingers after listening." - Australian Art Music Awards

"a subtle, mesmerising work" - Classic Melbourne

" … Février, œuvre toute en finesse, en douceur…" - vieillecarne

" the work's sensitive connection to visual art is expressed in music of evocative beauty." - Operachaser

"Illean's is a distinctive and original new voice in the landscape and her work was realised here by the SSO with tender care." - The Sydney Morning Herald


Lisa Illean — current to October 2021

Teacher/Influence on

Chris Williams

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2018 Art Music Awards: Work of the Year: Instrumental Winner Cantor

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Rose (clarinet with chamber orchestra) Commissioned by London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Tiding : guitar solo (2021) Commissioned by London Sinfonietta for its Sinfonietta Shorts series
Tiding II (saxophone with chamber ensemble) (2021) Commissioned by the SWR for Donaueschinger Musiktage
février (trios: clarinet, piano, cello) (2019) Commissioned by Radio France
Sleeplessness ... Sails : mezzo-soprano voice with piano (2018) Commissioned by the BBC for the 2018 Proms Chamber series at Cadogan Hall
Weather a Rare Blue (sextets: flute, clarinet, piano, violin, viola, cello with pre-recorded sound) (2018) Commissioned by Explore Ensemble.

Analysis & Media

- Video: Cantor, by Lisa Ilean, after texts by Willa Cather