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Daniel Portelli : Associate Artist

Music is a form of line-making, heard and experienced as radiant energetic lines drawn through space in time. A meshwork of sensory surplus, where objects and points break down.

Photo of Daniel Portelli

Photo: Lauren Orrell


Daniel Portelli is a composer / sound artist from Darug Country who now lives and works on Gadigal Country. He is an alumnus of the Centre for Research in New Music at the University of Huddersfield (United Kingdom), and was awarded a PhD in composition with principal supervisor Professor Liza Lim and co-supervisor Professor Peter Ablinger. He works as a sessional lecturer in music composition at Western Sydney University (WSU) and the University of New England (UNE). He is a Badugulang Fellow, and an Associate Fellow with the Advanced Higher Education Academy. His music has been performed by a range of new music ensembles and soloist around the world, such as Tracensemble, Peyee Chen, Diego Castro Magaš, Soundstream Collective, Gabriella Smart, Adelaide Philharmonic Choir, The Music Box Project, Two New Duo, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Tamara Anna Cislowska, ESMUC Ensemble, Ensemble New Babylon, Claire Edwardes, Liu Ying, and by a robotic piano named RHEA. He is also a peer assessor for the Australia Council for the Arts, working as an Industry Advisor for experimental/ contemporary classical music, and the cross-disciplinary arts. He exhibited a sound art installation, Water Pail, at World Square, Sydney, in the Now You Hear Her festival. He guest lectured at the University of Sydney about his artistic research in 2018. And in 2020 gave a webinar about 'Cultural resilience in a time of crisis' at WSU. He was the winner of the Winston Music ECF commission where he wrote a new work for choir and ensemble, conducted by Warwick Stengårds (Opera Australia).

His artistic work prioritises collaboration, interdisciplinary and experimental arts practices where he often works with divergent approaches to notational systems. These novel methodologies invite performers and audiences to open up their senses and engage in a process where music and dance are intertwined as undifferentiated practices. His music involves a particulate instrumental vocabulary with interweaving lines of granulations, microtonality, the use of found objects, instrument building, critical and experimental score-based practices, heterotopic couplings, and theatricality. His recent artistic interest examines the relationship between composition/performance with cinematic art ideas and techniques, along with the ecological and social, and its relation to the cognitive sciences, higher order modes of learning, and philosophy of mind.

His work has featured on multiple playlists by Making Waves, a monthly curated series that features Australian art music. He has a journal article published with the prestigious Leonardo Music Journal and MIT Press entitled Music gesture and correspondence of lines: collaborative video mediation and methodology, which draws a relationship between music gesture, anthropology, lines, correspondence, and his recent developments in video scoring technology. He published a substantial article in ADSR Zine edition 013 called Music in Impossible Spaces about virtual heterotopias, the spaces of dreams, decorporalised music, and a muse on our inner imaginary sonic experiences. ADSR Zine won the award for Excellence in Experimental Music for their 2021 activities, which included this work. His video-essay 'What the River Doesn't Say About Itself' was published in the Journal of Embodied Research for their special issue on Ecologies of Embodiment, 2022. A co-composition with mangroves and with members of The Music Box Project who perform on small boats. He also has a peer-reviewed article published about his quasi-musical theatre work 'Mapping Australia (2014) - which is a critical look at Australia's cartography practices from the 1960s with deeper cultural connotations and reflections - in the fifth issue of the CeReNeM Journal (UK).

Portelli was involved in the Composition Beyond Music workshop established by composer Peter Ablinger, where he exhibited an interactive video/sound installation at ESC gallery in Graz, Austria as part of Impuls Music Academy. In 2020, he created an imaginary sound art series where one of the pieces involves internalising a graphic score and performing it in a dream (see 'Dream recorder'). He is also working with anonymous dream stories taken from the COVID on MIND and Pandemic Dreams research studies to develop a new ensemble piece about our connection to whales and oceanographic change (commissioned by Ensemble New Babylon, Bremen, Germany). He was a composer in residence in a 16-week multi-art-form collaboration for a library in Western Sydney. And in 2014, he represented Australia as the Young Composer Representative at the Asian Music Festival in Tokyo and Yokohama. His music is published to a CD called 'Playing with Fire' released under the label Wirripang Media Pty. Ltd, as part of a series of electro-acoustic compositions performed by highly acclaimed Australian pianist Tamara Anna Cislowska.

Daniel Portelli — current to November 2022

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Water Pail (found/unconventional instruments) (2021) Commissioned by Backstage Music.
Digital sheet music sample Whale Fall : for flute, percussion, electric bass, piano, violin, 'cello, and electronics (2021) Commissioned by Ensemble New Babylon.
Digital sheet music sample Animal : for SATB choir and ensemble (violin, cello, electronic keyboard, and percussion) with video (2015) Commissioned by Soundstream Collective with funds provided by Winston Music. Commissioned through the Soundstream Emerging Composers Forum
Digital sheet music sample Finding Kensho : chamber orchestra (2012) Developed during the Cybec 21st Century Australian Composer Program in 2011.