Born in Sydney on 13th May, 1935, Nigel Butterley
studied composition with Noël Nickson and Raymond Hanson. After a year in Europe, including study with Priaulx Rainier in London, he returned in 1963 to write Laudes
, which established him as one of the foremost Australian composers of his generation. His reputation was consolidated in 1966 when his radiophonic choral work, In the Head the Fire,
was awarded the Italia Prize ahead of Berio's Laborintus II.
His output includes works for solo piano, four string quartets and other chamber music, the opera Lawrence Hargrave Flying Alone, and several major orchestral works. The ABC Sydney Prom Concerts in the 1960's gave him the opportunity to compose Interaction, an improvisation for painter (John Peart), piano and orchestra, and an orchestral score for First Day Covers, devised by Barry Humphries for Dame Edna Everage.
From as early as Six Blake Songs (1956) poetry has been as important an influence on his work as the music and ideas of other composers, most notably Tippett, Messiaen, Cage, and more recently Gubaidulina.
In the seventies enthusiasm for the poetry of Walt Whitman resulted in three works, including Sometimes with One I Love. A decade later settings of Emily Dickinson's verse comprise There came a Wind like a Bugle for vocal ensemble, while poems of Du Fu were used for two small choral works.
The strongest influence since 1990 has been the English poet and scholar Kathleen Raine. The Woven Light (1994) for soprano and orchestra and ParadiseUnseen (2001) written for The Song Company are both settings of her poetry. It is also the main source for the text of Spell of Creation, for soloists, choir and orchestra, which was awarded the Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize in 2001.
After being a member of the music staff of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for some years, Butterley became lecturer in contemporary music at Newcastle Conservatorium in 1973, retiring in 1991 with the assistance of a four-year Australian Creative Fellowship. The same year he became a Member of the Order of Australia and in 1996 was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Newcastle.
Currently Butterley teaches composition at Sydney Conservatorium, lectures for Sydney University's Centre for Continuing Education, works with HSC student composers, and is a tutor for the Amateur Chamber Music Society.
Nigel will be discussing his new work Remembering Pierrot at the October Lunch Hour workshop.