Professor Michael Hannan BA(Syd), DipMusComp(Syd), PhD(Syd) 

Michael Hannan (b. 1949) 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 which enabled him to work for a year in
the Program in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. While at
UCLA Hannan also studied composition with Elaine Barkin. 

Michael Hannan has written over seventy works for concert hall, stage and screen,
including experimental works and works involving improvisation. He issued a CD of his
experimental piano interior works, Terrains, on Tall Poppies Records (2000) and he
composed the music and many of the soundscapes for the Northern Rivers Performing Arts
(NORPA)’s major music theatre production, The Flood (2004). 

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 I-IV
(1987-1997), that employ transcriptions of the calls of the pied butcherbird and other
Australian songbirds. As a composer Hannan is primarily interested in the complexities of
natural sounds and complex combinations of instrumental timbres. Central to his creative
practice is the notion of comprovisation, where musical materials improvised by him (or
others under his direction) are then used to construct musical works using digital
editing software. 

His 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. 

Michael Hannan is Professor of Contemporary Music 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. and Chair of the ISME Commission for the
Education of the Professional Musician from 2004 to 2006, and from 2008-2010. He is the
author of The Australian Guide to Careers in Music (UNSW Press, 2003). 

Journal articles


Musical modernism in Brian May's Australian film scores (with Rebecca Coyle), Screening the Past (2011)


Scoring Essington: composition, comprovisation, collaboration, Screen Sound (2011)

New music technologies have increasingly enabled elements of improvised score to be incorporated into screen...



The Brian May Collection: two decades of screen composition manuscripts, Screen Sound (2010)

Brian May (1934-1997) was a pioneer of the Australian feature film revival period. He was...



Chanteuse (Amanda Easton), Music Forum (2008)


Inside, outside, downside up : conservatoire training and musicians' work (with Dawn Bennett), School of Arts and Social Sciences Papers (2008)

"Critical issues concerning conservatoire training and the ever-changing world of musicians' work, exploring key themes...



The Australian guide to careers in music, School of Arts and Social Sciences Papers (2003)

This is a guide to careers in music, covering over 150 classifications that contribute to...


A concert for Peter Sculthorpe's sixtieth birthday : Kakadu, an introduction (with Brett Johnson), School of Arts and Social Sciences Papers (1989)

Book chapters

Reflections on the protean music career, Life in the real world: how to make music graduates employable (2012)

Sound and music in Hammer’s vampire films, Terror tracks : music, sound and horror cinema (2009)

Editorial: Proceedings of the 17th International Seminar of the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM), Educating musicians for a lifetime of learning: Proceedings of the 17th International Seminar of the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM) (2008)

Educating Australian screen composers, Inside, outside, downside up : conservatoire training and musicians' work / (2008)

Preface, Inside, outside, downside up : conservatoire training and musicians' work (2008)

Music journalism & Commissioned articles

Moral rights denied to Boardman and Bizet, Nimbin GoodTimes (2007)


Flame, Origin Music Group (2006)

Music making in Nimbin: a short history, The Nimbin Magazine (2006)


Inside this room, ABC Classics (2002)


Doctoral-level artistic research in the field of music: issues and case studies, Proceedings Music Paedeia: from ancient greek philosophers toward global music communities: 30th ISME World Conference on Music Education (2012)


The role of popular songwriting in three Australian tertiary music curricula: different strokes for different folks? (with Diana Blom), Educating professional musicians in a global context: 19th International Seminar of the ISME Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM) (2012)


Valuing music composition in Australian feature film production, Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM): Instruments for Change Conference (2010)

The thirty most successful Australian feature films based on international box office receipts have notable...


Creativity and the prosumer, Interdisciplinary and Creative Arts Education Summit, Hong Kong Institute of Education (2008)

Unruly rules: guidelines for Australian practice-based doctorates in music, Proceedings, International Society for Music Education 28th World Conference (2008)

Creative work


13 ways of looking at a butcherbird, (2013)

13 short pieces for solo piano. Level of difficulty - intermediate. Each movement is based...



African polyphony (with Scott Tinkler and Mic Deacon), (2013)

Audio track 12 of 4'36" duration.



Ancient cedar trees, (2013)

Audio track 6 of 3'19" duration.



Ancient cedar trees impro 1 (with Tinkler S), (2013)

Audio track 7 of 7'51" duration.



Ancient cedar trees impro 3 (with Mic Deacon), (2013)

Audio track 8 of 6'48" duration.