The music of Australian composer Lachlan Skipworth has been described as featuring “bold, innovative textures, and compelling melody”. His individual and highly personal compositional language is coloured by three years spent in Japan, where his immersion in the study of the shakuhachi bamboo flute inevitably became a part of his muse. He has recently been awarded the coveted Paul Lowin prize for orchestral composition for his Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (2014), which was premiered by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra with whom he is currently composer-in-residence.
Date Piece Performers Venue Other Info
24/09/2017 New Work^ WASO Chorus St Mary's Cathedral Perth
14/09/2017 New Work^ Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus Tokyo, Japan Dai-ichi Seimei Hall
25/08/2017 The Night Sky Fall Syzygy Melbourne Recital Centre 24/07/2017 Piano trio Sitkovetsky Trio Sydney Musica Viva Concert Season
20/07/2017 Piano trio Sitkovetsky Trio Newscastle Musica Viva Concert Season
18/07/2017 Piano trio Sitkovetsky Trio Melbourne Musica Viva Concert Season
15/07/2017 Piano trio Sitkovetsky Trio Sydney Musica Viva Concert Season
13/07/2017 Piano trio Sitkovetsky Trio Adelaide Musica Viva Concert Season
11/07/2017 Piano trio Sitkovetsky Trio Perth Musica Viva Concert Season
08/07/2017 Piano trio Sitkovetsky Trio Melbourne Musica Viva Concert Season
06/07/2017 Piano trio Sitkovetsky Trio Brisbane Musica Viva Concert Season
22/06/2017 New Work^ Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, Andrew Goodwin Melbourne 18/06/2017 New Work^ Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, Andrew Goodwin Melbourne 19/05/2017 Intercurrent Intercurrent University of Western Australia 19/05/2017 The Night Sky Fall Intercurrent University of Western Australia 01/04/2017 Light Rain Bronwyn Kirkpatrick, Kedumba Quartet Blue Mountains, NSW Kindlehill Performance Space
11/03/2017 Spiritus^ West Australian Symphony Orchestra Perth Concert Hall Masters Series #1
10/03/2017 Spiritus^ West Australian Symphony Orchestra Perth Concert Hall Masters Series #1
19/02/2017 Echoes and Lines^ Arcadia Winds Winthrop Hall Perth International Arts Festival
14/12/2016 The Night Sky Fall Intercurrent State Theatre Centre, Perth. Tura: Scale Variable 4
14/12/2016 Intercurrent Intercurrent State Theatre Centre, Perth. Tura: Scale Variable 4
19/11/2016 Dark Nebulae Nexas Quartet Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House Nexas CD Launch
13/11/2016 Intercurrent^ Ensemble Offspring Nest Creative Space, Alexandria Kontiki Racket
09/10/2016 Aevum^ Monash Academy Orchestra Robert Blackwood Hall 05/10/2016 Piano Quartet Australia Piano Quartet Melbourne Recital Centre 13/08/2016 Clarinet Quintet Ashley Smith, Armilla Quartet Bangalow Music Festival 12/06/2016 Piano Quartet Australia Piano Quartet Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House 10/06/2016 Piano trio China-Asean Music Week Nanning, China 19/05/2016 Piano Quartet^ Australia Piano Quartet Great Hall, University of Technology Sydney 11/05/2016 The Night Sky Fall Intercurrent Eileen Joyce Studio, Perth 19/02/2016 Clarinet Quintet^ David Rowden, Omega Ensemble Mildura, NSW Murray River Music Festival
11/02/2016 Confluence The Sound Collectors Soundfield Studios Recording
23/01/2016 Mujo Lina Andonovska Fundação Oriente, East Timor 31/10/2015 Inner Man^ The Song Company, Roland Peelman Blackheath Uniting Church, NSW 25/09/2011 The Night Sky Fall^ Chronology Arts, Lachlan Skipworth Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House 21/09/2015 Ten Rounds WAAPA Clarinet Trio WAAPA. Perth 14/04/2015 Dark Nebulae Nexas Quartet Trackdown, Sydney Hospital Hill Recording
11/04/2015 Piano Trio^ Bella Hristova, Umberto Clerici and Aleksandar Madzar Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Musica Viva Festival 2015
08/11/2015 Inner Man The Song Company, Roland Peelman Wollongong ART Gallery, NSW 07/11/2015 Inner Man The Song Company, Roland Peelman Wesley Uniting Church, Canberra 19/09/2014 Afterglow Sydney Contemporary Orchestra, Brian Chatpo Koo Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney 18/07/2014 Confluence^ The Sound Collectors Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts 05/12/2015 Aftermath^ Darwin Symphony Orchestra, Matthew Wood Darwin Convention Centre Choreography by Gary Lang Dance
05/11/2015 Inner Man The Song Company, Roland Peelman Newcastle Conservatorium, NSW 16/08/2014 Dark Nebulae Quanta Quartet Tivoli Theatre, Perth 16/04/2014 Clarinet Concerto Ashley Smith, Christopher Dragon, West Australian Symphony Orchestra Perth Concert Hall ABC FM recording
16/03/2014 Aida The Song Company, Roland Peelman Jonh Septimus Roe College, Perth 03/11/2015 Inner Man The Song Company, Roland Peelman Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, NSW 15/10/2014 String Quartet No. 1 Darlington Ensemble Churchlands Auditorium, Perth Darlinton Concert Series
27/09/2013 Ten Rounds Pinata Percussion University of Western Australia 02/10/2015 Dark Nebulae Ensemble 4Saxess Ljubljana Conservatory, Slovenia ISCM World Music Days
26/08/2013 Dark Nebulae Nexas Quartet NIDA Theatre, Sydney APRA Art Music Awards
14/03/2014 Aida The Song Company, Roland Peelman All Saints' College, Perth 01/11/2015 Inner Man The Song Company, Roland Peelman City Recital Hall, Sydney 22/09/2013 Light Rain Riley Lee, Enigma Quartet Bellingen Music Festival 20/04/2013 Afterglow Melbourne Symhpony Orchestra, Thomas Ades Melbourne Recital Centre Metropolis Series
31/10/2012 Dark Nebulae Khasm Quartet Melbourne Town Hall Governor's Recital Series
06/08/2014 Dark Nebulae Quanta Quartet Melba Hall, Melbourne 05/12/2014 Confluence The Sound Collectors University of Western Australia 05/10/2014 String Quartet No. 1 Darlington Ensemble Darlington Hall, Western Australia Darlinton Concert Series
17/08/2013 Afterglow West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Christopher Dragon Astor Theatre, Perth Latitude Series
04/12/2014 The Edge of Forgetting Sydney Youth Orchestra, Max McBride Old Museum Concert Hall, Brisbane 02/11/2014 The Edge of Forgetting^ Sydney Youth Orchestra, Max McBride The Concourse, Chatswood, Sydney 14/06/2013 Light Rain James Nyoraku Schlefer, Voxare String Quartet Tenri Cultural Institute, NYC Kyo-Shin Arts
25/11/2012 Nezasa Sydney Symphony Fellows Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney 25/11/2012 The Night Sky Fall ExhAust New Music Spectrum, New York 01/10/2014 Clarinet Concerto^ Ashley Smith, Baldur Bronniman, West Australian Symphony Orchestra Astor Theatre, Perth WA Latitude Series
18/11/2012 Nezasa Sydney Symphony Fellows Joan Sutherland Centre, Penrith.
18/10/2012 The Night Sky Fall Phil Everal, Jon Tooby, Tara John, Lachlan Skipworth Octagon Theatre, Perth 18/05/2012 Nezasa^ Sydney Symphony Fellows Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney 29/07/2011 Dark Nebulae Gordan Tudor, Ken Thompson, Evan Ziporyn, Aviva Endean Mass MOCA Bang on a Can Summer Festival
29/07/2011 Light Rain Lachlan Skipworth, Bang on a Can Festival players Mass MOCA Bang on a Can Summer Festival
05/02/2013 Afterglow^ Melbourne Symhpony Orchestra, Brett Kelly Iwaki Auditorium, Melbourne CYBEC Series
02/07/2013 String Quartet No. 1^ Enigma Quartet Independent Theatre, North Sydney 25/07/2011 The Second Wave^ Bang on a Can Festival Players, Lachlan Skipworth Mass MOCA Bang on a Can Summer Festival
01/03/2013 Where the Mountains Meet^ Joe Manton Sydney Conservatorium of Music Chronology Arts
20/09/2011 Shinjitsu^ Sydney Chamber Choir, Paul Stanhope ABC Centre, Ultimo, Sydney ABC FM recording
17/09/2011 Shinjitsu^ Sydney Chamber Choir, Paul Stanhope Independent Theatre, North Sydney 04/12/2012 Light Rain Lina Andonovska and friends fortyfive downstairs, Melbourne NMN Mini-series
04/12/2012 Mujo Lina Andonovska fortyfive downstairs, Melbourne NMN Mini-series
04/06/2012 Ten Rounds^ Lachlan Skipworth, Bronwyn kirkpatrick, David Dixon Kyoto Arts Centre Hall, Japan World Shakuhachi Festival 2012
11/06/2011 Dark Nebulae^ Klanglos Quartet Hochschule fur Musik, Basel, Switz. 28/08/2009 Light Rain Riley Lee, Sydney Camerata Sydney Conservatorium of Music 28/02/2009 Tengu Mountain Tengu Trio (Skipworth, Dixon, Dugan) + Georgia Lowe Sydney Conservatorium of Music Dean's Gala
19/07/2009 Aida The Song Company, Roland Peelman Italian Forum Cultural Centre, Sydney MODART
07/05/2010 Light Rain Bronwyn Kirkpatrick, Sydney Symphony Fellows ABC Centre, Ultimo, Sydney ISCM World Music Days
18/07/2009 Aida^ The Song Company, Roland Peelman Melbourne Recital Centre MODART
28/11/2008 Tengu Mountain^ Tengu Trio (Skipworth, Dixon, Dugan) + Georgia Lowe Sydney Conservatorium of Music Sounds Sensational
14/08/2009 Light Rain Sydney Symphony Fellows Sydney Conservatorium of Music 10/07/2009 Light Rain^ Lina Andonovska, Lachlan Skipworth Ensemble St Stephen's Uniting Church, Sydney 10/07/2009 Tengu Mountain Tengu Trio (Skipworth, Dixon, Dugan) + Georgia Lowe St Stephen's Uniting Church, Sydney 08/07/2008 Only the Ocean Knows Bronwyn Kirkpatrick (shakuhachi), Lachlan Skipworth Ensemble Sydney Conservatorium of Music World Shakuhachi Festival 2008
17/11/2011 The Night Sky Fall Chronology Arts, Lachlan Skipworth Trackdown, Sydney
List of works - click headings to re-order - scores can be purchased via the Australian Music Centre
Title Year Instrumentation Time Premiere
Spiritus 2017 Orchestra 2*,2*,2*,2*; 4,2,2,1; T+2; Hp; Cel; Str 12 West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Echoes and Lines 2016 Chamber Fl, Ob, Cl, Hn, Bsn. 6 Arcadia Winds
Aevum 2016 Orchestra 2*,2,2*,2*; 4,2,3,0; T+2, Hp, Pno; Str 12 Monash Academy Orchestra
Intercurrent 2016 Chamber B.Cl, Mar, Pno, Tape 9 Ensemble Offspring, Intercurrent
Piano Quartet 2016 Chamber Vln, Vla, Vlc, Pno 12 Australia Piano Quartet
Clarinet Quintet 2016 Chamber Cl, String Quartet 11 Ashley Smith
Piano Trio 2015 Chamber Vln, Vcl, Pno 14 Musica Viva
Inner Man 2015 Vocal S, S, A, T, B, B 6 The Song Company
Aftermath 2015 Orchestra 5 Darwin Symphony Orchestra
The Edge of Forgetting 2014 Orchestra 2*,2*2*,2; 4,2,2,1; T+3; Hp; Str 8 Sydney Youth Orchestra
Confluence 2014 Chamber Perc(2) 9 The Sound Collectors
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra 2014 Orchestra + solo instrument 0,0,0,0; 2,2,2,1; T+3; Hp; Solo Cl.; Str (12,10,8,6,4) 15 Ashley Smith, Chris Dragon, West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Where The Mountains Meet 2013 Solo 6-string Bass Guitar 6 Joe Manton, Chronology Arts
String Quartet no. 1 – Yamagoe 2013 Chamber Vln (2), Vla, Vcl 5 Enigma Quartet, Musica Viva
Orbs 2013 Orchestra 2*,2*,2*,2*; 2,2,2,1; T+3; Hp; Str 14 Chris Dragon, West Australian Symphony Orchestra
Ode 2013 Solo + Piano Vln, Pno 4 Akiko Miyazawa, Chinatsu Matsuda
Nezasa 2012 Chamber Ob, Cl, Bsn, Hn, Vln, Vla, Vcl, Db 6 Sydney Symphony Fellows
Afterglow 2012 Orchestra (Chamber) 1*,1,2*,1; 2,2,1,1; T+ 2; Hp, Pno; Str (4,2,2,1) 8 Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
The Second Wave 2011 Chamber + Solo Vocal Fl, Rec, B.Cl, A.Sax, Perc, Hp, E. Gt, Pno, Sop 9 Bang on a Can Summer Festival
The Night Sky Fall 2011 Chamber Cl, Vcl, Pno 10 Chronology Arts
Ten Rounds 2011 Chamber open. 3-4 players 10 Australian Shakuhachi Society
Shinjitsu 2011 Choral Chamber Choir 10 Sydney Chamber Choir
Mujō 2011 Solo Fl 5 Lina Andonovska
Dark Nebulae 2010 Chamber Saxophone Quartet (A, A, T, B) 10 Nexas Quartet
Light Rain 2009 Chamber Shakuhachi/Flute, String Quartet 7 Riley Lee, Sydney Camerata
Aida 2009 Vocal S, S, A, T, B, B 6 The Song Company
Tengu Mountain 2008 Chamber Shakuhachi (3), Harp or 2 Koto 5 The Tengu Trio
Only The Ocean Knows 2008 Chamber + solo instrument Shakuhachi, B.Cl, Hp, Perc (3), Vcl 11 Bronwyn Kirkpatrick, Lachlan Skipworth Ensemble
Masks 2008 Chamber A.Sax, Dr Kit, E.Gt, B.Gt, Pno, tape. 6 Chronology Arts
CloseUp 2008 Chamber Cl, Vln, Vcl, Pno 8 Chronology Arts
Lachlan Skipworth is emerging as one of the leading composers of his generation in Australia. After training initially as a clarinettist, Skipworth spent almost 3 years in Japan immersed in the study of shakuhachi, an end-blown bamboo flute, and its ancient honkyoku solo repertoire. On returning to Australia, he began to hone and refine his experience into a highly personal compositional language, working closely with his principal teacher Anne Boyd.
Skipworth has since composed a body of work that displays the range and sensitivity of his craft across many genres. Light Rain (2009) sets the shakuhachi itself amongst a string quartet to depict raindrops falling gently on water, and has gone on to receive performances across Australia, Japan, and the USA. Dark Nebulae (2011), for Saxophone Quartet, depicts the colossal rumblings of deep space by layering rich multiphonics to create thick churning clouds of sound mass. In addition to numerous international performances, the work was selected as the official Australian work to be performed at the 2015 World Music Days in Slovenia.
Afterglow (2012) was performed in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Metropolis Series and conducted by leading British composer Thomas Ades. The recent Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (2014) was premiered by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra with soloist Ashley William Smith and conductor Baldur Brönnimann, subsequently winning the prestigious 2015 APRA Art Music Award in the Performance of the Year category. In 2015 Skipworth will have new works presented by Musica Viva, Synergy Percussion, The Song Company and the Darwin Symphony Orchestra.
Skipworth holds a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Western Australia (2004) and a Master of Music (Composition) from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (2010) where he studied with Roger Smalley and Anne Boyd respectively. He is also active as a shakuhachi performer, having spent two and a half years from 2005 in Japan studying with revered master Yokoyama Katsuya and Kakizakai Kaoru. In 2010, he undertook a 2-semester kontaktstudium with Prof. Jorg Widmann at the Freiburg Hochschule fur Musik, Germany.
In 2011 he received a fellowship from the prestigious Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, undertaking a 6-week research trip to Japan, Europe and the USA. In 2009 he was composer-in-residence with the Japanese traditional instrument ensemble Aura-J in Tokyo as part of an Asialink Performing Arts Residency. He has been selected to participate in a number of composer workshops, including the MODART and CYBEC programmes in Australia, Ensemble Modern at Tokyo Wonder Site, and the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival in Massachusetts, USA.
Chaos and Containment – creative inspiration from the vivid music of Japan
Like most foreigners, I find Tokyo a place of immense wonder and am constantly marvelling at the way a place of such extremes can function in such an orderly fashion. Temples nestled between skyscrapers set the ancient alongside the modern with a slight feeling of awkward impermanence, as if awaiting the next earthquake. The subway network appears an unfolding labyrinth of intersecting lines on a map, yet the rail system runs like clockwork. Trains seem about to burst open due to the crowds, but the people themselves are the depiction of politeness, aside from a few Friday night revellers who have had a little too much sake and karaoke. It’s the constant battle to contain the chaotic elements into a rigid formality that make Tokyo a place of enduring interest. A similar struggle between musical extremes and strict form gives traditional Japanese music its mysterious allure.
Japanese instruments exhibit a certain wild potency as their seemingly simple design allows for much flexibility of pitch and timbre, coupled with a striking array of extended techniques. Raw and unrefined sounds are frequent in the traditional repertoire and are considered aesthetically pleasing. To this end, the instruments have not been ‘modernised’, so to speak, and their music has evolved around set limitations that the instruments’ basic construction presents. For example, the end-blown mouthpiece of the shakuhachi allows a startling degree of pitch freedom and variance of tone colour. However a pentatonic scale is produced by opening its five finger holes in order, and fast movement between pitches outside this scale is troublesome.
Similarly, the shamisen, a three-stringed cat-skin lute, has freedom of pitch due to its fretless fingerboard. The music is bound always to the pitch of its lowest string, which is left a little loose at the nut to create a rough, buzzing sound. With sympathetic resonance, this takes on an incessant drone-like quality that reinforces the prominence of this pitch. In contrast, the movable bridges of the koto mean that any number of different tonalities is possible, however, once they are set, only small modulations are feasible. Players focus on adding colour and expression through varied plucking techniques as well as pushing and pulling the strings to manipulate the pitch. Japanese traditional musicians claim that the freedom to inflect the tone of their instruments makes theirs a living and breathing sound, whose animation more than makes up for perceived limitations.
An acceptance of free elements into form and structure also occurs on a broader level in the different genres of traditional music. In a series of lectures I was able to attend by the Japanese composer Ichiyanagi Toshi, he raised the issue of freedom in relation to time. In our modern-day world, he asserted, we measure time as absolute in minutes and seconds, whereas in old Japan, time was a relative concept. Each day was divided into six equal parts, and the lengths of these segments varied as the seasons changed. Many genres of music in Japan similarly allow for such flexibility of time. For example, shakuhachi honkyoku pieces consist of phrases which are drawn out to the length of one breath, which will differ between performers and performances. In my ongoing study of this repertoire, there is a strong focus on how to space the notes of a phrase suitably within the time of my own breath. In gagaku, the ancient court music, the final beat of each bar is lengthened quite dramatically in a way that disrupts the sense of pulse. This creates a floating and otherworldly mood, which is further heightened by the overlapping chords of the sho (a mouth organ) and the wandering melodies of the hichiriki (a double-reed instrument). Ichiyanagi also pointed out that no traditional Japanese music uses a conductor, therefore ensembles must listen closely to each other within the fluctuating time.
It was with this idea of a tug of war between chaos and containment in mind that I observed the gendai hougaku scene (contemporary music for traditional instruments) during my residency. A highlight of my stay was seeing my host ensemble Aura-J perform Miki Minoru’s Concerto Requiem for 21-string koto and ensemble. The soloist, Kimura Reiko, is a leading exponent of the 21-string koto, and Miki’s skilful writing for the instrument allowed her to show off the entire range of her expressive talent, from delicate harmonics to strong percussive attacks. What became immediately clear was that Miki had explored the limits of soloistic virtuosity, while still allowing space for the raw elements, the subtle pitch inflections and resonance of the more noise-like sounds, to really bring Kimura’s performance to life.
This was a major lesson for me, as other pieces I saw during my residency, that failed to utilise the distinct range of sounds available to the instruments, were at times bland and uninteresting. At the opposite end of the spectrum, pieces that used the pitch freedom and extended techniques excessively, or in an unrelated fashion, became a foray too far into the abstract to maintain the liveliness of the performance. My recent experience of Japanese instruments has confirmed that to write music which encompasses the wild and chaotic within a structure, for Japanese or Western instruments, I must pursue a musical world where juxtaposing extremes of expression coexist in a balanced way.
...equally developed gifts for bold, innovative textures, and compelling melody are put to good use... conjuring up a watery world of crashing waves and subtle swells. Madžar, Hristova and Clerici, three artists at the height of their powers, give a faithful and musically astute performance, ensuring Skipworth’s complex musical ideas have clarity and meaning.
Maxim Boon, Limelight.
Lachlan Skipworth operated a few notches higher with Afterglow, which managed to combine comfortable lyricism with undercurrents of menace and a sterling shakuhachi-signalling solo from Wendy Clarke's piccolo.
Clive O’Connel, The Age.
Cybec finalist Lachlan Skipworth conjures a “solar drama” (to use a phrase of the Australian Mallarmé scholar Gardner Davies) out of the orchestra in Afterglow. Like the dying rays of the sun, a fanfare on tuba announces shimmering string colours, which build and dissipate in a dense crescendo. The chaos leaves behind a more transparent texture with a lyrical oboe line. Harp and piano can faintly be heard moving across the orchestral surface. It is as though the tuba has dipped behind the horizon of the strings and risen again as a silver moon, lighting the path of two wanderers.
Matthew Lorenzon, Realtime Arts
Melodic fragments materialised and faded around precisely articulated harmonics, with further overtones resonating like peaks glimpsed through cloud… ascending runs flashing rapidly across the ear, echoes allowed to hang and gradually fade, action and response being contained within a strictly formalised aesthetic reminiscent of tightly choreographed martial art.
Oliver Downes, Realtime Arts