Michael Hannan

Michael Hannan (b. 1949) is a composer, performer and music researcher based in Geelong, Victoria.  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 also worked as an assistant from 1969-1971 and in creative collaborations 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 that enabled him to work for a year in the Program in Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). While at UCLA, Hannan also studied composition with Elaine Barkin.

Michael Hannan has written over one hundred and fifty works for concert hall, stage, screen, and digital distribution, including experimental works and works involving improvisation. In 2001, as a performer, he issued Terrains, a collection of ‘piano interior’ works composed by himself and by Peter Sculthorpe (Tall Poppies Records TP 152). In this project he developed what he calls a “comprovisation” practice, where recorded improvisations are collaged into new electroacoustic compositions using digital audio editing software. In 2013, in collaboration with Scott Tinker (trumpet) and Mic Deacon (co-composer and audio engineer), he issued a CD titled Improvisations and Comprovisations on the Wirripang label (Wirr 051). 

Other CD releases with Wirripang include the music theatre work, The Flood (Wirr 073), Callisto: Music for Fairlight CMI (Wirr 079) and New Music for Multiple Keyboards (Wirr 089). 

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 for piano (1987-1997), that employ transcriptions of the calls of the pied butcherbird and other songbirds. As a composer Hannan is primarily interested in natural sounds and complex combinations of instrumental timbres. 

Michael Hannan was a pioneer in the field of contemporary popular music education in Australia. In Lismore, NSW, in the late 1980s he developed the first music degree in this field at the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education (now known as Southern Cross University). Hannan was Professor of Music at Southern Cross University until his retirement from academia in 2014. He was a member of the Music Fund of the Australia Council for the Arts from 1999 to 2002, and Chair of the Music Council of Australia from 2003 to 2004. He is the author of The Australian Guide to Careers in Music (UNSW Press, 2003) and The Music of Richard Meale (Wildbird Music, 2014), and was Chair of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician, 2004-2006 and 2008-2010. 

A lifetime of engagement with Australian music: Feature Article:

See all works by Michael in our shop