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The Australian National University

Dr Christopher Sainsbury

Dip Mus - Composition (1984-86), BA - Comp (1988), Grad Dip Ed (1991), M Mus - Comp (1999-2000), PhD (2009 - 2012)
Lecturer in Composition, Songwriting, Contemporary (Australian) Indigenous Music, Australian Music Studies
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 02 612 51228

Areas of expertise

  • Music Composition 190406
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Performing Arts 190401
  • Musicology And Ethnomusicology 190409

Research interests

  • New music composition
  • Indigenous music (contemporary styles)
  • Contemporary guitar composition
  • Regionalism in music composition
  • Surf music

Biography

As a composer Christopher Sainsbury has made a sustained contribution to Australian music since the mid-1980s with early career commissions from the Australian Chamber Orchestra, leading instrumentalists (eg; flautist Gordon Yemm – ex-WASO), the Newcastle Bi-centenary Authority, repeat performances of a major choral work at the Brisbane World Expo 88, and more. This has sustained through until today with recent commissions from the Friends of Chopin Australia – for pianist Edward Neeman, and a new work for the Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF) conducted by Roland Peelman, 2019. Upcoming international performances include by clarinettist Shawn Earle (UBC, Canada) in January, and the Yale Concert Band (Yale) in February. Sainsbury bases himself in both professional and community music arenas. He explores Regionalism in music composition, referencing sounds from his 'aural homelands' of the region of the Central Coast of NSW where he had lived until recent years. Significantly he is an Australian Indigenous composer, being a descendant of Australia's first settled Aboriginal people - the Dharug (also known as Eora) of Sydney and surrounds. He artfully articulates his heritage through many of his works, and has done so since the mid-1980s. 

In many of his works one may expect to hear the guitar, his main instrument. Sainsbury maintains an active career as a guitarist performing jazz, contemporary and new music styles.

Previous to lecturing at the Australian National University (ANU), he held a full time position at Eora College—an Indigenous college in Sydney—where he taught from 1990 and later was Head of Arts, Music, Theatre and Screen Studies from 1993 - 2015. He has also taught briefly at UTS and at Avondale College.

He is the founder and artistic director for the Australian Indigenous Composer Initiative (to be known as Ngarra-burria: First Peoples Composers from 2019). See link here: https://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/news/christopher-sainsbury-wins-major-indigenous-composer-grant/

 

 

Researcher's projects

Current selection of music composition commissions, lectures, and Indigenous music projects (2018 and 2019):

In 2018 and 2019 I continue as Artistic Director for the Indigenous Composers Initiative (new name Ngarra-burria: First Peoples Composers). See website listed on this page.

Co-author for Digital Teaching Kit on Ngarra-burria, published on the Echo site via the Australian Music Centre, a high school education kit - the first on Indigenous composers. 

Curation of leading Indigenous musician guests to teach into the first Contemporary Indigenous Music Studies course at the School of Music, ANU, the first such program in Australia. 

Seminar presentation - The Influence of Surf Music in My Composiitons - focussing on Malibu Blue from my Spirit Land piece.  

The Arrival for piano, commissioned by Friends of Chopin Australia – for pianist Edward Neeman, performed at the Polish Centre Canberra Nov 2018. 

New work for chamber ensemble commissioned by the Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF) conducted by Roland Peelman, May 2019. 

Weereewa Dots for chamber strings. A commissioned collaboration, working from large scale digital images and with photographic artist Dr Rowan Conroy, November 2019. 

Archival publications from the 1980s to the 2000s: commissions and events (not listed below)

1987 - Arthurs Cave for solo flute. Commissioned by Gordon Yemm (ex-WASO flautist) with a grant from the Music Board of the Australia Council. Performed at the New Music Series Richmond Centre Lismore 1988.

1988 - Voyage of the Endeavour - a Cantata for voices, flute and piano, for the Nouveaux Singers Lismore and the World Expo in Brisbane 1988. This work is a mix of Aboriginal and European expressions about the arrival of the Endeavour on Australian shores.  

 1989 - Dream Journey - a Cantata for children, with lyrics by Melbourne poet Isobel Robin (published by Five Islands Press). Scored for singers, undesignated treble and bass instruments. Completed during a Composer Residency at the Lismore Conservatorium Centre 1989.

1990 - The Mayfly - a song-cycle based on a lecture by Dr David Suzuki, for low female cabaret singer, flute, guitar and percussion. On environmental themes.  Repeat performances including at the Gasworks Arts Centre Lismore, UNSW Solar Energy Symposium Sydney, Wollombi Folk Festival, and at various other events 1989 – 1996.

1992 Music director for Koorabaret (Sydney’s first Koori cabaret) at the Pact St Theatre Erskineville.

1993 Music director for Terrence Nullius and the Crime Ministers – co-devised show for the official Eora College new venue opening.

1994 - The Flowergirls - for solo oboe. Original version for flute performed by ‘A Band Called Bouddi’ flautist Anna Parker at various recitals including for the Wollombi Music Festival 1994. Later recorded by Rachel Tolmie (on oboe) for the Australian composers label Wirripang (2011). Upper levels competition set piece for Australian Double Reed Society competition 2016.

1994 – Composer for Aboriginal Protestors directed by leading Indigenous director Noel Tovey, for the Sydney Festival 1994 and the Weimar Festival 1995.

1994 - Seascapes for string quartet, funded by the Australia Council.

1998 - Jago Jago CD by A Band Called Bouddi (with CS musical director). Frequent performances include opening of Japanese Gardens Gosford City, Wollombi Folk Festival, Greencoast Festival, Kincumber Mountain New Music Series, Brackets n' Jam Central Coast, UNSW, the old Beachfront Cafe Avoca Beach, and more. 

2000 - North Country Sketches - for solo guitar. An AMEB upper grades listed work from 2013. Ken Murray recorded it for ABC (repeated broadcasts). Other international performances include by Gian Marco Ciampa (Italy and Australia 2016).

1999 - 2009 Co-director for Bouddi Voice Choir, Gosford City. Frequent performances included St Albans Folk Festival, Greencoast Festival, St Josephs Chapel and more. 

2002 – Concerto for Guitar, for Spanish virtuoso Jose Maria Gallardo Del Rey, featured at the Darwin International Guitar Festival.

2002 - 2003 Artistic Director Sydney Acoustic Guitar Festival.

2007 - First Light, commissioned by Central Coast Symphony Orchestra with support from CreateNSW. Repeat performance by New England Philharmonic Orchestra Boston, 2010.

2008 - Each Field A Window for solo flute (tenor saxophone or clarinet). For performance and recording in the Live Elevator Music Project - Goteborg Book Fair Sweden, 2008.

2008 Anima – solo guitar CD

2010 - Lydian Caprice for string quartet commissioned by the Australian Crossroads Festival with support from CreateNSW.

2011 - Concertino for Clarinet (revised, orig. 1993) the Central Coast Concertante Ensemble directed by Chris Bearman with soloist from the RAN Band Greg Turner. 

2014 Beach Holiday for youth orchestra. Written with financial assistance from CreateNSW during a Composer Residency with the Central Coast Conservatorium Centre, Gosford. 

 

Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  12 December 2018 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers