Liza Lim (Australia)

Liza Lim *30 Aug 1966 Perth / Australia

Internationally acclaimed composer Liza Lim writes music marked by visceral energy and vibrant colour. A recurring thread in her work is the exploration of the themes of crossing cultural boundaries and of ecstatic transformation. Her music brings together aspects of modernist abstraction with forms of ritual culture drawn from a variety of sources. She counterpoints seemingly opposed pairs of terms such as 'radiance and shadow', 'violence and meditation' to describe her musical language.

Her music, which ranges from operatic and orchestral scores to site-specific installations, has been performed by some of the world's pre-eminent ensembles. Notably, she was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to write the orchestral work, Ecstatic Architecture, to celebrate the inaugural season of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2004. More recently she has received major commissions from both the Bavarian and South West German Radio Orchestras. Her opera The Navigator, directed by Barrie Kosky, had premiere seasons at the 2008 Brisbane and Melbourne Festivals followed by performances at the Chekhov International Theatre Festival in Moscow and at the Festival d’Automne à Paris in 2009.

Her current projects include a one-hour work entitled Tongue of the Invisible, looking at the Sufi poetry of Hafiz, commissioned for jazz pianist Uri Caine, singer Omar Ebrahim and musikFabrik, which will be premiered in June 2011 at the Holland Festival. She is also working with artist Olaf Nicolai and singers of Neue VocalSolisten Stuttgart on a project for the Pinakothek der Moderne Munich.

She has been closely associated with the Australian ELISION Ensemble over twenty years, and they have produced some of her larger scale works. These include her chamber operas, the 'memory theatre', The Oresteia (1991-93), the Chinese ritual street opera, Moon Spirit Feasting (1997-99) and The Navigator (2008). She was composer-in-residence with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2005-06. She has been commissioned by Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble fur neue music Zurich, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Arditti String Quartet, Klangforum Wien (Salzburg Festival), Lucerne Festival, WDR Orchestra and Choir and BBC Symphony amongst others.

Lim’s collaborations with Chinese, Japanese and Korean musicians inform her interest in kinaesthetic approaches to performance whereby the physicality of gesture is interrogated as the basis for formulating new approaches to instrumental technique and listening culture. Key publications in this area include three important commissions from the Festival d’Automne à Paris, In the Shadow’s Light (2004), The Quickening (2005) and Mother Tongue (2005).

Her explorations of Australian Aboriginal culture, through research and collaborations with Indigenous artist Judy Watson (Glass House Mountains installation project, 2005) and with Yolngu women elders of the Gumatj clan from Yirrkala, in her role as curator of the music series ‘As Night Softly Falls’ for the 2006 Adelaide Festival, has led her to look at aspects of Indigenous aesthetics and non-western epistemologies of time and space in art, music and story-telling.

Awards include the Paul Lowin Prize for orchestral composition, Fromm Foundation Award, Ian Potter Foundation and Australia Council Senior Composer Fellowships. Liza was a guest of the DAAD as artist-in-residence in Berlin during 2007-08. In 2009, she was a guest lecturer at the Darmstadt Summer School and at Voix Nouvelles, Fondation Royaumont. She is currently Professor of Composition and Director of the Centre for Research in New Music at the University of Huddersfield, UK.

Her work is published by Ricordi (Munich, London and Milano).