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Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE

1929 – 2014

Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE (1929–2014), composer, was born in Launceston and began music lessons around age seven, writing his first compositions by torchlight under the bedclothes at night. He studied at the University of Melbourne from age sixteen. Following a performance of his Sonatina for piano in Germany in 1955, he won a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford. In 1966, Sculthorpe gained a Harkness Fellowship to study in the USA and later became composer-in-residence at Yale University. Sculthorpe stated in 1998 that, by being overseas, he ‘gained a perspective on what I had left behind at home’; consequently, many of his works explore aspects of Australian landscape, history and Indigenous culture, such as Irkanda IV (1961), Sun Music I and Sun Music III (1965 & 1967), Port Essington (1977) and Kakadu (1988). Others were influenced by Asian traditions and the music of the Pacific. In the late 1960s, Sculthorpe was appointed Reader in Music at the University of Sydney, and he later held a personal chair as its Professor in Musical Composition. An OBE and member of the Order of Australia, Sculthorpe counted being named a National Living Treasure as the most significant of his many honours and awards.

Updated 2018