Featured Composer: Graeme Koehne


Graeme Koehne is one of Australia’s leading compositional figures, now gaining increasing attention internationally.

For anyone who believes that the great tradition of classical music must re-connect with a sense of contemporary vitality, the music of Graeme Koehne attracts avid interest and attention. In his best works, Koehne achieves that elusive synthesis of sophisticated compositional technique, informed by a deep understanding of musical history, and a popular touch that invests his music with emotional eloquence, visceral appeal and aural pleasure.

Through the advocacy of some of today’s most exciting international musicians such as the conductors Vladimir Jurowski and Kristjan Järvi, Koehne’s music is becoming a regular presence on the international stage. His compositions have long been among the most popular by any Australian composer, and find a regular presence in the established repertoire of Australian music.

Graeme Koehne has served on several occasions on the Australia Council, the Australian Government’s arts funding advisory body, and from 2002 to 2009 was Chair of the Australia Council Music Board and a member of the Australia Council. He has served in various advisory capacities for the South Australian Government, and in 1998-99 was South Australia’s Composer-in-Residence. He was awarded a Doctorate of Music from the University of Adelaide in 2002 and in 2004 received the Sir Bernard Heinze Award from the University of Melbourne.

Graeme Koehne's new work Love Song was premiered in PLEXUS: Pulsations on 11 May 2016 at the Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre.

Love Song (2016)

Love Song is a reworking of an aria from my cabaret opera The Ringtone Cycle composed in 2011. Originally scored for soprano, violin, cello, piano and iPhone, the present version is composed especially for the Plexus ensemble: clarinet, violin and piano. In this version the vocal part is for the most part taken by the clarinet while the violin and piano share the remaining accompaniment.

In its theatrical form, the song occurs at the end of the first act as the mini-opera’s heroine reflects on her hopes and dreams for the man she has just met online. The original lyrics of the song, by poet and librettist Peter Goldsworthy, reflect on love in a way that is at once heartfelt and gently humorous. 

This very lyrical music reflects my personal rediscovery of the primacy of melody and the notion of music as language.

– Graeme Koehne