Liza Lim

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Liza Lim (born 30 August 1966) is an Australian composer.

Lim writes concert music (chamber and orchestral works) as well as music theatre and has collaborated with artists on a number of installation and video projects. Her work reflects her interests in Asian ritual culture, the aesthetics of Aboriginal art and shows the influence of non-Western music performance practice.

Early life and education[edit]

Liza Lim was born in Perth, Western Australia, to Chinese parents. They were doctors who during her early years spent long periods working and studying in Brunei, and she was sent to boarding school.[1] At the age of 11, she was encouraged by her teachers at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne to turn from piano and violin to composition. She has said that she "owes everything to them".[2] Lim earned her Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Queensland, her Master of Music from the University of Melbourne (1996), and her Bachelor of Arts from the Victorian College of the Arts (1986). She has studied composition in Melbourne with Richard David Hames, Riccardo Formosa, and in Amsterdam with Ton de Leeuw.


Lim has been a guest lecturer at the Darmstadt Summer School, the University of California, San Diego, Cornell University, Getty Research Institute, major Australian universities[which?] and at the IRCAM Agora Festival. She was a lecturer of composition at Melbourne University in 1991. Lim was the guest curator for the twilight concert series of the 2006 Adelaide Festival of Arts.

Lim has been commissioned by some of the most eminent performers in the world including the Los Angeles Philharmonic (for whom she wrote Ecstatic Architecture for the inaugural season of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall), Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Modern, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Arditti String Quartet and the Cikada Ensemble. Her work has featured at festivals such as Festival d'automne à Paris [fr], MaerzMusik [de] at the Berliner Festspiele, Venice Biennale, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and all[clarification needed] the major Australian festivals.

Since 1986, Lim has worked extensively with members of the ELISION Ensemble; she is married to Daryl Buckley, its artistic director. In 2005, Lim was appointed the composer-in-residence with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for two years. Among other works, the orchestra commissioned—jointly with the radio station Bayerischer Rundfunk—her work The Compass; in its premiere performance on 23 August 2006 at the Sydney Opera House it was conducted by Alexander Briger, William Barton played the didgeridoo.

Sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service, she spent one year in 2007/2008 as artist-in-residence in Berlin where she developed her third opera, The Navigator, inspired by Tristan and Isolde to a libretto by Patricia Sykes. She was appointed professor in composition at the University of Huddersfield in March 2008.[3]

In March 2017 her appointment to the composition unit at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music was announced.

Selected works[edit]

Stage works[edit]

  • 1991–93 The Oresteia. A Memory Theatre, opera
  • 1994–95 Bar-do'i-thos-grol, 7-night installation performance based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, artist Domenico de Clario
  • 1991–99 Yuè Lìng Jié (Moon Spirit Feasting), A Chinese ritual street opera, libretto by Beth Yahp
  • 2005 Glass House Mountains, installation work with artist Judy Watson
  • 2008 The Navigator, opera for 5 singers, 16 instruments and electronics, libretto by Patricia Sykes

Orchestra works[edit]

  • 1994–95 Sri-Vidya, Utterances of Adoration for choir and orchestra
  • 1996 The Alchemical Wedding for orchestra (22 instruments)
  • 2001–02 Ecstatic Architecture, commissioned for the inaugural season at the Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • 2004 Immer Fliessender (Ever Flowing), a companion-piece for Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony
  • 2005 Flying Banner, "Fanfare" for orchestra, after Wang To
  • 2005–06 The Compass for orchestra with flute and didgeridoo soloists
  • 2010 Pearl, Ochre, Hair String for orchestra
  • 2010 The Guest for orchestra with recorder soloist

Ensemble works[edit]

  • 1988–89 Garden of Earthly Desire for flute, oboe, clarinet, electric guitar, mandolin, harp, violin, viola, violoncello, contrabass, percussion
  • 1989 Voodoo Child for soprano solo, flute/piccolo, clarinet, violin, violoncello, trombone, piano, percussion
  • 1990 Diabolical Birds for piccolo, bass clarinet, piano, violin, violoncello, vibraphone
  • 1993 Li Shang Yin for coloratura soprano, 15 instruments
  • 1995 Street of Crocodiles for flute, oboe, alto saxophone, alto trombone, cimbalom/cymbal, violin, viola, violoncello, baroque violoncello
  • 1999 Veil for flute/bass flute, bass clarinet, trumpet in C, percussion, piano, violin, violoncello
  • 2001 Machine for Contacting the Dead for twenty-seven instruments
  • 2005 Songs Found in Dream for oboe, bass clarinet, alto sax, trumpet, 2 percussion, viola, cello
  • 2005 Mother Tongue for soprano and 15 instruments, poems by Patricia Sykes[4]
  • 2006 Shimmer Songs for string quartet, harp, 3 percussion
  • 2006 City of Falling Angels for 12 percussion
  • 2007 Sensorium for soprano, C-tenor recorders, baroque harp, viola d'amore
  • 2010–11 Tongue of the Invisible, a work for improvising pianist, baritone and 16 musicians
  • 2014 Winding Bodies: 3 Knots for alto flute, bass clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, viola, violoncello and double bass

Chamber music[edit]

  • 1996 Inguz (Fertility) for clarinet in A, violoncello
  • 1997 The Heart's Ear for flute/piccolo, clarinet, violin I, violin II, viola, violoncello
  • 1999 Sonorous Bodies for koto and voice solo, in collaboration with video artist Judith Wright
  • 2004 In the Shadow's Light for string quartet, commissioned by Festival d'automne à Paris for the Kairos Quartett
  • 2004–05 The Quickening for soprano and qin, commissioned by the Festival d'Automne à Paris
  • 2008 Ochred String for oboe, viola, cello, double bass
  • 2013–14 The Weaver's Knot for string quartet

Solo works[edit]

  • 1992 Amulet for viola solo
  • 1997 Philtre for Hardanger fiddle solo or retuned violin
  • 2007 Wild Winged–one for solo trumpet
  • 2007 Weaver–of–Fictions for alto Ganassi recorder
  • 2007 The Long Forgetting for tenor Ganassi recorder
  • 2008 Well of Dreams for solo alto trombone
  • 2008 Sonorous Body for solo B clarinet
  • 2011 Love Letter for solo instrument

Awards and nominations[edit]

APRA Classical Music Awards[edit]

The APRA Classical Music Awards are presented annually by Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and Australian Music Centre (AMC).[5]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2007 Flying Banner (After Wang To) (Liza Lim) – Sydney Symphony, Gianluigi Gelmetti (conductor) Orchestral Work of the Year[6] Won
Liza Lim – Sydney Symphony Composer Residency Outstanding Contribution by an Individual[7] Nominated


  • Composer's page on ELISION Ensemble website
  • Shineberg, Susan (21 April 2008). "Lim's pulse of life". The Age. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  1. ^ Miriam Cosic, "Out on a Lim", Weekend Australian, 19–20 June 1999, Review, p. 16
  2. ^ Liz van der Nieuwenhof, Hello Liza Lim, composer, Weekend Australian Magazine, 25–26 September 2004, p. 11
  3. ^ "Music and Music Technology News Archive". University of Huddersfield. March 2008. Archived from the original on 25 June 2008. Retrieved 29 April 2008.
  4. ^ "Singing in Tongues" by Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 28 April 2014; review of Mother Tongue at the Miller Theatre, 2014
  5. ^ "Classical Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Archived from the original on 25 March 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  6. ^ "2007 Winners – Classical Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  7. ^ "2007 Finalists – Classical Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 1 May 2010.

External links[edit]