Michael Barkl

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Michael Laurence Gordon Barkl OAM (born 9 August 1958) is an Australian composer and musicologist.


Michael Barkl was born in Sydney, New South Wales in 1958 into a musical family.[1] He learnt classical piano from the age of seven, later becoming obsessed with the electric guitar after hearing the album Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsys as a teenager.[2] From rock guitar he expanded his interests into jazz guitar, and then into bass guitar and double bass.[3] At the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music he initially studied jazz improvisation with Roger Frampton, and followed this with degree studies in composition with Vincent Plush, Martin Wesley-Smith, Warren Burt, Ross Edwards, Don Banks and Graham Hair.[4] Postgraduate studies in composition and musicology were with Ann Ghandar, Gerald Florian Messner [de], Richard Toop and Greg Schiemer.[5] He graduated with a master's degree in composition (University of New England (Australia)) and doctorates in musicology (Deakin University) and electronic music (University of Wollongong).[6]

After working as a freelance bass player, Barkl joined TAFE NSW in 1987 as foundation head of its contemporary music section.[7][8][9] During this time he contributed a series of biographies of Australian composers to The Oxford Companion to Australian Music, A Dictionary of Australian Music, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.[10][11][12] Further publications documented the compositional techniques of Franco Donatoni[13] and Riccardo Formosa,[14] explored aspects of the cultural context of music composition,[15][16] and described the process of electronic music composition using the program Pure Data;[17][18][19] he also published educational texts on composition,[20] harmonic analysis[21] and improvisation,[22] and a volume of memoirs.[23] From 1997 Barkl was foundation Adviser (later, Chief Examiner) of Contemporary Popular Music for the Australian Music Examinations Board.[24][9]


Barkl's music exhibits a combination of influences from European styled modernism to jazz.[25][26] An early work, Rota (1981) for piano trio, is clearly influenced by twentieth century Italian music, specifically Franco Donatoni.[27] Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was awarded segnalata in the 1981 International Valentino Bucchi Composition Competition.[28] A pair of subsequent orchestral works, Voce di testa (1981) and Voce di petto (1982), while maintaining the Italian association through their titles, added more jazz influence, however slight.[29][30] Drumming (1983) was characterised as "an exciting piano piece", "bring[ing] together Indian tabla drumming with jazz pianism",[31] while Ballade (1984) for six instruments, structured as a reverie interrupting a café piano solo, brought Barkl to the attention of the critics, Roger Covell describing him "one of the most musical of younger Australian composers".[32] Subsequent works, such as Cabaret for orchestra, Blues for bass clarinet and percussion (based on a Charlie Parker riff), Disco for percussion quartet, Red for recorder (based on Jimi Hendrix’s Red House) and Smoky for harpsichord, developed Barkl’s jazz-inspired instrumental style[33][34] until a complete change emerged with a series of lengthy electronic works composed using the open source patching language Pure Data.[35] These used large banks of computer generated oscillators to build thick textures of sine waves, saturating the aural space.


Michael Barkl was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours (Australia) for "service to the performing arts and music education".[36]

Selected works[edit]


  • Voce di testa, 1981
  • Voce di petto, 1982
  • Iambus, 1982
  • Cabaret, 1985
  • Rondo, 1986


  • Ballade for six instruments, 1984
  • The laird of Drumblair for seven instruments, 1987
  • Disco for four percussion and electronics, 1990

Chamber music[edit]

  • Night Words for viola and piano, 1977
  • Music for two trumpets and tape, 1978
  • Rota for piano trio, 1981
  • Expressive and ferocious for string quartet, 1985
  • Blues for bass clarinet and percussion, 1986
  • Vamp for guitar, 1988
  • Red for descant recorder, 1996
  • Smoky for harpsichord, 1997
  • Coming Out, Fanfare for viola and double bass, 1998
  • Here… for clarinet, piano and cello, 2008


  • Jazz music, 1979
  • Jazz music II for two pianos, 1979
  • Drumming, 1983
  • Five pieces, 1995


  • Water, where are you going? SATB, 1984


  • Night words – the ravishing for mezzo-soprano and piano, 1977

Concert band[edit]

  • Backyard swing, 1986

Music theatre[edit]

  • The animals Noah forgot, 1988


  • Rosalia, 1980
  • The paradox of Pythagoras: nos 1–27, 2007
  • Music of the spheres: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, 2007
  • Music of Grace: The heavy dark trees line the streets of summer, 2007
  • Music of Grace: The cat dances and the moon shines brightly, 2007
  • Music of Grace: The crystals in the cave absorb the light as if they have not seen it in a million years, 2008


  1. ^ Bebbington, W. 1997. Barkl, Michael Laurence Gordon. In The Oxford Companion to Australian Music (ed. Warren Bebbington). Melbourne, OUP:48.
  2. ^ "Jimi Hendrix fan becomes a music education pioneer at TAFE Illawarra". www.illawarramercury.com.au. 10 June 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  3. ^ Saintilan, N., A. Schultz & P. Stanhope. 1996. Michael Barkl. In Biographical Directory of Australian Composers, Sydney, Australian Music Centre.
  4. ^ Lee, S. 1995. Michael Barkl. In Sound Ideas (ed. Brenton Broadstock), Sydney, Sounds Australian:279–280.
  5. ^ Broadstock, B. (ed.) 1995. Michael Barkl. In Sound Ideas (ed. Brenton Broadstock). Sydney, Sounds Australian:48–49.
  6. ^ "Michael Barkl : Represented Artist Profile : Australian Music Centre". www.australianmusiccentre.com.au. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Red House Editions COMPOSER BIOGS#1". www.redhouse.com.au. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Musician Michael Barkl receives OAM honour". www.goulburnpost.com.au. 10 June 2018. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Media Notes - OAM (A - E)" (PDF). www.gg.gov.au. Retrieved 20 June 2019.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ The Oxford Companion to Australian Music (ed. Warren Bebbington). Melbourne: OUP, 1997. Also published in A Dictionary of Australian Music (ed. Warren Bebbington). Melbourne: OUP, 1998.
  11. ^ Nigel Butterley, Mary Finsterer, Barry Conyngham, Malcolm Williamson. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (ed. Stanley Sadie). London: Macmillan, 2000.
  12. ^ Malcolm Williamson. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ed Lawrence Goldman). Oxford: OUP, 2006.
  13. ^ Etwas ruhiger im Ausdruck: Franco Donatoni’s Crisis. Beau Bassin, LAP, 2018. ISBN 978-613-9-90170-8
  14. ^ Vertigo: Riccardo Formosa’s Composition Technique. Saarbrücken, LAP, 2010. ISBN 978-3-8383-3074-7
  15. ^ Composition, Perception, Analysis: The Musical Observer. Saarbrücken, LAP, 2010. ISBN 978-3-8383-6501-5
  16. ^ Music in Mind: Three Hundred and Forty-One Aphorisms. Beau Bassin, LAP, 2017. ISBN 978-620-2-07987-7
  17. ^ Composition: Pure Data as a Meta-Compositional Instrument. Köln, LAP, 2009. ISBN 978-3-8383-1647-5
  18. ^ Pure Data as a Meta-Compositional Instrument: Compositions Volume 1. Beau Bassin, LAP, 2018. ISBN 978-3-659-88634-8
  19. ^ Pure Data as a Meta-Compositional Instrument: Compositions Volume 2. Beau Bassin, LAP, 2018. ISBN 978-3-659-96899-0
  20. ^ Creating Original Music: a harmonic approach. Saarbrücken, LAP 2009. ISBN 978-3-8383-2716-7
  21. ^ Analysing Harmony: The Great American Songbook. Köln, LAP, 2009. ISBN 978-3-8383-23992
  22. ^ Constructing a Jazz Solo: an Approach for Non-Jazz Musicians. Saarbrücken, LAP, 2010. ISBN 978-3-8383-5082-0
  23. ^ The First Rule of Show Business: An Exegesis. Beau Bassin, LAP, 2018. ISBN 978-3-659-71818-2
  24. ^ "Michael Barkl OAM | AMEB". www.ameb.nsw.edu.au. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  25. ^ Dench, C. & I. Shanahan (eds). 1995. Michael Barkl. In An emotional geography of Australian composition II. Sounds Australian, no.46, Winter:11.
  26. ^ Sitsky, L. 2011. Australian Chamber Music with Piano, Canberra, ANU Press. ISBN 9781921862403
  27. ^ Bebbington, W. 1998. Barkl, Michael Laurence Gordon. In A Dictionary of Australian Music (ed. W. Bebbington). Melbourne, OUP.
  28. ^ "Premio Valentino Bucchi". www.premiobucchi.it. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  29. ^ Toop, R. 1984. Top youth at play. 24 Hours, December, vol.9, no.11
  30. ^ Murdoch, J. 1983. Michael Barkl. In A Handbook of Australian Music, Melbourne, Sun Books.
  31. ^ Sitsky, Larry. 2005. Australian Piano Music of the Twentieth Century, Westport, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0313322864.
  32. ^ Covell, R. 1985. Contemporary seeks companions. Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July.
  33. ^ McCallum, P. 1989. Score workshop produced a gem. Sydney Morning Herald, 14 December.
  34. ^ Vernon, C. 1996. The cosmos and the details: an interview with Dr Michael Barkl. Images, February, vol.8:5.
  35. ^ Barkl, Michael (January 2009). "Composition : Pure data as a meta-compositional instrument". University of Wollongong Thesis Collection 1954-2016. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  36. ^ "Award Extract". honours.pmc.gov.au. Retrieved 19 June 2019.

External links[edit]