Nigel Butterley

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Nigel Henry Cockburn Butterley AM (born 13 May 1935) is an Australian composer and pianist.

Life and career[edit]

Butterley learned to play the piano at the age of five. He attended Sydney Grammar School, but music wasn't taught at the school at that time, so he sought training from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.[1] He then travelled abroad and spent a year in Europe, where he studied with Priaulx Rainier in London.

After returning to Australia he composed his work Laudes in 1963. He won the Prix Italia for his work In the Head the Fire in 1966.[2] In 1967 he was the inaugural winner of the Albert H. Maggs Composition Award. He continued to compose throughout the following decades, composing works for the Sydney Proms concerts such as Interaction for Artist and Orchestra, music performed while artist John Peart painted[3] and First Day Covers, a collaboration with Barry Humphries' character Dame Edna Everage.[4] Butterley went on to win the Paul Lowin Orchestral Prize in 2001.[5]

He lectured at the Newcastle Conservatorium from 1973 to 1991, and later at the Sydney Conservatorium. He has also broadcast programs on ABC Classic FM.

On 10 June 1991 Butterley was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), "in recognition of services to music".[6]


Butterley's compositions are strongly influenced by poetry, and are sometimes accompanied by recitation when performed. He composed a series of pieces inspired by the poetry of William Blake, and in more recent times has been inspired by the work of Kathleen Raine.[7]

His other compositions include There Came a Wind Like a Bugle, The White-throated Warbler, Child in Nature, The Wind Stirs Gently, Frogs, and Uttering Joyous Leaves.

In 2007 the Sydney Chamber Choir commissioned a new work Beni Avshalom, which was completed almost fifty years after Butterley's frequently performed landmark choral work The True Samaritan.[8]


  1. ^ Birthday bash of note for Butterley, The Canberra Times, 17 September 2005
  2. ^ National Film and Sound Archive: In the Head the Fire on australianscreen online
  3. ^ Mark O'Sullivan: The Biggest Mind Bending Event So Far, Sydney University Honours Thesis, 1994. p. 33
  4. ^ Mark O'Sullivan: The Biggest Mind Bending Event So Far, Sydney University Honours Thesis, 1994. p. 44
  5. ^ Grace notes - Nigel Butterley, Composer, The Australian, 26 October 2001
  6. ^ It's an Honour: AM
  7. ^ Nigel Butterley, Profile
  8. ^ "Nigel Butterley". Nigel Butterley. Retrieved 28 June 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]