Meale was born in Sydney. At the time the Meale family lived in Marrickville, an inner suburb of Sydney. Meale's father Oliver was a foreman at a Pipe Works, and his mother Lilla Adeline kept house.
Meale studied piano with Winifred Burston at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, as well as clarinet, harp, music history and theory, before studying at the University of California, Los Angeles and other American institutions on a Ford Foundation grant.
Meale was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1971, and in his 1972 book about Australia's contemporary composers, James Murdoch described him as "...the dominating figure in Australian composition". Meale was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1985.
Initially firmly part of the avant garde amongst Australian composers, Meale experienced a stylistic rethink in the 1970s, abandoning an exclusively atonal approach in his orchestral work Viridian (1979) and his Second String Quartet (1980) for a polytonal approach, and in later works embracing a frank tonality, with fin-de-siècle overtones, whilst retaining an individual voice.
He is best known for the 1986 opera Voss, with libretto by David Malouf based on the novel of the same title by Patrick White. Malouf also collaborated with Meale on his second operatic project, Mer de glace (1986–91), a tableaux-like juxtaposition of some ideas of the novel Frankenstein alongside the real dealings of Mary Shelley with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.
Other works include Very High Kings (1968) and Incredible Floridas (1971).
Awards and nominations
|2003||Three Miró Pieces – Richard Meale||Best Composition by an Australian Composer||Won|
|Three Miró Pieces (Richard Meale) – Sydney Symphony Orchestra||Orchestral Work of the Year||Won|
- "Australia Council mourns Dr. Richard Meale MBE AM". Australia Council for the Arts. 23 November 2009. Archived from the original on 13 March 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
- Ancestry.com. Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
- Plush, Vincent (24 November 2009). "Restless spirit found the music in Voss". The Australian. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
- Murdoch, James. Australia's Contemporary Composers. MacMillan, Melbourne 1972.
- It's an Honour
- Australian Music Centre
- National Film and Sound Archive: 'Voss' on the Sounds of Australia registry
- "APRA History". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 November 2010.
- "2003 Winners - APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 November 2010.
- "Richard Meale – Abandoning Tonality" [radio transcript]. 2008. In Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz – 170 musicians get vocal on The Music Show ed. Anni Heino, 263–268. Sydney: ABC Books. ISBN 978-0-7333-2008-8.
- Canberra School of Music Citation for an Honorary Degree
- Richard Meale biography at the Australian Music Centre
- 'Voss' was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2011.