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Career Summary

Biography

Over a thirty year period working in the university sector, my principal research has involved the creation of original musical works and the performance and recording of new contemporary musical repertoire. Between 1988 and 1990 I was the foundation pianist of the contemporary ensemble Perihelion, which commissioned and performed many new works by Australian composers during this period. Since joining the academic staff of Newcastle University in 1990, I have continued to compose, but since I have a large teaching studio involving one-to-one as well as class teaching and postgraduate supervision, my ability to continue my creative work is often intermittent. Despite this constraint, I have managed to write at least one work per year (sometimes more), and have recently completed a commission from the University to compose a large work celebrating the 150th anniversary in 2009 of local government in Newcastle. This work was premiered in Newcastle town hall on Nov. 1, 2009 with an orchestra of seventy-six performers, four vocal soloists and a choir drawn from members of the Conservatorium, university and chamber choirs. Present projects include arrangements for violin, piano and other instruments of well-known hymns for projected CD release in 2011/12.

Qualifications

  • Graduate Diploma in Music, Queensland Conservatorium of Music, 03/11/1979
  • Bachelor of Arts (Music), Queensland Conservatorium of Music

Research

Research keywords

  • Music composition and analysis
  • Music performance

Research expertise

1. Musical performance relating to contemporary performance practice and styles.

2. Original musical composition.

3. Currently enrolled in PhD programme.

Fields of Research

CodeDescriptionPercentage
190406Music Composition100

Awards

Other

1995The Jean Bogan Prize for Piano Composition
Newcastle Conservatorium of Music (Australia)
The composition prize mentioned below is the only one of its type in Australia. Its winners over the years have included many important Australian composers.

Administrative

Administrative expertise

Head of composition division.

Teaching

Teaching keywords

  • Music composition and piano teaching

Teaching expertise

1. Tertiary level piano teching

2. Tertiary level composition teaching

3. Postgraduate supervision

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Highlighted Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2005Spiers CJ, 6 Serious Pieces (for solo piano), Australian Music Centre, Sydney (2005) [J2]
2006Spiers CJ, Arc of Infinity, Australian Music Centre, Sydney (2006) [J2]
2003Spiers CJ, The Last Thoughts of Prokofiev, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney (2003) [J2]

The research embodied in this work encompasses the interaction of the multiple concepts of narrative, quotation, representation, recontextualisation, hybridisation, parody, and irony, which firmly places it within the postmodern tradition. This heterogeneous mix creates a rich multilayered structure operating within the specific classical formal structure of the fantasy and fugue, and the broad genre of the piano solo itself a rich resource of associations and expectations for the informed listener that are used ultimately to blur the connection between abstract musical and programmatic meaning, and subvert temporal perception. Thus, while the musical surface follows a seemingly straightforward dialectical course, the above-mentioned qualities act anarchically to create multiple fragmented perspectives. The works narrative elements involve a programmatic aspect (a depiction of the dying thoughts of Prokofiev) represented by transformed quotations from his unfinished tenth piano sonata, and a reinvented aspect (a reimagining of these thoughts) creating, through their placement alongside new material, a hybrid style. A hidden parallel narrative relies upon a representative element embodied in a simple cipher of pitch and alphabet equivalence that spells out musically the composers name, as well as facts drawn from his life. Because of this, the piece has a mythic quality, as these facts are recontextualised through the prism of the present composers style and musical techniques. The sense of irony this creates, while in keeping with Prokofievs life, is also an integral part of the work itself, which involves the seeming completion of an unfinished work that is actually a non completion.

2007Spiers CJ, Memory: For Soprano and Orchestra, Australian Music Centre, Grosvenor Place, NSW (2007) [J2]

In comparison with abstract instrumental music, musical works with text offer composers additional avenues for creating layers of meaning. Memory is one such piece that embodies a research component through its exploration of the relationship between textual and musical discourses. This relationship is at once literal (the text invoking a specific musical mood) and ironic (the music revealing hidden subtexts that are sometimes at odds with the surface imagery), a process that creates multiple viewpoints. While the theme of Rachael Jessups poem concerns her grandfathers and his familys memories, it also deals subtly with the loss of memory and the relationship that the living have with the dead through the act of remembrance. Memory builds upon this multi-layered experience through the interaction between original and quoted musical material (all of it distorted in some way). This proceeds in a kaleidoscopic manner, a process that adds further depths of association, since the non-original inserts are sufficiently well known to create a shock of recognition that is intended to represent the process of remembering. The use of quotation also conflates various temporal periods, enriching the aesthetic experience of the work through the creation of multiple narrative streams that heighten the level of psychological engagement. Memory therefore operates simultaneously as both a dramatic and reflective scena, whose textual associations, supported by the mechanism of its complex interconnection of musical references, express simultaneously the tension between the immediacy of the poems powerful emotional imagery and its overwhelming elegiac mood.

Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Click on a category title below to expand the list of citations for that specific category.

Conference (2 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2013Spiers CJ, 'Signifying Meaning - Keith Jarrett's Performance Practice and its Role in the Evaluation of the Solo Concerts', Another World of Popular Entertainments, Newcastle, Australia (2013) [E3]
2012Spiers CJ, 'Keith Jarrett's Solo Music: Process, Product and Evaluation', 35th annual Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia, Canberra (2012)

Creative Work (33 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2014Spiers CJ, The Art of Indifference, Sydney (2014)
2011Spiers CJ, Garden of Souls, Christchurch Cathedral, Newcastle, Sydney (2011)
2009Spiers CJ, A Slender Strand of Memories: For Orchestra, 4 Vocal Soloists and SATB Choir, Australian Music Centre, Grosvenor Place, NSW (2009) [J2]
2007Spiers CJ, Memory: For Soprano and Orchestra, Australian Music Centre, Grosvenor Place, NSW (2007) [J2]

In comparison with abstract instrumental music, musical works with text offer composers additional avenues for creating layers of meaning. Memory is one such piece that embodies a research component through its exploration of the relationship between textual and musical discourses. This relationship is at once literal (the text invoking a specific musical mood) and ironic (the music revealing hidden subtexts that are sometimes at odds with the surface imagery), a process that creates multiple viewpoints. While the theme of Rachael Jessups poem concerns her grandfathers and his familys memories, it also deals subtly with the loss of memory and the relationship that the living have with the dead through the act of remembrance. Memory builds upon this multi-layered experience through the interaction between original and quoted musical material (all of it distorted in some way). This proceeds in a kaleidoscopic manner, a process that adds further depths of association, since the non-original inserts are sufficiently well known to create a shock of recognition that is intended to represent the process of remembering. The use of quotation also conflates various temporal periods, enriching the aesthetic experience of the work through the creation of multiple narrative streams that heighten the level of psychological engagement. Memory therefore operates simultaneously as both a dramatic and reflective scena, whose textual associations, supported by the mechanism of its complex interconnection of musical references, express simultaneously the tension between the immediacy of the poems powerful emotional imagery and its overwhelming elegiac mood.

2006Spiers CJ, Arc of Infinity, Australian Music Centre, Sydney (2006) [J2]
2005Spiers CJ, 6 Serious Pieces (for solo piano), Australian Music Centre, Sydney (2005) [J2]
2003Spiers CJ, The Last Thoughts of Prokofiev, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney (2003) [J2]

The research embodied in this work encompasses the interaction of the multiple concepts of narrative, quotation, representation, recontextualisation, hybridisation, parody, and irony, which firmly places it within the postmodern tradition. This heterogeneous mix creates a rich multilayered structure operating within the specific classical formal structure of the fantasy and fugue, and the broad genre of the piano solo itself a rich resource of associations and expectations for the informed listener that are used ultimately to blur the connection between abstract musical and programmatic meaning, and subvert temporal perception. Thus, while the musical surface follows a seemingly straightforward dialectical course, the above-mentioned qualities act anarchically to create multiple fragmented perspectives. The works narrative elements involve a programmatic aspect (a depiction of the dying thoughts of Prokofiev) represented by transformed quotations from his unfinished tenth piano sonata, and a reinvented aspect (a reimagining of these thoughts) creating, through their placement alongside new material, a hybrid style. A hidden parallel narrative relies upon a representative element embodied in a simple cipher of pitch and alphabet equivalence that spells out musically the composers name, as well as facts drawn from his life. Because of this, the piece has a mythic quality, as these facts are recontextualised through the prism of the present composers style and musical techniques. The sense of irony this creates, while in keeping with Prokofievs life, is also an integral part of the work itself, which involves the seeming completion of an unfinished work that is actually a non completion.

2003Kats-Chernin E, Sculthorpe P, Davidson R, Sabin N, Cronin S, Brophy G, et al., Still Life - Australian Music for Viola, Tall Poppies, Sydney (2003) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Smith GM, Allan C, Concert September 16th Colin Spiers (Piano) Greg Smith (Piano) Christopher Allan (Baritone), Ellicott - Variations on a Bach Chorale (Spiers/Smith), Woods - Satin Sounds (Spiers/Allan), Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]

Co-authors: Christopher Allan

2002Spiers CJ, Woodcock R, Concert August 1st 2002 Colin Spiers (Piano) Ronald Woodcock (Violin), Brahms - Sonata in A Op.100, Lutoslawski - Subito, Strauss - Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier, Monti - Czardas, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Concert May 19th 2002 Colin Spiers (piano) The Tango Book - Spiers/Parker/Pring/Woods/Thornton, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Peck D, Concert March 14th 2002 Colin Spiers (piano)Donald Peck(Flute) Handel-Sonata in F, Beethoven-Romance in F Op.50, Dvorak - Romance Op.11, Poulenc - Sonata, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Wedding Mobile, Australian Music Centre, Sydney, Australia (2002) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Ensemble S, Concert June 1st 2002 Colin Spiers(conductor) Spitfire Ensemble, Spiers - Fanfare for Brass and Percussion, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Walsh LS, Concert September 12th 2002 Colin Spiers (Piano) Linda Walsh (Oboe), Dorati - Duo Concertante, Holland - Last Light, Spiers/Parker/Pring/Woods/Thornton - The Tango Book, Poulenc - Sonata for Oboe and Piano, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]

Co-authors: Linda Walsh

2002Spiers CJ, Kellaway JK, Smith MR, Concert August 21st 2002 Colin Spiers (piano), Posselt - Spectra, Cuming - Mood Walk (with J. Kellaway - trumpet), Woods - Clarinet Sonata(with M. Smith - Clarinet), Parker - 6 Miniatures, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]

Co-authors: John Kellaway

2002Spiers CJ, Those Freeway Blues, Australian Music Centre, Sydney, Australia (2002) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Banney DA, Concert June 6th 2002 Colin Spiers (composer) David Banney (Conductor) University Symphony Orchestra Spiers - Anna for orchestra, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Walsh LS, Concert September 22nd 2002 Colin Spiers (Piano) Linda Walsh (Oboe), Dorati - Duo Concertante, Holland - Last Light, Spiers/Parker/Pring/Woods/Thornton - The Tango Book, Poulenc - Sonata for Oboe and Piano, ABC, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]

Co-authors: Linda Walsh

2002Spiers CJ, Matthias PV, Concert October 3rd Colin Spiers (Piano) Philip Matthias (conductor) Newcastle Chamber Choir, Spiers - Those Freeway Blues, Brisbane Choral festival, Brisbane (2002) [J2]

Co-authors: Philip Matthias

2002Spiers CJ, Dreamsong, Australian Music Centre, Sydney, Australia (2002) [J2]
2002Spiers CJ, Matthias PV, Concert August 20th 2002 Colin Spiers (Piano) Philip Matthias (Conductor) Newcastle Conservatorium Chamber Choir Spiers - Dreamsong, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]

Co-authors: Philip Matthias

2002Spiers CJ, Matthias PV, Concert October 2nd 2002 Colin Spiers (Piano) Philip Matthias (Conductor) Newcastle Conservatorium Chamber Choir Spiers - Dreamsong, Brisbane Choral Festival, Brisbane (2002) [J2]

Co-authors: Philip Matthias

2002Spiers CJ, Smith MR, Concert August 15th Colin Spiers (Piano) Margery Smith (Clarinet), Woods - Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Newcastle Conservatorium, Newcastle Conservatorium (2002) [J2]
2000Spiers CJ, New Song, University, Wollongong (2000) [J2]
2000Spiers CJ, Sonata in a minor by Schubert Sonata in A by Faure, University, Conservatorium (2000) [J2]
2000Spiers CJ, Music by Ives, Mendelssohn and Ginastera, University, Conservatorium (2000) [J2]
2000Spiers CJ, Sonatas by Beethoven and Prokofiev, University, Conservatorium (2000) [J2]
1999Spiers CJ, Traverse for Orchestra, University of Newcastle (1999) [J1]
1999Spiers CJ, Sonata for Cello and Piano, University of Newcastle (1999) [J1]
1998Spiers CJ, Piano Sonata No. 5 (Distant Echoes), Australian Music Centre, Sydney, Australia (1998) [J2]
1998Spiers CJ, "Textures of Time and the Land", Brush Turkey Studio, Australia (1998) [J2]
1998Spiers CJ, "Textures of Time and the Land", Australian Music Centre, Sydney (1998) [J2]
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants1
Total funding$2,000

- Indicates that the researcher may be seeking students for this project.

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

1998 (1 grants)

The Development of an Approach to Composition Pedagogy Using Techniques Developed in the Writing of Major Orchestral Work. (INCENTIVE GRANT)$2,000
Funding Body: University of Newcastle

Project Team
Mr Colin Spiers
SchemeRole
Special Project GrantChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$2,00019981998
GNo:G0177214
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Research Supervision

Number of current supervisions5
Total current UoN PhD EFTSL0.85

For supervisions undertaken at an institution other that the University of Newcastle, the institution name is listed below the program name.

Current Supervision

CommencedProposed
Completion
ProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
20132015PhD (Music)Co-SupervisorTowards Maximal Convergence: The Relationship Between Composition, Performance and Production in Realtime Software Environments
20122015PhD (Music)Co-SupervisorThe Polysynchronous Film Score: the Relationship Between Music and Image/Narrative in Contemporary Scores for Silent Film
20112018PhD (Music)Co-SupervisorOff-White: A Latterday Travesty
20082016PhD (Music)Co-SupervisorSymmetry and Symmetry Breaking in Musical Composition
20082018PhD (Music)Co-SupervisorPragmatics of Intertextuality in Recorded Music

Past Supervision

YearProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
2009M Creative Arts (Music) [R]Principal SupervisorDeveloping Twenty-First Century Art Music Repertoire
2007M Creative Arts (Music) [R]Sole SupervisorDeveloping a Composition Portfolio
2007M Creative Arts (Music) [R]Sole SupervisorSongs of Nature and Spirit: The Development of an Individual Approach to Choral Music Composition, With Reference to the Works of Four Important Australian Composers
2004M Creative Arts (Music) [R]Sole SupervisorDiscovering a Personal Compositional Process
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Mr Colin Spiers

Work Phone(02) 4921 8925
Email
PositionSenior Lecturer
School of Creative Arts
Faculty of Education and Arts
The University of Newcastle, Australia
Focus AreaMusic
Office
CON304,
The Conservatorium of Music,
The Conservatorium
Cnr Laman and Auckland Street
Newcastle NSW 2300
Australia
URL:www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/colin-spiers