Douglas Knehans Composer
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The Latest Album

…the sounds of nature course through the orchestral pieces on his latest album, “Unfinished Earth,” with a primitive force and melodic insistence that recall Stravinsky.
— The New Yorker
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Though first known through my collaboration with director Barrie Kosky in the Opera Australia production of my The Ascension of Robert Flau (1990), I am perhaps best known for my orchestral compositions. In this music the study of orchestral mass, expressive impact and sonic brilliance drive my musical language. Additional to my seven large works for orchestra, my music has come to the attention of soloists and orchestras through my now twelve concertos for instrument or voice and orchestra. My orchestral and other compositions, including opera, have been performed worldwide at major music festivals and been included on a number of solo and compilation recordings. I am also well known for my vocal and choral music that has been performed, awarded and recorded around the world. In this music I am drawn to the expressive and timbral power of language and have set texts in Latin, English, French, German, ancient Aramaic, and Italian, sometimes—as in my evening length Shoah Requiem—drawing on the surface friction that can arise through lingual juxtaposition and interpolation.

My creative work in both orchestral and vocal music as well as chamber music and electro-acoustic music draws on my three major sources of theoretical interest—the study of time and memory; the study of human emotion; and the study of the organic and natural world. These three seemingly disparate areas of research coalesce naturally through music. This is because music is based in time and memory; it uses emotion as a major pathway for laying down of musical memory, emotional response, and time comparisons of ideas as they progress through a work, while utilizing the organic and natural world as an evocative, correlative surface for music. These elements can—and again through the use of time, memory and emotion— easily be drawn into a deeper and more crypto-spiritual world of the psycho-emotional by utilizing organic and natural world metaphors for our deeper human existence and struggles.

The creation of sound worlds of great paradox is thus a huge fascination for me. The outward representation of inner psycho-emotional dynamics is of particular interest to me. In seeking to allow fruitful pathways for the understanding and meaning of works, I am increasingly drawn to summative and simple natural or organic symbols and signifiers that allow for a certain ‘pre-coding’ of a work in the mind of the listener: one that relies on time and memory, emotional response and intellectual engagement with organic and natural world metaphors.


Next Show

2019 NODUS Ensemble Fall Concert Series

UNE SEULE FEMME ENDORMIE—for high voice and singing cellist
Miami Beach Urban Studios, Main Gallery







Gareth Davies on Knehans’ TEMPEST—Flute Concerto