PhD (Music Composition), UNSW
Diploma in Teaching, UTS
Associate Diploma in Jazz Studies, USyd
Alister Spence is an internationally-recognised pianist, composer, and performer of jazz and improvised music.
He holds a PhD in Creative Practice (Music Composition) from the University of New South Wales, and a Diploma in Teaching from the University of Technology Sydney. Spence’s academic research investigates contingency in music composition and improvisation. This field of research is directly linked to his creative practice.
Spence’s original compositions and performances are documented on more than fifty albums. He has performed with and composed for many important ensembles in jazz and improvised music including: Clarion Fracture Zone, Wanderlust, the Bernie McGann Trio, the Australian Art Orchestra, Alister Spence Trio, Sruthi Laya Ensemble (Chennai, India), Sandy Evans, Julien Wilson, The Martenitsa Choir, Sensaround, Satoko Fujii and Satoko Fujii Orchestras (Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kobe), Myra Melford, and the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra
Spence’s compositional portfolio spans several hundred works — mostly music for concert performance, and also film, and theatre production. This includes several major longform works. Soak — a suite in five movements premiered by the Australian Art Orchestra at the Melbourne International Arts Festival in 2009 — and Imagine Meeting You Here, premiered by Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo at the Sengawa Jazz Art Festival Japan, and the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra at GIOFestIX in Glasgow in 2016.
Awards for Alister Spence’s composition and performance work include the 2014 APRA/AMCOS Art Music Award for Everything Here is Possible, a duet with US improvising pianist Myra Melford. He received an Australian Record Industry Award (ARIA) in 1990 for Blue Shift (Best Australian Jazz Album) as co-leader/composer/performer with Clarion Fracture Zone, and in 1993 for Wanderlust. In 2004 and 2007, the Alister Spence Trio was nominated for Best Australian Jazz Album (ARIA Awards) for the audio recordings Flux, and Mercury. Not Everything But Enough (Alister Spence Trio) was nominated for a 2018 Art Music Award .
In film music Alister Spence has worked extensively with indigenous film maker Ivan Sen. Journey was awarded ‘Best Score’ at the Edge of the World Film Festival (Hobart) in 1998. Beneath Clouds (co-composed with Sen) was nominated for Best Score for a feature film at the Australian Film Industry Awards and the Film Critics Awards 2002. Theatre composition credits include Angela’s Kitchen (Griffin Theatre, 2010), Die Winterreise (Malthouse Theatre, 2011), I Love Todd Sampson (Living Room Theatre, 2017). He has worked in mixed media improvised performance with film and video artist Louise Curham, including at The Now Now Festival (2010). This collaboration is documented on the CD/DVD fit (Rufus Records, 2009).
Alister Spence has been the recipient of numerous music composition, performance, and recording grants from the Australia Council for the Arts, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Australia Japan Foundation. Outcomes include touring and performing new works in Australia, Europe, Canada, US, Japan, Taiwan, China, and India.
At UNSW Alister Spence teaches in jazz composition and improvisation. His research into the Experimental Composition Improvisation Continuum (ECIC) is ongoing.
2014 APRA/AMCOS Art Music Award, 'Excellence in Jazz,' for CD recording Everything Here is Possible.' (Alister Spence and Myra Melford as composers and performers.)
1993 APRA Award, 'Best Jazz Album,' for Wanderlust. (Alister Spence as band member, composer/performer.)
1990 APRA Award, 'Best Jazz Album,' for Blue Shift by Clarion Fracture Zone. (Alister Spence as joint-leader, composer/performer.)
Spence, A. (2020). Championing Risk and Discovery: Satoko Fujii and the Experimental Composition Improvisation Continuum. In Hamilton, A., & Pearson, L. (Eds.), The Aesthetics of Imperfection in Music and the Arts: Spontaneity, Flaws and the Unfinished (pp. 253-269). London, Oxford, New York: Bloomsbury Academic
Spence, A. (2021). The Experimental Composition Improvisation Continua Model: A Tool for Musical Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 12(859). doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.611536
Musicological Society of Australia
Australian Jazz and Improvisation Research Network
Australian Music Centre
Australasian Performing Right Association Limited (APRA)
My Research Supervision
HDR PhD Candidate, Ryan Martin. Thesis title: 'Improvisation, Audience Interaction, and Social Change.' Topic Area: Social Aesthetics; Improvisation; Audience Interaction; Critical Practice. (joint supervisor with Dr John Napier.)
HDR MPhil Candidate, Eric Hutchens. Thesis title: 'Sonic Hybridity in the double bass works of John Patitucci.' Topic Area: Music composition and improvisation, music performance, musicology. (joint supervisor with Dorottya Fabian.)