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Graeme Koehne

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Name  Graeme Koehne
Role  Composer
Music director  Heaven's Burning

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Education  Elder Conservatorium, University of Adelaide, Yale University
Similar People  Ross Edwards, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Richard Mills, Peter Sculthorpe, Diana Doherty

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Graeme Koehne, AO (born 3 August 1956), is an Australian composer and music educator. He is best known for his orchestral and ballet scores, which are characterised by direct communicative style and embrace of triadic tonality. His orchestral trilogy Unchained Melody, Powerhouse, and Elevator Music makes allusions to Hollywood film score traditions, cartoon music, popular Latin music and other dance forms.


Graeme koehne inflight entertainment concerto for amplified oboe and orchestra 1999

Life and career

Koehne was born in Adelaide. He completed his undergraduate and post-graduate studies at the Elder Conservatorium of Music in that city, studying composition with Richard Meale – a pupil of Winifred Burston, who had been a pupil of Ferruccio Busoni.

In 1984, Koehne was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to work at the School of Music, Yale University. Here he studied with Louis Andriessen and Jacob Druckman. For two years of the fellowship he also took private lessons with Virgil Thomson.

He returned to Australia in 1986 and was appointed Lecturer in Composition at the Elder Conservatorium of Music. At the 1992 Adelaide Festival of Arts, he gained national attention, when he was awarded the Young Composers Prize for his orchestral work Rainforest. Around this time, he commenced his long and fruitful collaboration with choreographer Graeme Murphy, which included a children's ballet based on Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant and the full-length work Nearly Beloved.

As of 2005, Koehne is Head of Composition at the Elder Conservatorium of Music. Until recently he also chaired the Music Board of the Australia Council and was a board member of the Council.


In 2001, Koehne was awarded the Centenary Medal. In the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours List, Koehne was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), "for distinguished service to the performing arts as a composer of chamber, concert and ballet music, and through substantial contributions as an educator and arts administrator."



  • Nearly Beloved (1986; Sydney Dance Company)
  • Nocturnes, 1914 (The Australian Ballet)
  • The Selfish Giant (1983; Sydney Dance Company)
  • Tivoli (2001; Sydney Dance Company/The Australian Ballet co-production)
  • Chamber music

  • String Quartet
  • To His Servant Bach God Grants a Final Glimpse – The Morning Star (1989; also transcribed as organ trio)
  • Concertos

  • InFlight Entertainment (2000, oboe concerto)
  • Orchestral

  • Rainforest (c. 1982)
  • Unchained Melody (1991)
  • Powerhouse (1993)
  • Elevator Music (1997)
  • Way Out West (2000)
  • Sleep of Reason (2008)
  • Song of the Open Road (2017)
  • Awards

  • 2009: APRA Music Award Orchestral Work of the Year win for Tivoli Dances and nomination for Palm Court Suite, both composed by Koehne and performed by Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Richard Mills.
  • Recordings

  • Tivoli Dances (2008) – featuring: "Tivoli Dances", "Shaker Dances", "Palm Court Suite", and "To His Servant Bach, God Grants a Final Glimpse: The Morning Star"; performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
  • Time Is a River (2015) – featuring: "Forty Reasons to Be Cheerful (Festive Fanfare)", "The Persistence of Memory", "Divertissement, Trois pieces bourgeoises", "Between Two Worlds", and "Time Is a River"; performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
  • References

    Graeme Koehne Wikipedia