David Hirst has composed electroacoustic music for more than 30 years. His main output has been electroacoustic music for a fixed medium, such as CD or tape, designed to be listened to over headphones or performed in concert over a multi-speaker sound diffusion system. However, his style has evolved over the years from algorithmic music composition, influenced by American computer music practices, to an acousmatic music aesthetic influenced by the French, British and Canadian composers, such as Parmegiani, Smalley, Harrison, and Normandeau, who use recorded sound to create musique concrète. Hirst’s work also includes live electronic performance, interactive works, pieces for instruments and electronics, and sound art installations, notably the “play that becomes an installation” called Namelessness – conceived with sculptor Peter Cripps.
Hirst’s works have been played in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, Asia and New Zealand, at events such as: the International Computer Music Conference, Eastman School of Music, New York; the EuCu concert, Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, Montreal; the Australasian Computer Music Conferences; the Astra Music Society’s Scienceworks Museum, Melbourne; and the Blank Desire with a Touch of Malice contemporary music series, which he curated as a part of Tasmania’s Salamanca Arts Festival.
He has performed with instrumentalists such as percussionists, Graeme Leak and Phil Treloar, and fellow electronic musicians Graeme Gerrard, Jim Sosnin, Roger Alsop, and students of the Bell and Whistle Company ensemble, which he founded in 1989.
Recordings of Hirst’s works have been released by Frog Peak Music, USA, PeP Recordings, Canada, the Australian Computer Music Association, and NMA Tapes, Australia. His works have been broadcast on Australian local and national radio networks, international radio stations, and on the internet in projects such as the Ear to the Earth’s 100 x John project to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Cage in 2012.
Born in Geelong, Victoria, Hirst graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours from La Trobe University in Melbourne. Awarded the David Myers Medal as the most outstanding humanities honours graduate in 1981, Hirst completed a Master of Arts by research in 1985, and subsequently obtained a PhD with a music composition folio and a music psychology thesis, entitled The Development of a Cognitive Framework for the Analysis of Acousmatic Music, at the University of Melbourne.
In 1986, Hirst took up a position as Lecturer in Electronic Music and Composition at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music. He returned to La Trobe University in 1989 as Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Music Technology, and from 1993 to 1996 served as Head of the Music Department. In 1997, Hirst studied composition with Professor Jonty Harrison at the University of Birmingham, UK.
As an academic at the University of Melbourne from 2000 to 2007, Hirst served as a Senior Lecturer in Educational Design, an Adjunct Lecturer with the Interaction Design Group in the Department of Information Systems, and then as a Senior Research Fellow in the Music and Neurocognition Laboratory of the School of Psychological Sciences.
Appointed Senior Lecturer in Curriculum and Academic Development at La Trobe University in 2008, he became Associate Professor and Director, Design for Learning in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2011. In October 2012, Hirst became an honorary Adjunct Associate Professor in Music at the Centre for Creative Arts at La Trobe University and in October 2013 he was appointed as Honorary Principal Fellow in the School of Contemporary Music, Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne, and from 2017 he has been an Honorary Principal Fellow at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne.
Hirst has published extensively on electroacoustic music, in journals such as Organised Sound, Array, Chroma, Sounds Australian, New Music Articles, Press Press Magazine, and he was the founding editor of Mikropolyphonie, the online contemporary music journal (1996-2004). His book, A Cognitive Framework for the Analysis of Acousmatic Music: Analysing Wind Chimes by Denis Smalley, was published by VDM Verlag in 2008 and his work has been published by the Computer Music Journal. Hirst’s interest in the analysis and perception of electroacoustic music has led to the recent chapter ‘Sound analysis and musicology’ in the Andrew Brown edited book Sound Musicianship: Understanding the Crafts of Music. He has also been a contributor to the OREMA (Online Repository for Electroacoustic Music Analysis) Project being conducted by Prof Leigh Landy and Prof Simon Emmerson at De Montfort University, and, in 2013, he was invited to serve on the founding Review Board for the online journal eOREMA, along with: Dr Simon Atkinson; Prof Marc Battier; Prof Michael Clarke; Dr John Dack; Prof Simon Emmerson; Dr David Hirst; Prof Andrew Hugill; Dr Gary Kendall; Prof Leigh Landy; Dr Cathy Lane; Dr Katharine Norman; Prof Robert Normandeau; Prof Tae Hong Park ; Prof Peter Stollery; and Prof John Young.
Hirst has served Australian music as: a Member of the Board of Directors of the Australian Music Centre (2001-2004); Secretary (1989-1991) and President (1992-1993) of the Australasian Computer Music Association. He has been a paper reviewer or music juror for: the eOREMA Journal (2013); the book Sound Musicianship: Understanding the Crafts of Music (2012); the Organised Sound Journal (2011); the APRA Australian Art Music Awards – Experimental Music category (2011); the International Computer Music Conference (2013 Perth, 2011 Huddersfield, 2005 Spain, 1997 Greece); Australasian Computer Music Conference (2018-19, 2014-16, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999, 1998); Synaesthetica ’94 – the conference of computer music and computer animation held at the Australian Centre for Art and Technology in Canberra; the ASCILITE Conference (2008); EDUCAUSE Conference Australasia (2006); the Canadian Electroacoustic Community’s DisContact 2003 music composition competition; and the Australian Music Centre’s National Awards (2001).
He has been a member of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community; the International Computer Music Association; the Australasian Computer Music Association; the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education; and a member of the Salamanca Arts Festival Committee Tasmania (1986-1988).
As well as supervising a number of Honours, Masters, and PhD students at the University of Tasmania, La Trobe University, and the University of Melbourne, Hirst has examined PhD and Masters theses from the University of Wollongong; the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney; the University of Melbourne; and the Victorian College of the Arts.