Daniel Portelli artist-academic (sound, music intermedia)

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Dr Daniel Portelli is an artist-academic who works as a sessional lecturer in music composition at Western Sydney University (WSU) and the University of New England (UNE). He is a Badugulang Fellow, and an Associate Fellow with the Advanced Higher Education Academy. Recent publications include Leonardo Music Journal, ADSR Zine, and the Journal of Embodied Research. He is an alumnus of the Centre for Research in New Music at the University of Huddersfield (UK), where he was awarded a PhD in composition. He is also a peer assessor for the Australia Council for the Arts, working as an Industry Advisor for experimental, contemporary classical music, and the cross-disciplinary arts.

Long bio

Daniel Portelli (he/him) is a composer / sound artist from Darug Country who now lives and works on Gadigal Country. He is an alumnus of the Centre for Research in New Music at the University of Huddersfield (United Kingdom), and was awarded a PhD in composition with principal supervisor Professor Liza Lim and co-supervisor Professor Peter Ablinger. He works as a unit coordinator and casual lecturer in music at Western Sydney University (WSU) and is a Badugulang Fellow and an Associate Fellow with the Advanced Higher Education Academy. His music has been performed by a range of new music ensembles and soloist around the world, such as Tracensemble, Peyee Chen, Diego Castro Magaš, Soundstream Collective, Gabriella Smart, Adelaide Philharmonic Choir, The Music Box ProjectTwo New Duo, the Melbourne Symphony OrchestraTamara Anna CislowskaESMUC Ensemble, Ensemble New Babylon, Claire Edwardes, Liu Ying, and by a robotic piano named RHEA. He is also a peer assessor for the Australia Council for the Arts, working as an Industry Advisor for experimental/contemporary classical music, and the cross-disciplinary arts. He exhibited a sound art installation, Water Pail, at World Square, Sydney, in the Now You Hear Her festival. He guest lectured at the University of Sydney about his artistic research in 2018. And in 2020 gave a webinar about ‘Cultural resilience in a time of crisis’ at WSU. He was the winner of the Winston Music ECF commission where he wrote a new work for choir and ensemble, conducted by Warwick Stengårds (Opera Australia).

His artistic work prioritises collaboration, interdisciplinary and experimental arts practices where he often works with divergent approaches to notational systems. These novel methodologies invite performers and audiences to open up their senses and engage in a process where music and dance are intertwined as undifferentiated practices. His music involves a particulate instrumental vocabulary with interweaving lines of granulations, microtonality, the use of found objects, instrument building, critical and experimental score-based practices, heterotopic couplings, and theatricality. His recent artistic interest examines the relationship between composition/performance with cinematic art ideas and techniques, along with the ecological and social, and its relation to the cognitive sciences, higher order modes of learning, and philosophy of mind.

His work has featured on multiple playlists by Making Waves, a monthly curated series that features Australian art music. He has a journal article published with the prestigious Leonardo Music Journal and MIT Press entitled Music gesture and correspondence of lines: collaborative video mediation and methodology, which draws a relationship between music gesture, anthropology, lines, correspondence, and his recent developments in video scoring technology. He published an article in ADSR Zine edition 013 called Music in Impossible Spaces about virtual heterotopias, the spaces of dreams, decorporalised music, and a muse on our inner imaginary sonic experiences. ADSR Zine won the award for Excellence in Experimental Music for their 2021 activities, which included this work. ‘His video-essay ‘What the River Doesn’t Say About Itself’ was published in the Journal of Embodied Research for their special issue on Ecologies of Embodiment, 2022. A co-composition with mangroves and with members of The Music Box Project  who preform on small boats. He also has a peer-reviewed article published about his quasi-musical theatre work Mapping Australia (2014) – which is a critical look at Australia’s cartography practices from the 1960s with deeper cultural connotations and reflections (see the fifth issue of the CeReNeM Journal (UK)).

Portelli was involved in the Composition Beyond Music workshop established by composer Peter Ablinger, where he exhibited an interactive video/sound installation at ESC gallery in Graz, Austria as part of Impuls Music Academy. In 2020, he created an imaginary sound art series where one of the pieces involves internalising a graphic score (see Dream recorder). He is also working with anonymous dream stories taken from the COVID on MIND and Pandemic Dreams research studies to develop a new ensemble piece about our connection to whales and oceanographic change (commissioned by Ensemble New Babylon, Bremen, Germany). He was a composer in residence in a 16-week multi-art-form collaboration for a library in Western Sydney. And in 2014, he represented Australia as the Young Composer Representative at the Asian Music Festival in Tokyo and Yokohama. His music is published to a CD called ‘Playing with Fire’ released under the label Wirripang Media Pty. Ltd, as part of a series of electro-acoustic compositions performed by highly acclaimed Australian pianist Tamara Anna Cislowska.

I recognise and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, their ancestors, the elders past, present and future from the different First Nations across this country. Sovereignty was never ceded. I acknowledge the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community for the wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.

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I am committed to inclusion and actively supporting people, social movements, and organisational initiatives that drive gender and cultural equity. I support marginalised and underrepresented groups who are unfairly disadvantaged by the economic and social inequalities in our society, especially those that result from intergenerational trauma, this includes people of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community, women, neurodiverse people, people living with a disability, migrants, refugees, First Nations people, culturally and linguistically diverse people, the elderly, and intersectionality. I am open to listen, to learn, to self reflect, to take a supportive role, to be an ally in solidarity, and work towards breaking down social and systemic barriers.

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Please consider the following:

Water Pail
Water Pail, sound installation, World Square, 2021

Dream Recorder (2020) – score excerpt

  • Water Pail (2021) 8 large cooking oil drums, 8 transducers, 4 audio playback devices with amplifiers, exposed speaker, finger cymbals, metal güiro, water, brushes, soft and rubber mallets – for solo percussionist. 
  • Ontogeny (2019) (in-progress) for piccolo and electronic playback
  • Hyperbodies (2015)  for robot piano 10’29” [MIDI]
  • Mapping Australia (2014) – for piano and electronics with video score 7′ [multimedia]
  • Serpentine (2017) for erhu and percussion 7′ [multimedia]
  • Memory Tape (2015) – for cello, trombone, and recorded media 11′
  • Undulations (2014) – for two soprano saxophones 6’09”
  • A Sense of Space (2015/16) for flute, nylon guitar, and soprano with percussion 10′
  • Whale Fall (2021) for flute, violin, cello, e-bass, piano, percussion, electronics, video, and spoken word (dream recall recordings). 
  • Animal (2015) for violin, cello, percussion, keyboard, and choir with video score 10′ [multimedia]
  • Antibiosis (2011) – for chamber ensemble and recorded media 10’25″
  • The Expansive Water (2010) – for chamber orchestra 7’36″
  • Finding Kensho (2012) – for chamber orchestra – Premiered by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra 8’15″
  • Whale Fall (2021) – electronic part and spoken word (dream recall recording) 7’52”
  • Temporal Planes (2013) – Electronic Media [Recording] – Performed and Recorded by Entoptic Ensemble – 17’04″
  • Dream Recorder (2020) for a dreamt sub-contrabass recorder (part of the imaginary sound art series)
  • Rush tones  (2020) for one or more accordions along a river stream (part of the imaginary sound art series)
  • Water Pail (2021) 8 large cooking oil drums, 8 transducers, 4 audio playback devices with amplifiers, exposed speaker, finger cymbals, metal güiro, water, brushes, soft and rubber mallets – for solo percussionist. 
  • The Glass of Imagination (2020) is a website containing video samples of singing wine glasses and bells ringing, tuned to different microtonal pitches, to be performed on multiple devices.
  • Copy-Make (2015) Interactive video installation, made as part of ‘Composition Beyond Music’, in Graz, Austria.