Lisa Illean: arcing, stilling, bending, gathering

Lisa Illean: arcing, stilling, bending, gathering

NMC Recordings
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Release date: 7 June 2024

Lisa Illean is a composer whose work has been described as ‘music that seeps into your consciousness’ (ABC Classic FM). Her subtle, mesmerising compositions explore nuances of sonority, timbre, auditory phenomena and perspective, and have been performed by acclaimed ensembles across the globe. On arcing, stilling, bending, gathering, Illean's debut portrait album, four different works are assembled to offer a portal into her delicately captivating sound-world.

The album opens with the title work performed by the Australian National Academy of Music. Scored for piano, a string ensemble divided into smaller 'satellite' groups, and pre-recorded electronic sound, the piece uses a 'non-tempered' tuning system, aiming to give a sound that is 'plain, quotidian, and sometimes fragile' (Illean). The composer describes this piece as 'a very personal contemplation of the moments of kinship and tenderness that balance the immensity of the world we inhabit'.

Tiding II (silentium) is the second in a collection of Illean's pieces dealing with elemental patterns. George Barton (percussion), Siwan Rhys (piano), and David Zucchi (soprano saxophone) bring to life transient sheets of sound, ebbing and flowing with the tides, the tension between fluidity and precision never far from the surface.

Soprano Juliet Fraser joins Explore Ensemble for A through-grown earth, a darkly intimate setting of the highly personal poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Again using non-tempered tuning and pre-recorded sound – this time an eerie chorus of retuned zithers – Illean worked very closely with Fraser, who has been dubbed 'one of those singular voices of a generation' (VAN Magazine), to create music that explores the subtle extremities of the voice.

New realms of quietitude are found in the work which employs the largest forces – Land's End, played by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Inspired by detailed pencil drawings of windswept landscapes by Latvian-American artist Vija Celmins, sound is suggested, whispered, inviting us to lean forward, so that ‘the experience of the piece is to be found as much within the listener as the sounds that I have organised’ (Illean). 'A tantalisingly beautiful piece, it consist[s] of the quietest wisps and traceries of sound that forever seem to just hang in the air. It k[eeps] one’s concentration on a knife-edge.' (In-review)

NMC’s Debut Discs are crucial calling cards, valuable for showcasing composers to a wider public, giving them the opportunity to present a first full portrait album of their work. Debut Discs has to date supported 23 releases.

Aura Go piano 
Emma McGrath
Tilman Robinson
Australian National Academy of Music
Explore Ensemble

David Zucchi soprano saxophone
Juliet Fraser soprano
Sydney Symphony Orchestra
David Robertson
Michael Acker electronics
Experimentalstudio des SWR



'This disc sounds exquisite, one constant in the four works collected being producer Nicholas Moroz. Recording music this delicate, this refined, takes rare skill" ... "It’s all compelling, and already on my provisional ‘best of 2024’ list.' The Arts Desk

'A bold, accomplished composition.' Cooky La Moo


This recording was made possible with support from Vaughan Williams Foundation and Lisa Illean is supported by PRS Foundation’s Composers’ Fund. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through Creative Australia, its principal arts investment and advisory body. Thank you to the trusts, foundations and individuals who are investing in NMC’s Debut Discs series.







arcing, stilling, bending, gathering was recorded at Melbourne Recital Centre on 21 April 2023. The pre-recorded sound files were created with David Lefeber and Explore Ensemble, at Trinity College, Oxford on 30 June 2022. The piece was commissioned by UKARIA, Finding Our Voice and Britten Sinfonia. Finding Our Voice is supported by UKARIA, the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund – an Australian Government initiative – and the following individuals and foundations: Ulrike Klein AO, Berg Family Foundation, The Yulgilbar Foundation, The Aranday Foundation, Playking Foundation and Julie Kantor AO.

JAKOB GAUDASINSKI Recording Engineer

Tiding II (silentium) was recorded at St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield on 11 March 2024. Commissioned by the SWR for Donaueschinger Musiktage, and supported through a residency with the SWR Experimentalstudio.

NICHOLAS MOROZ Recording Engineer

A through-grown earth was recorded at at All Saints, East Finchley on 8 February 2024. Commissioned by Explore Ensemble with the assistance of Arts Council England. The first (solo) version of this piece was created with the assistance of the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; with thanks also to the Britten-Pears Foundation, Anne Denholm, Steve Harrington, Sound and Music, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the Leverhulme Trust and Arts Council England.

EXPLORE ENSEMBLE Taylor MacLennan flute, Alex Roberts clarinet, David López Ibáñez violin, Morag Robertson viola, Deni Teo cello.

NICHOLAS MOROZ Recording Engineer

Land’s End was recorded by ABC Classic FM at Carriageworks, Sydney on 13 March 2016. Commissioned by Sydney Symphony Orchestra with support from Raji Ambikairajah.

DON BATE Recording Engineer

NICHOLAS MOROZ Album Producer & Mastering
LISA ILLEAN Album Producer


Release date: 7 June 2024
Catalogue number: NMC D264