James Murdoch, Man of Music, Leaves Us


Long-term Australian expatriate James Murdoch, who had lived in Bali since 1990, died on October 24 and was cremated on Sunday last week in a ceremony at Mumbul, Jimbaran, attended by many of his friends. He was 80.

Murdoch, who was born in Sydney in 1930, studied piano, composition and conducting at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music and went to Madrid in 1958 as music director and company pianist for the renowned Luisolla and the Spanish Dance Theatre.

In 1962 he returned to Australia as assistant musical director and company pianist of the Australian Ballet and later launched a musical publication, the Universal Record Club, for which he wrote more than 200 record cover notes.

In 1968, Murdoch went to London where he established the James Murdoch Management agency which provided artistic management for composers Peter Maxwell Davies, Hans Werner Henze and Harrison Birtwistle, the pianists Roger Woodward and Paul Crossley, and groups such as the Fires of London, the Pierrot Players, and the Budapest Chamber Orchestra.

Then, in 1972, he returned to Australia as music consultant to the Musical Board of the Australia Council. He published a book examining the work of 33 composers, Australia’s Contemporary Composers.

He was appointed national director of the Australian Music Centre in 1975 and in 1980 was elected world president of the Music Information Centre’s Professional Branch.

In 1983, after publishing a second book, A Handbook of Australian Music, Murdoch established a music consultancy and worked as a consultant at the Sydney Opera House Trust and the Australia Council. He was artistic director of the Australian bicentenary year art festival New Directions.

In 2002 he wrote a biography of the Australian composer, critic and feminist Peggy Glanville-Hicks.

James Murdoch’s papers, recording, correspondence and other documents form a special collection at the Australian National Library in Canberra.

A cremation ceremony was held at the Mumbul Crematorium, Jimbaran, last Sunday.

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