Andrew Ford OAM is a composer, writer and broadcaster who has won awards in each of those capacities, including the Paul Lowin Prize for his song cycle Learning to Howl, a Green Room Award for his opera Rembrandt’s Wife and the Albert H Maggs Prize for his large ensemble piece, Rauha. He has been composer-in-residence for the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. In 2014 he was Poynter Fellow and visiting composer at Yale University, in 2015 visiting lecturer at the Shanghai Conservatory, and in 2018 HC Coombs Creative Arts Fellow at the Australian National University. Ford has written widely on all manner of music and published ten books, most recently The Song Remains the Same with Anni Heino (La Trobe University Press, 2019). He has written, presented and co-produced five radio series for the ABC and, since 1995, presented The Music Show each weekend on Radio National. He was awarded an OAM in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Andrew Ford OAM is an Australian composer, writer and broadcaster, known for his engagement with poetry in a succession of songs and song cycles, his musical responses to the visual arts, and the creation of vividly scored orchestral works.
Ford’s music has been performed and broadcast in many parts of the world, and championed by groups such as the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Brodsky Quartet and the New Juilliard Ensemble, which, under its founder Joel Sachs, gave the New York premiere of five of his works, including Scenes from Bruegel, co-commissioned by the Juilliard School and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra.
Other groups who have taken up Ford’s music include the Black Dyke Band (UK), Da Capo Chamber Players (New York), dèdalo Ensemble (Brescia), Duo Stump-Linshalm (Vienna), Ensamble 3 (Mexico City), Het Trio (Amsterdam), Hong Kong Sinfonietta, London Sinfonietta, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Shanghai String Quartet and all Australia’s major orchestras and ensembles. His works for orchestra or large ensemble have been conducted by Oliver Knussen, Odaline de la Martinez, Reinbert de Leeuw, James MacMillan, Brett Dean, Paul Daniel, Jeffrey Tate, Marko Letonja and Benjamin Northey, his piano pieces played by Peter Donohoe, Lisa Moore, Ananda Sukarlan, Michael Kieran Harvey and Aura Go, and his songs sung by Yvonne Kenny, Iva Bittová, Katie Noonan, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Gian Slater and Gerald English. The music-theatre piece Night and Dreams: the death of Sigmund Freud (words by Margaret Morgan) was written for English and he gave its premiere at the Adelaide Festival in 2000, before taking it to the Sydney and Melbourne festivals in 2001. A recording of the piece was released on Decca Eloquence label in 2008.
Born in Liverpool, England, in 1957, Ford spent much of his childhood listening to the Beatles and other Sixties pop groups. After his family moved to Kent, he attended St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington. In 1975 he went to Lancaster University where he studied composition with Edward Cowie and John Buller and had a formative meeting with Sir Michael Tippett who told him to forget about musical systems and trust his instincts. Between 1978 and 1982 he was Fellow in Music at the University of Bradford. In 1983 he relocated to Australia to join the Faculty of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong. While there, he completed a doctorate, writing his thesis on musical word setting from Elvis Costello to Elliott Carter. Between 1992 and 1994 Ford was composer in residence with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Since 1995 he has presented The Music Show each weekend on ABC Radio National.
Ford was a recipient of the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Fellowship (1998 – 2000), and during this period, he began work on The Waltz Book, an hour-long cycle of minute waltzes to a commission from the pianist Ian Munro. More recent works include Raga for electric guitar and orchestra, premiered in the Adelaide Guitar Festival by Zane Banks with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra under Benjamin Northey; a Missa brevis commissioned by four Australian cathedrals; the song cycle Last Words, commissioned by the soprano Jane Sheldon and first performed by her with the Seraphim Trio at the Port Fairy Spring Festival; and The Meaning of Trees commissioned by the Australian Youth Orchestra and premiered by them under Matthew Coorey at the end of 2022.
Last Words was named Vocal Work of the Year at the 2014 Australian Art Music Awards. Ford’s other prizes include the Yorkshire Arts Composers Award, which he won jointly with Mark-Anthony Turnage in 1982 (for Portraits), the Sydney Spring Festival award in 1998 (for Tattoo) and the 2002 Jean Bogan Prize (for The Waltz Book). In 2004, Learning to Howl received both the AMC award for the best composition by an Australian composer and the prestigious Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize; Tales of the Supernatural was named APRA vocal work of the year in 2005; Ford’s opera, Rembrandt’s Wife, to a libretto by Sue Smith, won a 2010 Victorian Green Room Award; and Rauha, for wind, brass, percussion, keyboards and double basses, won the 2012 Albert H Maggs Award. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Ford is often invited to give lectures, both in Australia and overseas. In 2014 he was Poynter Fellow and visiting composer at Yale University, in 2015 visiting lecturer at the Shanghai Conservatory, and in 2018, H C Coombs Creative Arts Fellow at the Australian National University. Ford writes and broadcasts widely about music, his work in that area recognised in 1998 with the Geraldine Pascall Prize for critical writing and, in 2021, a Sidney Myer Facilitator’s Prize. He has published ten books, most recently The Song Remains the Same with Anni Heino (La Trobe University Press, 2019), and written, presented and co-produced five radio series, Illegal Harmonies (1997), Dots on the Landscape – an oral history of Australian music (2001), Music and Fashion (2005), The Sound of Pictures (2010) and Earth Dances (2015). His conversations about music and art with the painter Ben Quilty, Three Front Doors and a Paddock, are available to download.
Ford lives with his wife and daughter in the NSW Southern Highlands.
Updated December 2023