Roger Dean (Composer-improviser; keyboards, computer; arts researcher; Founder and Director of LYSIS and austraLYSIS)

"one of the guiding figures in electro-acoustic music in Australia" (Julian Day, New Music Up Late, ABC FM, 20130302)

play roger's miniature, "sounding science"

View an article about his musical activities, or a newspaper comment. Hear his inaugural lecture as a research professor at MARCS Auditory Labs, University of Western Sydney (October 2007). Listen to his polemic on how to establish an Australian cultural funding policy which will treat creative work and performance equitably: a talk at the Currency House series at the Sydney Opera House (2008; also heard on ABC radio in 2009).


Roger's notated compositions / acousmatic works / compositions for improvisers / multimedia work  / free improvisation recordings/ creative work on lp/cd / other commercial recordings / humanities research publications /a selection of improvisers and jazz musicians with whom he has worked


Roger is a composer-improviser, and pianist/computer performer. He was based in London (UK) until 1989, when he migrated to Australia. He has worked extensively on the European scene, as well as in Asia, Australasia, and North America. He studied the double bass with Eugene Cruft and was Principal bass in the National Youth Orchestra (UK). He gave a solo performance at the Wigmore Hall at the age of 15. He played bass with European groups such as the Berliner Band, London Sinfonietta, Music Projects/London, Nash Ensemble, Sonant, Spectrum, London Jazz Composers' Orchestra, and the BBC SymphonY Orchestra. He has given premieres of many works for solo double bass (e.g. Bush, Bussotti, Feldman, Ferneyhough, Finnissy, Henze, Holmboe, Kagel, Knussen, Lovendie, Nicholson, Wallace, Xenakis) and many have been written for him. He has also been keyboard player with other ensembles (such as Spectrum and the Wallace Collection) and has worked extensively as accompanist with Hazel Smith (violin), John Wallace(trumpet), Peter Jenkin (clarinet) and also with Gerald English (tenor). He was the keyboard player with the eminent European jazz group Graham Collier Music between 1974 and 1988, rejoining them regularly since, and after Graham's death in 2011, performing in a tribute concert at the London Jazz Festival(2012). He has played both bass and piano with Sydney Alpha Ensemble, and was amongst their featured soloists in 1995. He formed the European group LYSIS in 1970, and it became austraLYSIS in Sydney.

Dean has worked with many musicians (a list of the improvisers is here), ranging stylistically from Kathy Stobart to Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Barry Guy and the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra, and Kagel, Penderecki and Stockhausen. Before moving to Australia in 1989, he played a solo piano concert at the Gap in Sydney, and performed with Lysis at Sydney Opera House for the ABC. Since being in Australia, he has given many solo performances including broadcasts for ABC 'Jazztrack'; dueted with Rob Avenaim and Tony Buck (percussion/electronics), Jim Denley (flutes), Sandy Evans (saxophones), Colin Offord (constructed instruments) and Daryl Pratt (percussion), and with Chris Abrahams, Serge Ermoll, Roger Frampton and Mike Nock (keyboardists). He has also played and recorded as principal bass with the Australian Chamber Orchestra; worked with Artisans' Workshop, Oren Ambarchi's Cobra, the Sydney Alpha Ensemble, and with Watt; and formed, played and recorded with austraLYSIS.

Dean has composed extensively, particularly for jazz and improvising ensembles : one of his extended works was a feature for Ken Wheeler (trumpet/flugel) and an enlarged Lysis, and is on Lysis Plus (Future Music Records, UK). With Hazel Smith, he has created several text-sound works, such as Poet without Language, Silent Waves, Nuraghic Echoes, and The Afterlives of Betsy Scott, recorded for the ABC. His compositions include Elektra Pulses for string quartet (with computer tape), and Raising not Climbing, a solo cello work. His It Gets Complicated for piano/speaker has been recorded by Michael Kieran Harvey, and released on Red House Records (cd RED 9401). His computer music has been presented at the International Computer Music Conference and in many other contexts. His largest commission to date, SonoPetal, was from the Australian Chamber Orchestra, supported by the Australia Council, and he conducted it around Australia in 1996. He also has completed commissions from Peter Jenkin, Rob Nairn, b'Tutta, Sydney Alpha Ensemble and the Wallace Collection, and recently provided sound for an interactive multimedia installationa, Finitude, by Keith Armstrong and collaborators. His scores are available through the
Australian Music Centre, and published by RedHouse Editions, La Trobe University Press, and in many books. Since 1998 much of his work has been for cd-rom (Walking the Faultlines, released on the first cd-rom from the International Computer Music Association), and for the web (Wordstuffs, and Intertwingling), in each case, austraLYSIS collaborations. He has developed techniques of animation, first using VRML and now Jitter, which establish extensive algorithmic interaction between sound and image generative components of real-time performance works. Since 2011 he has collaborated with renowned installation artist Keith Armstrong, and with American video-artist Will Luers.

Amongst his more than 50 recordings are The Wings of the Whale (with Lysis; Soma 783; now available on Spotify, iTunes,Amazon and at the Australian Music Centre), Moving the Landscapes (with austraLYSIS; Tall Poppies 007), Xenakis Epei with Spectrum on the Wergo label, and music of American 'Bang on the Can' initiator, Michael Gordon, on CRI.

Roger is also intensely active in research. His book 'Creative Improvisation' was published by Open University Press (UK/US, 1989), and is a highly theorised yet practical book on improvisatory techniques. His companion analytical volume 'New Structures in Jazz and Improvised Music Since 1960' was also released by them, in 1992. A more recent book, 'Improvisation, Hypermedia and the Arts since 1945', written in collaboration with Hazel Smith, analyses and theorises improvisation in the arts besides music (Harwood Academic 1997). His book (with cd-rom), 'Hyperimprovisation: computer-interactive sound improvisation' was published by A-R Editions (USA; 2003), the leading specialist publisher on computer music. Since then he has published on Australian Jazz recordings (with the Australian Music Centre), and has edited the Oxford Companion to Computer Music (2009), and co-edited 'Practice-led research, research-led practice in the Creative Arts (with Hazel Smith; Edinburgh University Press 2009). Dean is a subject in 'Jazz: The Essential Companion', 'Jazz : the Rough Guide' and the recent Grove Dictionaries of Music, and of Jazz. His work, and that of austraLYSIS, is reflected in more than a dozen index entries in the 2003 'Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia' (eds. John Whiteoak and Aline Scott-Maxwell). Dean is the author of numerous research articles, originally in biochemistry, and since 2006 in music cognition and computation.

Because of his involvement with academia and scientific research as well as music and the humanities, he has appeared as one of the Australian 'renaissance men' in some weekend glossy magazines. Besides his musical activity, Roger has had a long career as research biochemist, becoming a full professor at the age of 35 at Brunel University, UK. From 1988-2002 was foundation director of the Heart Research Institute, Sydney, and from 2002-7 he was the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Canberra, Australia. In early 2004, he formed the Sonic Communications Research Group (SCRG) at the University, together with Hazel Smith, and other research colleagues. In 2007 he joined the MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney, as a research professor in music cognition. His research career outside music is summarised in the Wikipedia article on him (Roger Dean, musician), and on the MARCS website. He is interviewed about music and postmodernism, together with many other Australian composers and improvisers, in David Bennett's Sounding Postmodernism (Australian Music Centre, 2008; pp.186-194).

".... sparks of genius"... (John Shand, Artforce 105, 14; 2000).

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