No results

Lim, Liza


Tree of Codes • [2015]
‘Cut-outs in time’ - An opera
For 2 singers, 16 instrumentalists and electronics
Duration: 80’
World Premiere: 9.04.2016, Cologne

The Navigator • [2007]
Opera in six scenes and a prelude. Libretto by Patricia Sykes
For 5 singers, 16 instrumentalists and electronics
Duration: 90’
Premiere: 29 July 2008, Brisbane Festival


Annunciation Triptych
• [2019-2021]
for orchestra
I. Sappho/Bioluminescence 
II. Mary/Transcendence after Trauma 
III. Fatimah/Flowers of jubilation 
Duration: 15' (each); 45' (total)
Sy. 4963// Score // Ricordi Berlin
The Guest
• [2010]
For orchestra with recorder soloist
Recorder (Barock-A.Rec. Tenor-Ganassi)
2 (2 Picc. A.Fl). 2 (Eng.Hn.). 1. B.Cl. (Cb.Kl.). 1. Cbn. / 2 . 2. Picctr. 2 (ATbn). Eu. 0. / 3 Perc (Cim). / 6. 6. 6. 6. 3.
Premiere: 15.10.2010, Donaueschingen
Duration: 2’
Sy. 4062 // *Score / Vx. // Ricordi Berlin

Pearl, Ochre, Hair String • [2010]
For orchestra
2. Picc. 2. Eng.Hn. 1. B.Cl. Cb.Cl. 2. Cbn. / 4. 3. 2. Btbn. 1 (Btb). / Timp. 2 Perc / Str.
Premiere: 9.7.2010, Munich
Duration: 18’
Sy. 4041 // *Score / Vx. // Ricordi Berlin

The Compass • [2005-06]
For large orchestra with solo flute & didgeridoo
4Fl (3.4.picc) 3Ob, Cor Ang, Cl eflat, 2 Cl b flat, Bass Cl, 3Bsn, Cbsn-
4Hn, 4Tpt, 4Tbn (4.tenor-bass), Tuba - 3Perc – Piano - Strings
Duration: 25’
Premiere: 17 May 2006, Sydney Opera House

Flying Banner (after Wang To) • [2005]
Fanfare for orchestra
2Picc, 1Fl, 2Ob, Cor Ang, Cl eflat, Cl b flat, Bass Cl, 2Bsn, Cbsn-2Hn, Picc Tpt, Tpt, 2Tbn, Bass Tbn – Timp - 1Perc (5 Chinese gongs, 3 wood blocks, 2 temple blocks, high tom-tom)-Strings
Duration: 9’
Premiere: 8 March 2006, Sydney Opera House

Immer fliessender • [2004]
For large orchestra
Picc, 3Pl, 3Ob, Cor Ang, Cl eflat, 3Cl in A, Bass Cl, 3Bsn, Cbsn-4Hn, 3Tpt, 3Tbn, Bass Tuba - 2Timp, 2Perc – 2Harp - Strings
Duration: 8½'
Premiere: 18 May 2005, Sydney Opera House


Atlas of the Sky • [2018]
Rituals of transformation for soprano, 3 percussion soloists and crowd
Duration: 75'
Premiere: 18.06.2018, Melbourne

Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus • [2018]
for twelve musicians - - pf - perc -
Duration: 38'
WP: 29.04.2018, Witten

Ronda - The Spinning World
• [2016]
for nine musicians
Duration: 16’
Premiere: 25.02.2017, Frankfurt

The turning dance of the bee • [2015]
for sextet
Duration: 13’
Premiere: 17.11.2016, Zürich

How Forests Think • [2015/2016]
for sheng and 9 instruments
Duration: 35’
Premiere: 03.09.2016, Bendigo

Speak, be silent • [2015]
violin concerto with ensemble of 15 musicians
1.1.1.sax.1 – – perc. – pnf.hrf. –
Duration: 20’
Premiere: 29.09.2015, Geneva

Winding Bodies: 3 Knots [2014]
Al Fl, BCl, Pno, Perc, hardingfele, vln, va, vc, db
Premiere: 11.09.14, Ultima Festival Oslo
Duration: 15’
Sy. 4378/01 // Score // Ricordi Berlin

Tongue of the Invisible • [2010-11]
A work for improvising pianist, baritone and 16 musicians
1. At dawn I heard the tongue of the invisible; 2. Between the pages of the world (i); 3. This door is the mouth of love; 4. Between the pages of the world (ii); 5. The roots of the world are entwined in the wind; 6. Between the pages of the world (iii); 7. Encircling its towers with a silver coronet of song; 8. Our embraces are a banquet of revolving time
Text: Jonathan Holmes (after Poems by  Sufi Poet Hafez)
Pno. (prep). Bar.
1 (A.Fl. Picc). 1 (Lupophon). 1 (B.Cl). A.Sax (Bar.Sax). 1 (Contraforte). / 1. 1 (double bell tpt. Flh ) Tbtbn. 0. Eu. / Dms. Cim. / 1. 1. 1. 1. 1.
Premiere: 08.06.2011, Amsterdam
Duration: 60’
Sy. 4063 // *Score / Vx. // Ricordi Berlin

Mother Tongue • [2005]
For Soprano & 15 instruments
Text by Patricia Sykes
Sop, 2 Fl(2nd picc), Ob, Cl, Bass Cl, Alto/Bar Sax, Bsn/C Bsn,
Tpt, Tbn, 1 Perc, 2 Vln, Vla, Vc, D Bass
Duration: 36’
Premiere: 30 November 2005, Paris, Ensemble Intercontemporain, conductor Jonathan Nott

Sensorium • [2007]
Concert version of Scene 2 of The Navigator.
Text by Patricia Sykes
for soprano, counter-tenor, tenor Ganassi recorder/Paetzold contrabass recorder, viola d'amore, Baroque triple harp
Duration: 12’
Premiere: 09.03.08, Berlin

Songs found in dream
• [2005]
For 8 musicians
Ob, Bass Cl, Alto Sax, Trumpet, 2 Perc, Vc, D Bass
Duration: 16’
Premiere: 20 August 2005, Mozarteum Salzburg


Sex Magic • [2020]
for contrabass flute, (alto ocarina, aztec 'death whistle', bell, pedal bass drum), electronics and installation of kinetic percussion instruments
Duration: 45'
Sy. 5804 // Score // Ricordi Berlin

fanfare •
for wind band
Premiere: 07.11.2020, Cologne
Duration: 3''
Sy. 5805 // Score // Ricordi Berlin

Boat Song 
• [2019]
aria for baritone and bassoon
extract from Tree of Codes
Duration: 9'
Sy. 4979 // Score // Ricordi Berlin

Athena's Trumpet 
• [2019]
for soprano and piccolo trumpet
Duration: 2'
Sy. 5742 // Score // Ricordi Berlin

The Incandescent Tongue • [2019]
for soprano and trumpet in C
Premiere: 02.05.2020, Melbourne
Duration: 5'
Sy. 5731  // Score // Ricordi Berlin

• [2018]
For 2 tenor-bass trombones (2trb)
Premiere: 18.11.2018, Bludenz
Duration: 10'
Sy. 4964  // Score // Ricordi Berlin

The Weaver’s Knot
• [2013-14]
string quartet (2 vlns, va, vc)
Premiere: 10.05.2014, Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik 2014 
Duration: 6’
Sy. 4352 // Score // Ricordi Berlin

Ehwaz (journeying) • [2010]
For trumpet and percussion 
Tr (in C). percussion (6 glass bottles, 3 Thai gongs, 4 ceramic bowls, vibraphone)
Premiere: 10.7.2010, Sydney 
Duration: 15’ 
Sy. 4050 // Score // Ricordi Berlin

Ochred String • [2007]
For oboe, viola, viola, cello
Duration: 14’

Shimmer Songs • [2006]
“double quartet”
For string quartet (2 Vln, Vla, Vc), harp, 3 perc
Duration: 15’
Premiere 2007, San Francisco

In the Shadow's Light • [2004]
For string quartet (2 Vln, Vla, Vc)
Duration: 26’
Premiere 29 November 2005, Paris, Kairos

The Quickening • [2004-05]
For Soprano and qin (Chinese zither)
Text by Yang Lian
Duration: 22’
Premiere: 29 November 2005, Paris



3 Angels • [2011]
for three singers
C Sop. Msop. BBar.
Duration: 5’
Premiere: 25.09.2011, Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne
Sy. 4081 // Score // Ricordi Berlin


The Su Song Star Map • [2019]
version for viola solo
Duration: 12'

• [2019]
for flute solo
Duration: 5'
Premiere: 29.5.2019, Taipei

An ocean beyond earth • [2016]
for solo cello (prepared with thread & violin)
Duration: 15’
Premiere: 09.09.2016, Melbourne

The Green Lion eats the Sun • [2012]
for double bell euphonium
Duration: 10’
Premiere: 19.04.2015, Cologne

Axis mundi • [2013]
For bassoon solo 
Duration: 10’
Premiere: 4.3.2013, Cologne
Sy. 4263 // Score // Ricordi Berlin

Gyfu (gift) • [2011]
For oboe solo 
Duration: 10’
Premiere: 4.9.2011, Munich
Sy. 4073 // *Score // Ricordi Berlin

Invisibility • [2009] • Work description
for violoncello and two bows 
Vc. 2 bows
Duration: 12’
Premiere: 26.11.2009, Huddersfield
Sy. 4042 // *Score // Ricordi Berlin

The Four Seasons (after Cy Twombly)
• [2008]
for solo piano
Duration: c 40’
Premiere: 10 February 2009, Helsinki

Well of Dreams • [2008]
For solo alto trombone
Duration: 5’
Premiere: 15 March 2008, Berlin

Sonorous Body • [2008]
for solo b flat clarinet
Duration: 12’
Premiere: 15 March 2008, Berlin

Weaver-of-fictions • [2007]
(Prelude to The Navigator)
for alto Ganassi recorder
Duration: 5’
Premiere: 26 May 2007, Melbourne

The long forgetting • [2007]
for tenor Ganassi recorder
Duration: 5’
Premiere: 15 March 2008, Berlin,

Wild-winged one • [2007]
for solo trumpet
Duration: 8’
Premiere: 6 September 2007, Berlin

Philtre • [1997]
for solo violin (scordatura) or Hardanger fiddle
Duration: 5’
Premiere: 15 March 1998, Amsterdam

Liza Lim (*30.8.1966 Perth / Australia) writes music marked by visceral energy and vibrant colour and often explores ritual forms and performance aesthetics from Asian and Australian Aboriginal cultural sources. Some recurring themes in her work include ‘hiddenness and revelation’, ‘violence and meditation’ and ecstatic transformation.

Her music, which ranges from operatic and orchestral scores to site-specific installations, has been performed by some of the world's pre-eminent ensembles. Notably, she was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to write the orchestral work, Ecstatic Architecture, to celebrate the inaugural season of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2004. She was composer-in-residence with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2005 and 2006. She has received major commissions from organisations such as the Bavarian Radio and SWR Orchestras, Ensemble musikFabrik & Holland Festival, Ensemble InterContemporain, Ensemble Modern, ELISION, the Arditti String Quartet (Milano Musica), Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival, Festival d’Automne à Paris, WDR Orchestra & Choir and BBC Symphony as well as the Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth Festivals.

In 2014, the Miller Theatre in New York presents a portrait concert of her music performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). Recent projects have been based on the Sufi poetry of Hafez: Tongue of the Invisible, a 1-hour work written for jazz pianist Uri Caine, baritone Omar Ebrahim and Ensemble musikFabrik, and The Guest, for recorder soloist Jeremias Schwarzer and the Southwest German Radio Orchestra. She has written a string quartet The Weaver’s Knot to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Arditti String Quartet for Wittenertage 2014. Current projects include a chamber work for the Norwegian Cikada Ensemble as well as a new opera Tree of Codes commissioned by Oper Köln in association with Ensemble musikFabrik and Hellerau European Centre for the Arts in co-operation with Theatre Company Prod.23 and festival partners for a premiere in 2015.

She has been closely associated with the Australian ELISION Ensemble for over 20 years with projects including 3 operas: The Oresteia (1993), Moon Spirit Feasting (1999) and The Navigator (2008) performed in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Tokyo, Moscow, Paris, Zurich and Berlin. Awards include the Paul Lowin Prize, DAAD Artist-in-residence Berlin 2007-08 and Ian Potter Foundation Senior Fellowship. She was appointed a member of the Akademie der Künste der Welt Cologne in 2012 and curated the music programme for the opening ‘Cutting Edge’ festival. Since 2008, she is Professor of Composition and Director of the Centre for Research in New Music at the University of Huddersfield. In her research, she is interested in connecting her compositional practice to areas such as Australian Indigenous aesthetics (‘shimmer’) and non-western epistemologies of time and space; weaving and knots as a metaphorical ‘technology for thinking’; material translation, empathy and intuition in an ecology of collaboration; and distributed creativities. Her compositions are published by Casa Ricordi (Milano, London & Berlin) and on CDs with Hat Hut, ABC-Classics, HCR, Neos, WERGO, Dischi Ricordi and Vox Australis.


Born in 1966 to Chinese parents, educated in Brunei and Australia, and embraced in Europe and Australia as one of the leading composers of her generation, Liza Lim is an artist of the contemporary globalized era. Her mixed cultural background has enabled her to step back from cultural allegiances and traditions, and write from an ‘in-between place’ of her own. As such her music draws on an exceptionally wide range of influences, from modern architectural theory to Australian Aboriginal knowledge systems.

>The components of Lim’s style, as well as her skill and ambition, were established early, with her first opera The Oresteia (1991–3), completed when she was still 27. Ancient texts and stories – from China, Tibet, Persia and elsewhere – continue to feature in her work. The Oresteia is also an early example of the collaborative spirit that has defined her career. The text was adapted from Aeschylus with the director Barrie Kosky, and the music was written for the ELISION Ensemble, Australia’s leading new music ensemble, with whom Lim has had close musical and personal ties since the late 1980s.

At the same time, Lim began an abiding interest in musical traditions beyond the Western orchestra. Koto (1993) and Burning House (1995) both look to Japan – in the latter case with Lim writing the score in traditional Japanese notation. Perhaps inevitably, the study of Asian music led her to her own emigrant Chinese identity in the ‘ritual street opera’ Yuè Lìng Jié (‘Moon Spirit Feasting’, 1997–9). Later works, including her third opera, The Navigator (2008), have expanded her attention to pre-classical Western instruments such as the Baroque harp and viola d’amore. However, nowhere does Lim use her instruments as exotic colour. Instead she studies their performance practice and history in detail, using architectural or biological metaphors to synthesise their language with her own.

At first Lim’s interests can seem eclectic. Yet there are recurring themes. One is that of shamanic possession or the fluidity of states of living between the human and the animal, the mundane and the unearthly, the present and the eternal. It is a tense combination of ritual and ecstasy – two words often used in descriptions of Lim’s work – and is articulated in her music’s blend of rigour and abandon.

Using the full range of techniques available to a composer in the early 21st century, she transforms her players into channellers of these wild forces. Vocalists use whacky whistles in their mouths to change into animal or insectoid voices (The Navigator); players become absorbed in lengthy, meditative communion with their instruments (Bardo’i-thos-grol, a seven-day installation created with the artist Domenico de Clario 1994–5); the sensations of playing become the door to private knowledge systems (Invisibility for solo cello, 2009).

Shamanism has allowed Lim to connect the points of her own heritage, from China to Australia to Europe, all places with ancient stories of animal-human transmutation. A fulcrum of these different backgrounds is The Quickening (2005), one of the first works Lim wrote after becoming a parent. Its title refers to the mother first feeling her baby moving in the womb. Motherhood may be its theme, but the work is a typical complex of ideas. It is composed for the quintessentially Lim-like pairing of soprano and qin, the most revered of Chinese instruments; the text, by the poet Yang Lian, speaks of ‘cicadas in the body’ and ‘a ceremony for childbirth’. In the score’s preface Lim also refers to the shamanic practices of Aboriginal healers, the ‘ecstatic Central Desert art of Aboriginal Australia’ and the kinaesthetic performance practice of the qin.

The Navigator (2007–8) represents another, still greater coming together. Its libretto is by the Australian poet Patricia Sykes, with whom Lim had previously worked on Mother Tongue for soprano and ensemble (2005). The partnership with Kosky was also renewed for the work’s first productions at the Brisbane Festival and Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. And the music was again composed for the musicians of ELISION, several of whom gained new solo and ensemble works extracted from the piece (Wild Winged-One for trumpet, Weaver of Fictions for alto Ganassi recorder, and Sensorium for countertenor, Baroque harp, viola d’amore and harpsichord). The Navigator also introduces a new element: Wagner. Lim has said that hearing the Tristan prelude in 2004 helped her ‘fall in love with music again’, and the story (and disguised moments of the music) feed into her own opera. Since The Navigator, Lim has widened her circles of collaboration further still, working with members of musikFabrik on solo works such as Axis Mundi (2012–13) for bassoon and The Green Lion Eats the Sun (2014) for double-bell euphonium, as well as a major setting of the Sufi poet Hafez, Tongue of the Invisible (2010–11), which uses systems of improvisation devised in close cooperation with the players.

Music involves people on three levels. The physical relation between the performer and their instrument; the bonds of friendship and collaboration between different performers in an ensemble (and between composer and those performers); and the connection between music and external groups of people, whether the audience in the concert hall or segments of the wider society. Profoundly humanistic, Lim’s music is a conduit between all three, in which the actions of a performer’s finger on a string or lips on a mouthpiece open up reflection on entire cultural systems and ways of being.

Tim Rutherford-Johnson, 2015