Composer, performer, and naturalist Ron Nagorcka (born 1948) spent much of his childhood exploring music and the natural world on a sheep farm in Western Victoria (Australia). He went on to study history, pipe organ, harpsichord, and composition at Melbourne University and then composition and electronic music at the University of California San Diego. During this time he also became a competent didjeridu player and began seriously to compose.

In the late 1970s he was active as a composer in Melbourne, taught composition at the Melbourne State College and founded the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre which became a venue of considerable importance to many emerging composers and punk musicians of the time. In 1986 he visited Tasmania as a tutor at the National Young Composers School in Hobart, and decided to move to the island. Since 1988 he has been living and working in a remote forest in northern Tasmania, where he has built his own house and solar-powered studio. In that time he has also joined many different instrumentalists to perform his compositions - in Tasmania, Melbourne, the USA, Japan, Sweden, Italy, Malaysia and especially over the past decade with Norwegians.

Digital technology has since 1990 enabled him to explore a long held interest in the ancient tuning known as "just intonation". Many of his pieces are written using many more than 12 notes per octave and use an unconventional notation.

It was the influence of Australian indigenous culture - in particular the didjeridu players from whom he occasionally learnt - that encouraged him to develop more of an understanding of  "Country" and to reflect this somehow in his music. A remote forest on a remote island like Tasmania is a perfect place to explore the natural world, and he is an enthusiastic Field Naturalist and Conservation activist who takes a keen interest in the science, as well as the aesthetics of the Australian bush. Analysis of his extensive library of birdsong often provides the basis for the scales he designs. He makes and plays his own didjeridus, and has incorporated this instrument into his music since 1974. The influence of traditional Aboriginal music is otherwise most evident in his rhythmical techniques.

Career Highlights

2014 - recordings made in the Steinkjer Church, Norway of 8 compositions played at concerts in 2013.

2014 - Release by Pogus Recordings (NY) of double album "Atom Bomb becomes Folk Art" including compositions from 1974 to 2006.

2013 - two concerts (different repertoires) in Trondheim and Steinkjer, Norway including 5 premiere performances. With David Scott Hamnes (pipe organ), Ole Jorgen Melhus (trombone), Nina Sautherhaug (contralto), Haakan Henrikson (double bass), Lars Hilde (clarinet).

2012 - performances in Santa Cruz and concert with Gnarrwallaby enemble, Los Angeles. Tour with Sarah Lloyd of Ecuador and the Galapagos.

2007 – tour of USA, Norway, Sweden and Italy, including live performance on KPFK-FM radio in Los Angeles, a residency at Dartmouth College New Hampshire in association with naturalist Sarah Lloyd, and major concerts in Trondheim Norway with Bert Chan (clarinet), Ole Jorgen Melhus (trombone), Tonje Bekken (cello) and David Scott Hamnes (pipe organ).

2003 - completed a major work -”Artamidae” - commissioned by ABC Classic FM. This was premiered by Nagorcka in 3 concerts in New York with the Downtown Ensemble in May 2003. June and July 2003 - presented 5 concerts in Norway with organist David Scott Hamnes, 2 concerts in Sweden with organist Gary Verkade and a concert in Florence with Roberto Laneri and the group “Musica in forma di Cristalli”.

2002 - completed a CD of his music with Move Records in Melbourne, and presented his music at concerts in Eltham, Toorak, Hobart and Launceston.

2001 - performed major work “This Beauteous Wicked Place” with Elizabeth Anderson at the City of London Festival in the Great Hall of the Old Bailey. Performances in Gent and Florence in July 2001.

1999 - "Wilderness Residency" at Eddystone Pt. sponsored by Arts Tasmania where he wrote “This Beauteous Wicked Place” for harpsichord, didjeridu and Australian bush sounds. This was premiered at the Ballarat Goldfields Festival in January 2000. Awarded a commendation by Melbourne University in the Albert H. Maggs Composition Award.

1998 - "Tasmanian Toccata" for didjeridu, sampler and pipe organ (played by Calvin Bowman) received enthusiastically by full houses and with critical acclaim as the main feature of three concerts to open the new organ in the chapel of Trinity College in Melbourne.

1997 - joined by Robert Williams and Larry Polansky (from New Hampshire, USA) in a concert of his music as part of the "Sounding Sphere" festival in Harima, Japan.

1996 - collaboration with Sieglinde Karl, Kate Hamilton, and Hazel Smith for the installation "Secret Places" in Launceston, Hobart, Melbourne and Orange.

Further Information

24 Australian composers by John Jenkins NMA publications 1988
Oxford Companion to Australian Music (Australian Music Centre) (Frogpeak Music)