Robert Burrell (b. 1956) composes music across a wide spectrum of genre and medium. Coming out of his foundational years in the improvisational genre of charismatic worship music, he has developed a distinctive voice across multiple disciplines. He began his formal composition studies with Clifford Abbott and then entered the Queensland Conservatorium studying with Allan Lane and Dr. Richard Mills.
Upon graduating he moved to northern Queensland and helped establish the regional campus of the Qld Conservatorium in Mackay. Here he directed the community brass band and local orchestra, as well as conducted and directed various oratorios, musicals, and concerts.
He then returned to study, gaining a Graduate degree in Education. For 20 years he was the head of the music departments of various private colleges and also served as a moderation and review panelist for the Queensland Department of Education. Burrell takes a deep interest in birdsong and has integrated the transcribed motifs of many avian species into his works. They also feature heavily in his electroacoustic music. This latter genre was developed whilst completing his Ph.D. from Griffith University, studying with Dr. Kim Cunio.
His compositional voice has three distinct qualities: the first is a vibrant, life affirming voice full of rhythmic complexity and fragmented motifs. The second is a contrasting introverted voice of stillness and reflection, evidencing Burrell’s love of counterpoint and understated harmonics. The third is a light and whimsical voice with a joyful sense of humor. This latter comes to the fore in his settings of text for voice and choral works.
The Serenade for Strings has all these voices in it. The “Slow Movement” is full of poignant longing and rich harmonics flowing in an understated manner. The “Scherzo” is a lively dance of whimsy, and the outer movements are complex and rhythmically difficult works that exude veracity for life.
Burrell is a senior lecturer in the music faculty at UPSI.