Richard Graham Meale, AM, MBE (24 August 1932 – 23 November 2009) was an Australian composer of instrumental works and operas.


Meale was born in Sydney, Australia.[1] At the time the Meale family lived in Marrickville, an inner suburb of Sydney. Meale's father Oliver was a foreman at a Pipe Works, and his mother Lilla Adeline kept house.[2]

Meale studied piano with Winifred Burston at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music,[3] as well as clarinet, harp, music history and theory, before studying at the University of California, Los Angeles and other American institutions on a Ford Foundation grant.[3]

From 1969 to 1988 he was a member of the music faculty of the University of Adelaide, South Australia[1]

Meale was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1971, and in his 1972 book about Australia's contemporary composers, James Murdoch described him as "...the dominating figure in Australian composition".[4] Meale was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1985.[5]

In 2000, Meale was conferred Doctor of Letters honoris causa by the University of New England in New South Wales

He died in Sydney on 23 November 2009 at the age of 77.[1][6]


Initially firmly part of the avant garde amongst Australian composers, Meale experienced a stylistic rethink in the 1970s, abandoning an exclusively atonal approach in his orchestral work Viridian (1979) and his String Quartet No. 2 (1980) for a polytonal approach, and in later works embracing a frank tonality, with fin-de-siècle overtones, whilst retaining an individual voice.

He is best known for the 1986 opera Voss, with libretto by David Malouf based on the novel of the same title by Patrick White. Malouf also collaborated with Meale on his second operatic project, Mer de glace (1986–91), a tableaux-like juxtaposition of some ideas of the novel Frankenstein alongside the real dealings of Mary Shelley with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.

Other works include Very High Kings (1968) and Incredible Floridas (1971).

Awards and nominationsEdit

In 2011, Voss was added to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia's Sounds of Australia registry.[7]

APRA AwardsEdit

The APRA Awards are presented annually from 1982 by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA).[8]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2003 Three Miró Pieces – Richard Meale Best Composition by an Australian Composer[9] Won
Three Miró Pieces (Richard Meale) – Sydney Symphony Orchestra Orchestral Work of the Year[9] Won


  1. ^ a b c "Australia Council mourns Dr. Richard Meale MBE AM". Australia Council for the Arts. 23 November 2009. Archived from the original on 13 March 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  2. ^ Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
  3. ^ a b Plush, Vincent (24 November 2009). "Restless spirit found the music in Voss". The Australian. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  4. ^ Murdoch, James. Australia's Contemporary Composers. MacMillan, Melbourne 1972.
  5. ^ It's an Honour
  6. ^ Australian Music Centre
  7. ^ National Film and Sound Archive: 'Voss' on the Sounds of Australia registry
  8. ^ "APRA History". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 November 2010.
  9. ^ a b "2003 Winners - APRA Music Awards". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 17 November 2010.


  • "Richard Meale – Abandoning Tonality" [radio transcript]. 2008. In Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz – 170 musicians get vocal on The Music Show ed. Anni Heino, 263–268. Sydney: ABC Books. ISBN 978-0-7333-2008-8.

External linksEdit