Michael Norris is a Wellington-based composer, software developer and music theorist. He is currently Senior Lecturer in Composition at Te Kōkī, New Zealand School of Music, where he teaches composition, sonic art and post-tonal music theory.

  • As one of the leading composers of instrumental composition in New Zealand, Michael enjoys an international presence, with particular links to Austria, Germany and the Asia-Pacific region. He was recently featured in the 2010 Donaueschinger Musiktage festival in Germany and is currently Secretary General of the Asian Composers League.
  • As a software developer, he is best known for his suite of Audio Units known as SoundMagic Spectral. These plugins have been used widely both in academia and the industry, including a number of feature film soundtracks, and has been used by artists such as Aphex Twin and Brian Eno.
  • As a music theorist, Michael is interested in post-tonal chromatic theories, especially derivatives of pc-set theory (such as tone-clock theory), microtonality, Neo-Riemannian theory, and scalar constraints theory. Michael has written a number of articles relating these concepts of harmonic theory to works from New Zealand, especially those by Jenny McLeod, Jack Body and Douglas Lilburn.




Michael Norris is a Wellington-based composer. He holds composition degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and City University, London. He has held the positions of Composer-in-Residence with the Southern Sinfonia and the Mozart Fellowship, and currently lectures in composition at the New Zealand School of Music. In 2003, Michael won the Douglas Lilburn Prize, a nationwide competition for orchestral composers. He is also co-founder and co-director of Stroma New Music Ensemble. He has participated in composition courses featuring leading composers such as Peter Eötvös, Alvin Lucier, Christian Wolff and Kaija Saariaho.

He spent the second half of 2007 living and working in Vienna, where he initiated a number of projects with European performers. His recent chamber orchestra work Sgraffito was commissioned by the SWR (Sudwestdeutsche Rundfunk) and premiered at the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2010 by the Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, conducted by Peter Eötvös.

Future composition projects include commissions for Nicholas Isherwood, Ensemble Reconsil (Austria) and Prague Modern (Czech Republic).




  • Michael Norris’ Heavy Traffic is a concert opener to die for. The latest NZSO commission, this short piece for contrabassoon and orchestra promises road rage, tailgating and lane changing, and achieves all three, musically speaking, with the deftness of an Indy 600 champion. There's some respite from the hyperenergy — a gentle passage introduced by a shiver on muted brass — but for the most part it’s a darting, pointillist frenzy, effortlessly revved into life by soloist Hamish McKeich and the NZSO.” — William Dart, New Zealand Herald, 29 May 2006
  • The Sunday night concert opened with one of the best of the recent newly commissioned NZ works: Heavy Traffic for contrabassoon by Michael Norris. This is a quirky and thoroughly enjoyable piece. The orchestral writing is clever with strident and blaring brass and pulsing strings commanding attention… it was a great performance from McKeich” — Garth Wilshere, Capital Times, 24 May 2006
  • "It started in entertaining fashion. The Michael Norris work [Heavy Traffic] , composed for Hamish McKeich, was not for the bassoon, but for the contrabassoon, which signalled humour from bar one… Norris knew the game, and no more so than in a hilarious moment in which the soloist has an elephantine duet with the tuba. Magnificently droll, and all done with the straight face of a Buster Keaton." — John Button, Dominion Post, 23 May 2006
  • Rays of the Sun, Shards of the Moon was a savvy slice of musical impressionism. Its 9m45s shimmered with promise and purpose, from the moment that mysterious scale edged out of the woodwind. The whole score is a cleverly contrived and immaculately crafted study in sonic emergence, particularly on the harmonic side, using chords that were often only a sliver away from Messiaen, whom we were to hear the following evening. After such vital music, Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony was distinctly sluggish.” — William Dart, The New Zealand Herald, 27 October 2003
  • Michael Norris’s Rays of the Sun, Shards of the Moon is a clever piece, shimmering textures in a single dynamic with subtle colours… a skilful piece of orchestral writing.’ —John Button, Dominion Post, 13 October 2003




  • 1997–8: City University, London: MA in electroacoustic composition (distinction)
  • 1993–6: Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand: BMus(Hons) (first-class)




  • New work for solo flute: Roberto Fabbriciani, 2012
  • Save Yourself for chamber ensemble: Ensemble Offspring, 2012
  • New work for ensemble: Ensemble Reconsil, 2012
  • New work for ensemble: Prague Modern, 2013
  • New work for Chinese Orchestra: National Taipei Chinese Orchestra, 2012
  • New work for solo violin and electronics, Barbara Lüneburg, 2012
  • New work for saxophone orchestra: Vienna Saxophonic Orchestra, 2011
  • Tre Canzoni Imperfette: Luca Manghi, 2011
  • Sgraffito: Donaueschinger Musiktage 2010
  • Exitus: New Zealand String Quartet, 2009
  • Heavy Traffic: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, 2006
  • Machine Noise: Chamber Music New Zealand (for Stephen de Pledge), 2005
  • dirty pixels: New Zealand Trio, 2004




  • Eight maps for the lost: Ashley Brown (ACMC 2011, July 2011; DMA Recital, August 2011)
  • Dirty pixels: NZTrio (NZSM, July 2011; Auckland War Memorial Museum, May 2011)
  • Machine Noises: Stephen de Pledge (City of London Festival, July 2011; Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber, NZ International Piano Festival, April 2011); June 2007, Donald Nicolson, November 2007;
  • Tre Canzoni Imperfette: Luca Manghi (St Andrews on the Tce, April 2011)
  • Amato: Isabelle O'Connell (NZSM, June 2011); Richard Mapp (Ilott Concert Chamber, July 2010)
  • Blindsight: Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien (Schömerhaus, Vienna, April 2009)
  • tesserae:interstices: Members of the Luxembourg Philharmonic (Luxembourg, July 2007)




  • Exitus appears on "Notes from a Journey" by the NZSQ (Atoll CD Ltd ACD 118)
  • Badb appears on "Taurangi" by Bridget Douglas and Rachel Thomsom (Trust CD MMT 2063-64)
  • Dirty Pixels appears on "Spark" by the New Zealand Trio (Trust CD MMT 2006)
  • Seseh appears on "Arak (Balinese Intoxication)" (CD MAN 2033)
  • In flexion appears on "Percussionist Songs" (CD BVHaast 0904/1004)
  • Alumina appears on "4th Generation: Lilburn Electroacoustic Music Studios" (Available from New Zealand School of Music)
  • Chimaera appears on "New Zealand Sonic Art 2000" (CD UWMD 1200)
  • Aquarelle appears on "New Zealand Sonic Art III" (CD UWMD 1202)




  • CANZ Trust Fund Award, 2010
  • Trans-Tasman Composer Award, 2010
  • Finalist, SOUNZ Contemporary Award, 2009
  • Finalist, SOUNZ Contemporary Award, 2004
  • Winner, Douglas Lilburn Prize, New Zealand, 2004 (Audience, Players and Overall Prizes)
  • Finalist, Music 2000 Prize, New Zealand, 2000
  • New Zealand representative at the ACL Young Composers Competition, Yokohama, Japan, 2000 (placed second overall)
  • Special Mention, First International Sound Software Competition, Bourges, 1996
  • The Philip Neill Memorial Prize in Music, Otago University, 1996




  • Senior Lecturer, New Zealand School of Music, 2004–
  • Mozart Fellowship, Otago University, 2002
  • Composer in Residence, Southern Sinfonia, 2001
  • Editor of newsletter and yearbook, Composers Assoc. of NZ, 2001-2009




  • "Intentionality, Causality, Corporeality and Organicism in Live Electronics". Proceedings of the 2011 Australasian Computer Music Conference, July 2011
  • "Tonal Desires: convention and transgression in the harmonic procedures of three non-transcriptive works by Jack Body". Canzona 2007, Composeres Association of New Zealand
  • "Tessellations and enumerations: generalising chromatic theories". Canzona 2006, Composers Association of New Zealand
  • "Crystalline Aphorisms: commentary and analysis of Jenny McLeod's Tone Clock Pieces I–VII". Canzona 2006, Composers Association of New Zealand
  • "Half-heard sounds in the summer air: electroacoustic music in Wellington and the South Island". Organised Sound, Cambridge University Press, Vol 6. No 1, April 2001
  • "Colliding Worlds: the music of Juliet Kiri Palmer": Music in New Zealand, Summer 1999/2000
  • "Time, Motion and Memory: the music of John Young": Music in New Zealand, Spring 1999
  • "Sounds, Symbols and Systems: problems of analysis of electroacoustic music". New Zealand Musicological Society Conference, University of Auckland, June 1999.
  • "Reinstating Interpretation: the status of analysis in an electroacoustic context". Australasian Computer Music Conference, Victoria University of Wellington, July 1999. Revised and reprinted in Mikropolyphony
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