Michael Norris

AProf Michael Norris profile picture

Programme Director, Composition; Associate Professor School of Music


Teaching in 2020

Research interests

Instrumental and vocal composition, orchestral music, chamber music, real-time live electronics, audio software development, music technology, spectral processing, granular synthesis, fast Fourier transform, spatial audio, multichannel audio, music theory, post-tonal analysis, tone clock theory, pitch-class set theory, harmonic analysis of film music


MA City, BMus(Hons) Well


  • Associate Professor - Composition
  • Programme Director - Composition


Michael Norris is a Wellington-based composer, software programmer and music theorist. He holds composition degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and City University, London, and is currently Associate Professor and Programme Director of Composition at the New Zealand School of Music. He is recipient of the 2001 Mozart Fellowship, the 2003 Douglas Lilburn Prize, the 2012 CANZ Trust Fund Award and has been nominated for the SOUNZ Contemporary Award five times, winning it in 2014 with his work ;Inner Phases for string quartet and Chinese instrument ensemble, and again in 2018 for his work ;Sygyt for throatsinger, ensemble and live electronics.

Michael maintains an international presence, with strong links to Austria, Germany and the Asia-Pacific region. He was commissioned by the SWR (Sudwestdeutsche Rundfunk) to write a new chamber orchestra work, Sgraffito, which was premiered at the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2010 by the Radio Chamber Orchestra Hilversum, conducted by Peter Eötvös. He has also had works performed and recorded by performers and ensembles such Roberto Fabbriciani, the Vienna Saxophonic Orchestra, Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien, Radio Kamer Filharmonie, Ensemble SurPlus, Ensemble Offspring, NZSQ, NZTrio, NZSO, Southern Sinfonia, Stroma, 175 East, Stephen de Pledge and Michael Houstoun. His works have appeared at major international festivals of contemporary music, such as the Donaueschinger Musiktage, Asian Composer League festivals, ISCM World Music Days, Bourges Electroacoustic Festival and the Slowind Festival, and he has participated in composition courses featuring leading composers such as Peter Eötvös, Alvin Lucier, Christian Wolff and Kaija Saariaho.

Michael is also co-founder and co-director of Stroma New Music Ensemble, and has collaborated with a number of other artists including Daniel Belton and Ashley Brown. He is coordinator of the Creative New Zealand/Jack C. Richards Composer-in-Residence at the NZSM, and serves on the boards of the Lilburn Residence Trust and Stroma New Music Trust. He served as Secretary General of the Asian Composers League for 4 years, and is currently the Editor of Wai-te-ata Music Press, New Zealand’s longest-running publisher of music by New Zealand composers.

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 industry, including on a number of feature film soundtracks, as well as in tracks by artists such as Aphex Twin and Brian Eno. Michael is currently researching audio models of CGI particle systems using spatialized granular synthesis algorithms.

Michael's current research interests include:

  • the application of formal models to harmonic and structural aspects of instrumental composition, including permutational algorithms and biological modelling systems (known as "Lindenmeyer Systems")
  • theories of post-tonal harmonic organization, especially derivatives of pc-set theory (such as tone-clock theory), microtonality, Neo-Riemannian theory, and scalar constraints theory
  • audio processing, especially real-time spectral (FFT-based), spatialized granular algorithms, and systems for coordinating multiple hosts processing real-time audio concurrently
  • New Zealand music, through analytical articles, as well as publication and promotion of scores through Wai-te-ata Music Press and performance through Stroma New Music Ensemble


Teaching in 2020