Head of Composition, Australian National University

Jim Cotter has established himself as one of Australia's leading composers for theatre. Cramphorn, Angela Punch McGregor, John Bell, Geoffrey Rush, Scott Hicks, Warren Mitchell, Noni Hazelhurst, Ruth Cracknell, Robert Menzies, John Howard and many others. He has worked in dance, theatre, film and multimedia.

A large amount of his work has been in an electronic medium due to the demands of performance budgets but whilst embracing this medium in all of its possible manifestations, he has still maintained a commitment to acoustic music-making throughout his career, finding time to write works for specific musicians and ensembles. His duo for bassoon and digderidoo, A Goldberg Variation, was performed by request at the ceremony for Nelson Mandela's honorary doctorate at the ANU. He has created scores for every major theatre company in Australia, toured internationally with works especially commissioned, and created a solid body of work with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. One of these works was Rita's Lullaby, earning him the prestigious international award, the Prix Italia. He has been resident composer at the Australian National Playwrights Conference for ten years and has also created a number of music-theatre works - including Pentagram: Pantomime or Parable? Written for five actors, woodwind trio and electronics, Variations on Themes of Adrian Mitchell, for 12 performers, wind quintet, electric trumpet, soprano saxophone and electronics and Whale Nation, for actors and electronics - that have brought together elements from both disciplines in a new and exciting manner.

In addition to his compositional work, he has published extensively in newspapers, journals and monographs, combining scholarly research with a commitment to providing general readers with an understanding of contemporary music. He is currently editing a series of interviews with composer Larry Sitsky for publication by the National Library of Australia.

Jim Cotter has been teaching in the Composition and Musicology departments of the School of Music since 1992 and when asked to describe his approach to teaching provided the following: “ I am deeply committed to encouraging students to find their own voice and to understand and develop the skills necessary to suvive in an increasingly difficult profession. Like Larry Sitsky, I do not push a particular style, genre or methodology of composition but try to open students’ awareness to all that has come before so that they are better equipped to make informed decisions on their own artistic and professional development.”

School of Music faculty member since 1992.


  • 1992–present
    Head of Composition, Australian National University


    Not relevant, Not relevant