Dr Michael Williams

Qualifications: MMus PhD Melb MCM

([email protected])

About Michael

Michael Williams is a well-known figure in New Zealand composition. He has received commissions from most of the country’s major musical institutions including the NZSO, NBR New Zealand Opera and Chamber Music New Zealand and his music is regularly broadcast on Radio New Zealand Concert. He has recorded a number of works through the Atoll label. His music covers a wide range of genres including chamber music, orchestral, concerti and opera.

Polystylistic in his approach to composition, many influences can be heard in his music from Gregorian chant to the use of pitch class sets and he maintains an interest in the digital manipulation of acoustic instruments which is evident in a number of his works.In his recent work, Michael has included elements of Middle Eastern musical language in his music in conjunction with western traditions.

This is particularly evident in his latest opera Du'a (Prayer) for Broken Shelter which is in progress with performances scheduled for 2023 with NZ Opera. Michael is thrilled to be working with award winning author and librettist Tracey Slaughter and Nida Fiazi.

His piece of violin and piano Song for Emily was premiered at the prestigious Tchaikovsky festival in St Petersburg as a special guest composer, in November 2020.

Recent premiers and commissions include a new piece Equinox for the New Zealand Guitar Quartet; a set of piano pieces Arteria Meridionale for acclaimed Italian pianist Alessandro Vena to be premiered in New York in October 2021; his 2019 piece Nga Wha Moana for guitar, Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori instruments) and digital FX was recorded and performed by leading Spanish guitarist Marcelo de Puebla and Horomona Hora; Spirit Flies, Sun Rises for piano trio was premiered in Wellington NZ and followed by a national tour to critical acclaim in August 2019; Homage to J S Bach premiered by Marcelo de Puebla in June 2019. Michael’s piece Surah Al Ma’dah for soprano and piano, written in memorium of the victims of the Christchurch massacre was premiered in Sydney Australia by acclaimed soprano Ayse Shanal in October 2019.

His 1st Symphony Letters from the Front written for the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in WWI and commissioned by the NZSO was premiered in duel concerts by the NZSO and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Opera House to critical acclaim. It was recorded by Atoll Records in 2017 with the NZSO, soprano Madeleine Pierard and conductor Benjamin Northy.

In 2013 Michael’s opera The Juniper Passion, based on the battle for Monte Cassino in WWII was premiered at the amphitheater in Cassino Italy followed by performances in Rome and Nemi. This was the first ever New Zealand opera to be performed in Italy. The Juniper Passion captured the hearts of the Italian pubic.

His Chamber Opera The Prodigal Child is to receive its international premier with the Florida State Opera and Florida State University in May 2018. This follows great success with productions in Taranaki, Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton. The opera was recorded with Atoll Records and is now available on CD.

Piercing the Vault for oboe and orchestra was commissioned by the NZSO in 2005 and has toured the country twice since.

His Triple Concerto which was a commission from the Opus Chamber Orchestra with the New Zealand Chamber Soloists was premiered in September 2008.

His work is in demand internationally including Europe, Asia and the USA.

He is co-founder and artistic director of the University of Waikato contemporary performance ensemble ‘Okta’

Michael teaches across a number of areas including composition, orchestration, computer music, aesthetics and harmony and counterpoint.


Composition; orchestration; computer music.

Recent Publications

  • Williams, M. (2020). Song for Emily [Composition]. St Petersburg, Russia: Okta Editions.

  • Williams, M. (2019). Dialogue [Composition]. New Zealand: Okta Editions.

  • Williams, M. (2019). Ngā whā moana [Composition]. Okta.

  • Williams, M. (2019). Equinox 1 [Composition]. New Zealand: Okta Editions.

View all research publications by Michael Williams

Papers Taught