Following postgraduate research in literature at the University of NSW (BA Hons, MA Hons), Michael studied music at the University of Sydney and the University of New England, where he was attracted to ethnomusicology.
He researched cultural history at UTS Sydney (PhD). He played early music in the Renaissance Players (1974-1980); joined Rivendell as a music therapist (1978-80) in the team of Professor Marie Bashir; pioneered cross-cultural music in Sirocco (1980-6); and directed his own ensemble, Southern Crossings (1986-93). He performed overseas for Musica Viva and appeared at major festivals prior to his appointment in 1993 as the Foundation Chair of Music at UWS, where he led the development of teaching and research with a focus on a range of Australian expressions in our time.
Michael is considered an expert in musical instruments and sound making objects, especially those of Australia and the Asia-Pacific. He is also composer, performer and researcher with broad experience in music for the concert hall, film, television and radio. Michael has made numerous CD recordings, documentary film scores and television themes, including the station music for TVS. In 2008 he was a featured composer in the Aurora Festival, with five world premières.
He is an elected fellow (FRSA) of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. His awards include a Centenary Medal (2003) for service to the community, and a Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence (2008) in research training and supervision. In 2009 he co-edited Music of the Spirit: Asian-Pacific Music Identities. Michael is also a member of SynC, an electroacoustic duo with Garth Paine. Performance highlights include: Aurora Festival 2008; New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) opening concert, New York, June 2007; and NIME/Agora Resonances, Paris, 2006. Michael’s most recent book publication is Musical Instruments and Sound Producing Instruments of Oceania (2010). In 2012, he was a guest artistic director at the Powerhouse Discovery Centre, composing music for public events, including a spectacle for motorbikes, drum kits, synthesizers, brass, and voices.
He retired from the University of Western Sydney at the end of 2012 and was honoured with the title, Emeritus Professor, for his distinguished contribution to teaching and research in the field of music and service to the University over many years. Michael’s book Australian Made, Australian Played was re-released in 2014 by Vivid/Fontaine as an e-book. And he recently completed a commission for Gondwana Choirs – a choral opera entitled, Walking in Footsteps.