The young Melbourne composer and guitarist has taken out first prize for his work Between Tall Trees.

Melbourne-based composer and guitarist James Mountain has won both First Place and the Emerging Composer Under 25 Award in the Matt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition for his new work Between Tall Trees, taking home a combined purse of $1250. The composition competition, founded by guitarist Matt Withers in 2014, was open to all Australians to submit a work for solo guitar inspired by the painting Forest by Sue Needham.

Winner of the 2016 Matt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition James Mountain

Second place was awarded to Sydney composer Kirsten Milenko for her work à l’aube and Blue Mountains composer Mitchell Newton came in third with a piece simply called Forest.

“I ran the competition for the first time in 2014 as a way to generate excitement around new Australian music and give an avenue of support to Australian composers,” said Withers. “It has been brilliant to see the interest from wider audiences and great to have the support of many generous sponsors offering to donate towards the ongoing success of the competition, this year being able to offer over $3,000 in cash and prizes. Plans are already underway for the next round in 2018, which will expand upon the instrumentation.”

Guitarist Matt Withers

For Withers, Needham’s painting fitted perfectly with the theme of the 2016 competition, as the winning entries will be performed at the National Arboretum in Canberra. “Having seen the artwork Forest by Queensland-based visual artist Sue Needham,” Withers explained, “I was immediately inspired by the possibilities it had to tell a story – if a picture paints a thousand words then music paints a thousand pictures. I wanted composers to have the opportunity to draw their own interpretations of what they saw and the results were excitingly varied.”

The composers’ inspiration, Sue Needham’s Forest

“The standard of entries from right across the country were of a very high calibre. The judging panel were excited by the winning compositions because of the creative sound worlds, original timbral effects and the distinctive and clearly conceived works created as effective responses to the image.”

The winning works will be performed by Withers, alongside the inspiration artwork, in a concert that will also feature a newly commissioned work by Australian composer Robert Davidson.


The winning works will be performed at the National Arboretum, Canberra, November 13 at 1:30pm

Tickets