Internationally acclaimed Australian composer Liza Lim has been shortlisted for a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award for her chamber-scale composition How Forests Think. Celebrated for her vibrant, sensual compositions and interest in cross-cultural practice, Lim’s nomination comes on the back of her appointment to the composition unit at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The RPS Music Awards recognise achievement in live performance and outreach work in the UK, with a strong focus on innovative and unusual music-making.

“The shortlists are fizzing with energy, ambition and invention”, said RPS chair John Gilhooly. “They celebrate not just musical excellence, but a very tangible pioneering artistic spirit: outstanding musicians and organisations who want to share and encourage musical excellence, investigate new creative avenues and to see music make a real difference to the world we live in.”

“In short, the shortlists celebrate great music, happening in the moment – the essence of what makes live music so special. Congratulations to them all.”

How Forests Think first premiered at the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music in September 2016, where it was hailed as “mesmerising” and “breathtaking”. It had its UK Premiere at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in November, making it eligible for the Award.

A piece for Chinese sheng and ensemble, Lim’s piece draws on the work of anthropologist Eduardo Kohn, who conceives of forest ecologies as sites of profound communication and thought. Lim’s work achieves a unique soundscape that ‘criss-crosses’ like that of roots, vines, and fungal networks, or like airborne, insect, and animal-borne cross-pollinations.

How Forests think is music made from assemblages of instruments whose qualities are like tendrils looking for places on which to clasp and entangle themselves,” Lim wrote on her website. “Its forms are emergent, like plants growing toward light and water; like mycelial strands entwining with tree roots in a co-evolving internet of plant-life.”

Also nominated in Lim’s category are Rebecca Saunders for Skin, and Mark Simpson for Hommage à Kurtàg. The winners will be announced at a special ceremony on May 9.