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Dr John Coulter is a Senior Lecturer, and the Coordinator of Sonic Arts Programmes at the School of Music, National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, University of Auckland. As a teacher working in the Composition Area, he spends much of his time focused on facilitating the needs of the ‘21st-century musician’ – supporting men and women who compose, perform, fabricate, innovate, and make use of technology; who study and research the language of music and sound; and who use their individual and collective heritage as a source of musical inspiration. John is a member of several international organisations that uphold this holistic approach to music making, and has presented both academic papers and creative works in several countries throughout the world including Australia, Canada, China, France, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

Creative Works

While the Sun Shines: (2013-16)

for SoundDome (Acousmatic)

  • New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 22-28 June 2015 [16-Ch Mix]
  • SoundDome16 School of Music, Kenneth Myers Centre Auckland 15 July 2016 [25-Ch Mix]
  • Finalist in Metamorphose 16 - international composition competition.  Presented at international festival "L'ESPACE DU SON" Brussels 19 October 2016   
  • Link to publication
 It took me until my mid-forties to recognise the wisdom contained in the farming-related ethics I grew up with. I now fully appreciate what my father was trying to pass on in exposing his family to a life in the country. There is a richness of wellbeing that is all-but unattainable in the melee of urban sprawl, and he, having spent his own childhood holidays on a farm in Milburn Otago New Zealand, intimately knew the value of this experience. This piece, which has taken several years to complete, is a gift for my wonderful parents Brian and Clare Coulter, who in 2016 celebrate their 75th, and 70th birthdays (respectively), as well as their 50th (Golden) wedding anniversary. 

Explanation of Title: The saying ‘make hay while the sun shines’ expresses an attitude that can be literally translated as: 'if you have an opportunity to do something, do it before the opportunity expires'.  This code reflects a small part of the lifetime of learning and discovery that comes from living and working in a farming community.

Green: (2015)

Work for fabricated instrument and live electronics

Karlheinz Company Concert, School of Music Theatre, University of Auckland, 10 May 2015. Link to video

In 2010 my son and I found an interesting looking manuka branch on the forest floor. I had an overwhelming desire to keep it – so I took it home with me (a questionable act in itself). I then set about industrialising the partially hollow stick (It was hollow because Wetas had been living in it!). I fitted a copper pipe and reed, made use of 3 natural holes, and drilled 3 more. 

The initial idea was to play ‘tunes’ on my skillfully made instrument - but alas, although the stick produced a series of interesting sounds, it did not speak as I had hoped. The instrument stood in the corner for a few years, while I pondered and pontificated the nature of my actions.

Slowly it dawned on me that the most fruitful approach might be to attempt to step away from my ego-driven ideologies, and from the gestural timeframes that define my human orbit. In late 2014 I fitted the stick with a wind sensor, taught myself how to circular breathe, and abandoned the idea of using pitch and rhythm in the work. My preoccupations had reached a state of reversal. I was now convinced that finding a way to work alongside nature was the key to unlocking the secrets of the stick.  Using Arduino electronics and Max software, I began to build a system that would allow the wind itself to develop the sounds.

The discoveries made over the 5-year incubation period for this work have been informative and profound. I see many similarities between the method of composing adopted, and principles of sustainability, with a particular emphasis on permaculture design. I have for many years tried to identify a general method of working alongside NZ’s natural environment.  Green represents my first step along this pathway.

Eyepiece: (2009)

Interactive Multimedia Installation

Installed at Seeing With Ears: Video Works by John Coulter the New Zealand Electroacoustic Music Symposium (NZEMS) 2-4 September 2009, School of Music University of Auckland.

Abide With Me: (2009)

A work for electroacoustic music with moving images Performed at Seeing With Ears: Video Works by John Coulter the New Zealand Electroacoustic Music Symposium (NZEMS) 2-4 September 2009, School of Music University of Auckland, The Beijing Modern Music Festival, 20 May 2010, Beijing, China, Nanjing Arts Institute 22 May 2010, Nanjing, China.  

In memory of a much-missed loved one.

Mouth Piece: (2008)

For solo voice and visuals. [Audiovisual], (10 Minutes), Out Hear: The Body Electric, New Zealand at Kings Place, Hall Two, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, 26 March 2012 8pm. 

Mouth Piece makes use of an electronic headset that transforms ordinary speech into musical tones. The device works by repeatedly recording and playing back vocalisations through a small speaker that is located inside the mouth cavity. This process-based composition is founded on a paradigm similar to that of Alvin Lucier’s I Am Sitting in a Room (1970): 

The novelty of Mouth Piece is that it extends on Lucier’s ideas through the use of a dynamically changing resonant space (the buccal cavity), which in turn results in dynamic changes in formant characteristics and perceived pitch. The work is presented as a short film. 

Shifting Ground: (2005)

A work for 16mm film & electroacoustic

music. Screened at McGill University, Monreal, Canada, 20 October 2005, Seeing With Ears: Video Works by John Coulter the New Zealand Electroacoustic Music Symposium (NZEMS) 2-4 September 2009, School of Music University of Auckland

The stone lay in a river bed
I saw it there 
Shining ....
Piece for Solo Violin: (2003)
A work for solo violin, body percussion, electronic sensors and tape
Performed at the opening of the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, QCGU, 25 November 2003

Bill: (2000)

Acousmatic: [Stereo]. Performed at The Christchurch Music Centre 1 October 2001: 

An audio documentary of an extraordinary man who gave his life to music. 

Bill's influence over me as a child (and I believe over many others) greatly effected my development as a musician, as a composer, and as an individual. He has been a true source of inspiration in my life. In 1998 I discovered a box of reel to reel tapes that Bill had meticulously recorded and catalogued. They spanned the last 30 years of his life from 1959 to 1988. This piece is constructed from those archives, and from my memories of him.

Tribe: Te waiata ruruku koauau: Chant for Scottish Pipe Band (1999)


Sound Fountain: (1998)

A work for kinetic sculpture and tape Performed at The Great Hall of the Arts, Christchurch Arts Centre, NZ, 9 October 1998

Because: (1997)

A work for 16 performing artists Performed at The Linwood Performing Arts Centre, Christchurch NZ, 20 June 1997

One: (1996) 

A work for 16 performing artists Performed at The Great Hall of the Arts, Christchurch Arts Centre, NZ, 3 October 1996

Home: (1996)

Acousmatic: [Stereo] Performed at The Composer’s Workshop, Nelson School of Music, Nelson, NZ 31 March 1996

Control of 14 Peacock Street fell (in descending order) to Timmy the dog - an Airedale Terrier belonging to my partner's brother, Klara - a four year old child, Peter and David - the cats, Anita - my partner, and lastly, to me. It was a home full of stress, of chaos, but also of laughter and a lot of love. 

Come Join the Dreamers: (1993)
For 2 Electric Guitars, Bass, Drums, Keyboard, and 3 Vocals (multitracked tape version) 

Coming Soon

Piece for Taonga Puoro and Live Electronics: (2017)

Performance-Based Work for Traditional Maori Instruments and Live Electronics. 
Performers: Jason Phillips and John Coulter

Piece for Taonga Puoro and Live Electronics employs a range of spectrally transformative software to extend the inherent sonic characteristics of the Pūtōrino in combination with other traditional Maori instruments. Fine-level control of the abstracted sounds (e.g. individual harmonics) is achieved in real time through the use of customised gestural sensors, allowing the introduction of subtle harmonies and textural shading well beyond the ordinary acoustic limitations of the instrument.  The work also acts as a demonstration of the four ways in which the pūtōrino may be played.

The pūtōrino is an instrument unique to the Māori and very highly esteemed. It has been called a bugle flute because it has two voices, but the traditional concept is of two complementary voices, the male and the female. Its male voice is played as a trumpet and its female voice as a flute. The shape of the instrument is taken from the casemoth cocoon that houses Raukatauri, Goddess of Flute Music, who loved her flute so much that she went to live in it. [Flintoff 2004] 

Eye Piece 2.0: (2016) 

Interactive Multimedia Installation

Eye Piece 2.0 is an electronic instrument that is designed to track the movements of the eye. The device works by exposing participants to a series of still images and translating the resulting data into sounds and moving images in real time. The resulting discourse immediately reveals the autonomous nature of the eye. Even when presented with horrifying images from todays mediated world, the eye (a more primitive version of the self) continues to probe in all directions. Within the work, voluntarily eye movements are also employed to control and trigger various aspects of the interactive audiovisual experience. The eye inadvertently seduces the participant into becoming an active participant, and contributor in the production of explicit and violent audiovisual materials. Iterating this point, it is the movements of the eye itself that create the sounds and images in Eye Piece. 


The work is a serious attempt to comment on the human appetite for pornography and bloodshed with reference to social media, the threat of terrorism, and gaming. It is hoped that through the interactive experience, a deep-seated human paradox will be exposed. Succinctly stated: we, products of evolution, are unable to change the fundamental nature of ourselves. Or are we?