Chris Dench was born in London in 1953; he is self-taught. After periods living in Tuscany and West Berlin, the latter as a guest of the DAAD Berliner Kunstlerprogramm, he finally arrived to settle in Australia—he became an Australian citizen in 1992.
His commissioned works include seven types of time machine for Ryan Williams, e(i)ther for violin and piano for the 2005 Huddersfield Festival, blood music for the Norwegian trio asamisimasa (also premièred at the 2005 Huddersfield Festival), symphony 4 for four amplified voices and large orchestra (’94-7) for the ABC, premiered by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra/David Porcelijn in April ’97; light-string sigils (’01) for Music of Changes in Los Angeles; strangeness and the eightfold way (’85) for the Arditti String Quartet, heterotic strings (’93—now withdrawn) for austraLYSIS, afterimages (’87) for the BBC; driftglass (’90), which represented Australia at the ’92 Paris Rostrum of composers, quattro frammenti (’92—now withdrawn), ‘e/meth (’95), ik(s)land[s] (’97-8) and the blinding access of the grace of flesh (’03) on texts by berni m janssen (’97-8), for ELISION; énoncé (’83-4) for the French Ministry of Culture, premièred by the London Sinfonietta at the ’83 Metz Festival, and many others.
His works have also been performed by Ensemble ‘Accroche Note of Strasbourg, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, ensemble Expose, Ensemble InterContemporain, ensemble Topologies (who take their name from his ’79 piano piece Topologies), Music Projects/London, ELISION, Libra, Kupka’s Piano, and the Xenakis Ensemble, with such conductors as Simon Bainbridge, Peter Eotvos, Sandro Gorli, Cristobal Halffter, Huub Kerstens, and Diego Masson, and such eminent solists as Julie Adam, David Alberman, Pierre-Yves Artaud, Andrew Ball, Giuseppe Bruno, James Clapperton, Michael Finnissy, Kathleen Gallagher, Richard Haynes, Rolf Hind, Peter de Jager, Mark Knoop, Stephanie McCallum, the late Yvar Mikhashoff, Geoffrey Morris, Peter Neville, Marilyn Nonken, Michael Norsworthy, Ian Pace, Rocco Parisi, Jonathan Powell, Michael Riessler, Stephen Robinson, Carl Rosman, Todd Seelye, and Claudio Santambrogio.
He has been the subject of ‘composer portrait’ concerts under the auspices of the Almeida Festival in London (’86), the Kunst im Wissenschaftszentrum series in Berlin (’89), the Huddersfield Festival (’92), the debut concert of Ensemble Topologies in London (’95), Music of Changes in Los Angeles (’02), and Kupka’s Piano in Brisbane (’16), and his works have been presented at such events as the Ars Musica Festival in Brussels, the Brighton Festival, the Damstadt Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik (at which he was awarded the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis of composition in ’84), Fylkingen in Stockholm, Gaudeamus Musicweek, the Hong Kong ISCM/ACL World Music Days, the Inselmusik and Inventionen Festivals in Berlin, the Kings Lynn Festival, the La Rochelle Festival, the Metz Festival, the Middelburg Festival, Musica Attuale ’92 in Bologna, Musica nel Nostro Tempo in Milan, the Schreyahner Herbst Festival, the Musica Nuova per l’Europa event at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena (released on a Fonit Cetra CD in ’89), the Musica Festival in Strasbourg, the Festival Rive-Gauche in Turin, the Sydney Spring Festival, the Biennale di Venezia, and elsewhere—most of these performances were broadcast.
Between ’86 and ’91 he wrote a series of four large-scale solo flute works: Vier Darmstädter Aphorismen, dé/ployé, sulle scale della Fenice, and Closing Lemma, which Paul Griffiths calls ‘important’ and ‘remarkable’ in his book Modern Music and After (OUP ’95). His ’92 work for Roger Woodward’s Alpha Centauri Ensemble, planetary allegiances (now withdrawn) for flute and ensemble was included in the group’s ’92 European tour; it was featured in a BBC-TV documentary on the Grateful Dead/Rex Foundation, the grateful and the Dead. Other TV use has included excerpts from funk (’88-9) on SBS’ Imagine, and driftglass on both Paul Grabowsky’s Access all Areas, and the Northern Territory Edition of the Holiday Show, both on the ABC.
His Piano Sonata was a finalist in the inaugural Beleura Award for Composition 2016, part of the Melbourne Music Awards. ELISION’s performance of funk, featuring Carl Rosman on bass clarinet and Peter Neville on percussion, won the ’96 Sounds Australian Award for best performance of an Australian Work. Symphony 4 received one of two High Commendations in the ’97 Triennial Paul Lowin Awards; it also received the ’98 Victorian State Sounds Australian Award for Best Work Composed by an Australian.
His works have appeared on a number of CD labels, notably his complete flute works on Etcetera, a CD of his works for ELISION on NMC, and a collection of works from the last ten years including beyond status geometry on the New York label Tzadik.