Peter Tahourdin was born in southern England in 1928. He studied composition with Richard Arnell at Trinity College of Music in London, graduating in 1952. In the years that followed, various concert and broadcast performances of his music were given in England, Holland and Canada.
Tahourdin came to Australia in 1964 and was appointed visiting composer to the University of Adelaide. The following year he was commissioned by the Australian Ballet to compose the score for Illyria, which was first produced, with choreography by Garth Welch, at the 1966 Adelaide Festival of Arts – it was later to appear on television.A long-standing interest in electronic music led him to undertake a year’s course of study at Toronto University in Canada. On returning to Adelaide he became active as a composer, lecturer and broadcaster, and he established the first practical course in electronic music in Australia at the University of Adelaide in 1969.
He was appointed to the staff of the Faculty of Music at the University of Melbourne in 1973, first as lecturer, then senior lecturer, in composition. During the two years 1978-79 he was chairman of the Composers’ Guild of Australia. His compositional output stems from a variety of commissions and interests, ranging from orchestral and chamber music to choral, electronic and educational music, as well as music for the theatre.
The five symphonies stand at critical points in Tahourdin’s career and are markedly different from one another, both in structure and in content. Equally, his chamber music reflects his changing approach to musical composition – from the tonal Clarinet Sonata (1962) through the four Dialogues (1971-84) and the Quartet for Strings (1982), all of which are concerned with the notion of direct yet varied interplay between the performers, to the Raga Music series (1985-88), which takes its structural base from procedures that underlie the unfolding of the raga in north Indian classical music.
In his electronic music Tahourdin is concerned with modern technology as an added resource that carries with it its own aesthetic and may be used in its own right (Three Mobiles – 1974), as a means of shaping and controlling other musical resources (San Diego Canons – 1983), or as one element within a more complex whole (Ern Malley – A Dramatic Testament – 1976).