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2021 Composition Competition

First Place: $800

The University of Sydney Piano Society

In Partnership with

The Chau Chak Wing Museum


The Conservatorium Students' Association

Create Space


'You’re not making music, you’re creating a space. You’re building a room, putting some objects in it, and seeing what happens to the objects over time.’
Daniel Lopatin

'There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.'

John Cage



The patter of a key becomes raindrops. The erupting of a chorus becomes the rising morning. Rising notes become the silence of quiet moonlight.

Welcome to the University of Sydney Piano Society's 2021 Composition Competition, conducted in partnership with The Chau Chak Wing Museum and The Conservatorium Students' Association. 


For millennia people have written music inspired by the world, inspired by objects, and inspired by their relationship with it. This year, we want to see pieces of music that explore the relationship between sounds and objects, that show us a new way of thinking about art and artefacts - we want to see music that creates space.


Entrants are required to select an item from The Chau Chak Wing Museum's collection as a prompt. Items can be viewed in person at the museum, or found online.

Pieces must be between 4 and 7 minutes, and relate to a chosen item prompt in the museum's collection. You may only submit one piece. You may submit pieces you have created in the past, however, you cannot submit the same piece in any following year.

You may optionally submit up to 150 words describing how your piece is relevant to your chosen prompt. We are accepting pieces written for solo piano only.


This competition is open to all composers from and residing in Australia under the age of 27 in 2021 (not turning 27 until 1 January 2022). Entrance for members of the University of Sydney Union is free (signup to the union is free for all students enrolled at the University of Sydney). The submission fee is $15 for all other eligible composers*.

*The University of Sydney Piano Society is committed to supporting young Australian composers, and ensuring that everyone has equal access to every opportunity, particularly in the difficult era we are currently living in. If you believe that a $15 fee is prohibitively expensive and may put you in a position of financial hardship, please feel free to waive your submission fee. This is a self-reported system, so we trust entrants to do the right thing.


Pieces will be assessed on their intelligence, compositional integrity, and link to the selected prompt from the Museum's collection. The optional 150 words of explanation serves only to clarify the link between your prompt and piece, and will not be used to judge the musical value of your composition. Pieces that adhere strongly to the prompt will be regarded more highly than those that do not.

All submissions are anonymised. A shortlist will be prepared by the society, which will then be presented to a Head Adjudicator. The Head Adjudicator will determine a winner, with the shortlisted and winning compositions published. No correspondence will be entered into regarding these choices, and the panel and adjudicator's decision is final.



You must submit typed sheet music, the name of or a link to your chosen item from the museum, and one or both of the following: a digitally-constructed audio file of your piece, or a recording of you or someone else playing your piece. Your submissions must be anonymous. You may also submit a 150 word statement on how the piece relates to your chosen prompt. You must include a nom de plume (a pen name, or pseudonym) in your submission in place of your real name.  Submissions open March 16, and close midnight, August 31st 2021. 

First Place Prize: $800

The winners will be announced on our social media, and at a concert in semester 2. Winners' pieces will be played at the event - they can choose to play themselves, ask a representative to play for them, or play a digitally-constructed version of the piece. Winners also have the opportunity to professionally record their piece using our audio equipment. 

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