Dr Dorothy Ker


Department of Music
The University of Sheffield
Jessop Building
34 Leavygreave Road
S3 7RD

Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 0496

Email : d.ker@sheffield.ac.uk


I am a composer of mainly instrumental and vocal music, with an interest in interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as exploring the use of live electronics in performance. I teach modules in Composition at all levels and supervise MMus and PhD students. My specialist research-led modules include ‘Collaboratory Project’ and a new interdisciplinary module for 2014-15 called ‘Music, Text, Performance’ with director Terry O’Connor of Forced Entertainment and poet Agnes Lehoczky. My primary aim as a teacher is to enable students to develop their own musical voice. Experience of the live sound is vital, so every opportunity is taken for you to work with performers and have your music played. As part of my teaching I have been able to involve students with my own research projects such as the ‘21st Century Oboe’. Originally from New Zealand, I immigrated to the UK in 1992 to further my studies with Nicola Lefanu and Harrison Birtwistle, completing a PhD at York University in 1998. I went on to be awarded Research Fellowships at Reading University (2001-2004) and Sheffield University (2005-2010), where I am Senior Lecturer in Composition.

My compositions have been performed and broadcast in both hemispheres and heard at international festivals in Auckland, Belfast, Darmstadt, Huddersfield, Perth, Taipei, Seoul, at the ISCM, and in London. In 2007 my CD ‘diffracted terrains: Chamber Music of Dorothy Ker’ was recorded by the London-based ensemble Lontano. Recent projects include ‘a gentle infinity’ commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra in 2010 and ‘Clepsydra’ composed in collaboration with Christopher Redgate for the new Redgate-Howarth oboe in 2011-12. In 2010 I was awarded a major research grant to make ‘Amelia and the Mapmaker’ with sculptor Kate Allen, a mixed media theatre piece building on early research with mathematician Marcus du Sautoy. I am currently on Study Leave in New Zealand, spending July 2013- June 2014 as Visiting Scholar at the New Zealand School of Music, where I am resident at the historic Lilburn house in Wellington. Two of my orchestral works are being recorded by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. In December 2013 a concert in Auckland by the outstanding ensemble 175East featured old and new works, while projects for 2014 include a piece for Stephen Altoft’s 19-TET trumpet for his CD ‘The Yasser Collection 2’ and a solo cello piece for Lucas Fels of the Arditti Quartet, to be performed at Darmstadt this summer. I will resume teaching at Sheffield in September 2014 and welcome enquiries from prospective students.

Research Interests

  • Composition - for instruments, voices, orchestra, instrument and live electronics, interdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Space and time in music and across disciplinary boundaries
  • Music and mathematics
  • Music and text

View Dorothy Ker's Research page

Academic Funding

EPSRC PPE award (2010) £98k toward ‘Everything and Nothing’, with Kate Allen and Marcus du Sautoy.
EPSRC PPE award (2008) £25k toward ‘the 19th step’ with Marcus du Sautoy, Kate Allen and Carol Brown.
Gulbenkian Foundation grant (2006) £5k for early development ‘Performance in Transit’
RCUK Academic Fellowship (2005-2010) £125k ‘Interactive Strategies for New Music’
AHRB Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts (2001-2004) £54k ‘New Music in a New Century’
Year of the Artist award (2001) £5k for ‘Music for Quiet Spaces’

Selected Publications

‘Reef’ (2013) for 175East ensemble, performed 8/12/13 at Q Theatre Loft. Recorded for broadcast by Radio New Zealand.
‘a gentle infinity’ (2010), commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, performed on 4/11/10 at Barbican Hall, London. Recorded by the NZSO for future broadcast.
‘Clepsydra’ (2012) for Redgate-Howarth oboe, performed as part of the 21st Century Oboe project in Sheffield, London, Manchester. Recorded by Christopher Redgate for ‘New Music for a New Oboe Volume 2’.
‘Amelia and the Mapmaker’ (2011), mixed media work with Kate Allen, building on early research with Marcus du Sautoy.
‘the history of rock’ (2008) piano solo, for Nicolas Hodges, performed at Darmstadt Ferienkurse


‘The Structure of Memory’ on ‘Music by New Zealand Composers’ (LNT126)
‘diffracted terrains: Chamber Music of Dorothy Ker’ (LNT126)
‘[…and…1]’ on ‘A Place in the Sky’ (LNT135)
‘Clepsydra’ on ‘New Music for a New Oboe Volume 2’ (Métier release 2014)
Various recordings (including interviews) available online at http://sounz.org.nz

View a full list of Dorothy Ker's Publcations