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Philip Dadson

Composer, Performer

Born: 1946


Phil Dadson is a sound and intermedia artist with an interdisciplinary practice including solo performances and exhibitions, building experimental instruments and sonic objects, video/sound installation; music composition, graphic scores and improvisations on invented instruments. He is the founder of the sound-performance group, From Scratch, (1974–2002), known widely for its rhythmic and distinctive performances on original instruments. In 2005 he was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Born in Napier, New Zealand 1946, he later studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, and played piano in University Jazz Workshop. Before completing the course he travelled to London and from 1968–9 was a member of the foundation group for a scratch orchestra, London, with Cornelius Cardew, Michael Parsons and others.

Returning to New Zealand mid 1969 he continued study at Elam, graduating Dip FA Hons in sculpture and performance, 1971. In 1970 he founded scratch orchestra (NZ) and later in 1974, From Scratch. Until 1976 he worked as a moving image maker (SeeHear films), co-founded Alternative Cinema (Auckland) and was a lecturer in intermedia at Elam from 1977–2001. A co-author of the From Scratch Rhythm Workbook, he has also collaborated on two international award-winning performance films of From Scratch with director Gregor Nicholas, has released numerous LPs and CDs of FS over its nearly three decade history, and is a co-author with Bart Hopkin of ‘Plosive Aerophones’ a book on the design and construction of slaptube instruments (see

From Scratch (1974 – 2002) developed an international reputation for an innovative sound/performance style that included sculptural, ritual and theatrical elements. Large custom-built instruments of extruded plastics, industrial and natural materials were used to create a variety of strictly non-electronic sounds and energetic rhythms. In 1998, ‘Global Hockets’, a collaborative project with Frankfurt based group Supreme Particles was toured in Europe. Following the final group work Pacific Plate, Dadson has continued with a more solo-based practice, under the name sonicsfromscratch.

In 2013 Dadson exhibited and performed with the Kermadec exhibition in Santiago Chile; devised and curated Sounding Tiritiri Matangi, a collaborative event with twenty plus musicians creating sonic interventions on the island’s walking tracks (repeated in 2014), devised Sonic Cycles, a bicycle-choir for the Teza site-occupation in New Brighton, Christchurch, and exhibited Bodytok Quintet as part of Scape 7 Biennale. In 2014 he toured with taonga puoro player Rob Thorne and Chilean musician Enrique Siques in X-Current, culminating in a performance at Audio Foundation (Auckland) as part of the S3D Invented Instrument minifest. In 2015, a feature film documentary titled Sonicsfromscratch (dir. by Simon Ogston and Orlando Stewart), documenting Dadson's career, was premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Information about Phil Dadson and his music for film and television can also be found on the NZ On Screen website.

As a recipient of an Arts Foundation Laureate Award, more information about Philip Dadson can be found on the Arts Foundation website.

In terms of pure sound, I am attracted to intricate texture; the microscopic, the unexpected, the naturally rhythmic and the adventurous; to sound atmospheres and layered perspectives, to sounds that conjure mood and imagination, that convey ideas and express the human heart and soul.

Composed (72)

273 Moons

for saxophone quartet and six vocalists, 8m

6's + 7's

for soprano saxophone, piano horns and vocals, 8m

7 Airports: solos, duets, chorus

electroacoustic, 12m


for improvising trio

After Half Life

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics

After Half Life

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics


for zitherum, 2m

An Archaeology of Stones

sound/performance with 'song stones' and sound stories, 14m



Blood And Bone

for any instruments


interactive video installation

Breath of Wind

sound and video installation

Coloured Purple

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics


for two pianos

Depth Soundings

sound/performance installation, 30m

Devil's Incognito

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics


for hand-drum, voice, pin-spot and microphone


for tuned percussion, voices and drones, 26m


video installation


for voice and looping pedal, 5m

Existential Dilemma

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics


for tuned PVC pipes, soprano saxophone, percussion and voices, 29m

Fait Accompli

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics

Fax To Paris

for percussion and voices, 8m

Finger Pot Rag

for From Scratch ensemble, 15m

Global Hockets

for From Scratch ensemble, 1h


for gloopdrum, 1m

Gloop 2

for gloopdrum, 1m

Gung Ho 1,2,3,d

for pitched percussion, PVC pipes, dulcett chimes, drums and drones, 1h

Laced cool

for long-stringed zitherum, 1m

Let's Dance Jack

for aeolia and voice

March Piece

for any instrument(s)


for orchestra, 6m


for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics

Naturanotation I

digital print

Naturanotation II

digital print

No Turning Back

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics

Novaya Zemlya

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics


for nundrum, 15m

On a Theme

for orchestra, chorus and drummers


for pitched percussion and reeds, 25m

Pacific 3,2,1,Zero

for voices, percussion and invented instruments, 25m


for gamelan orchestra, 12m


outdoor drumming event

Peace Rites

for chamber sextet, 14m

Peel the unseen

for zitherum and ostifans, 12m

Perfect Imperfect

for guitar, piano, percussion and electronics

Plate Tectonics

for song-stones, water, sampling pedal and microphone


for scratch orchestra

Polar Projects

seven video/sound works


for long-string zitherum and toy drum, 7m

Resonance 2

video/performance, 25m

Sister's Dance

for piano, 13m

Solar Plexus

performance event


for sprongs and voice, 8m 14s

Solo to Trio

for gloopdrum, sprong families, naiolin and voice, 16m 12s

Songs for Heroes

for tuned percussion, 50m



Three Short Films

for piano, 14m

To a circular mirror

for song stones, l/p, zitherum, nundrum, and ostifans, 21m


for three long-string Zitherums, 12m

Triad 1

for piano and drone, 20m

Vom 5

loop music

Vom 6

for 3 or 4 drummers

Vom 7

for waxing and waning influences (drumming)

Vom Variations 1–4

for pitched percussion


for song stones, 1m

Zitherum Voice

electroacoustic, 8m