Ian Wilson

Contemporary Music

Ian Wilson was born in Belfast and began composing while at university.

He has written nearly one hundred and fifty works, including chamber operas, concertos, string quartets, a range of orchestral and chamber music and multi-media pieces. His compositions have been performed and broadcast on six continents, and presented at festivals including the BBC Proms, Venice Biennale and Frankfurt Bookfair and at venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert and Wigmore Halls, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and Muziekgebouw, Vienna’s Musikverein and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall.

Wilson has in recent years also worked with jazz musicians, Asian tabla and Chinese pipa players and traditional Irish singers; he has also collaborated with choreographers, theatre directors and electroacoustic and computer music composers. In 1991, Running, Thinking, Finding received the composition prize at the Ultima festival in Oslo, and in 1992 he received the Macaulay Fellowship administered by the Arts Council of Ireland. In 1998 he was elected to Aosdána, Ireland’s State-sponsored body of creative artists and in recent years he has been AHRB Research Fellow at the University of Ulster, An Foras Feasa post-Doctoral Research Fellow at Dundalk Institute of Technology Composer-in-Association with California’s Camerata Pacifica ensemble and Associate Composer to the Ulster Orchestra. He was director of the Sligo New Music Festival from 2003 to 2011.

There are commercially-available recordings of nearly fifty of Wilson’s works on labels including Diatribe, Riverrun, Black Box, Timbre, Guild, Meridian and Chandos. His music is published by Ricordi (London) and Universal Edition.


“Sullen earth”, Riverrun Records RVRCD80 (August 2009). The Belgrade Strings, conducted by Ian Wilson, perform Sullen earth (2005, soloist Gordana Matijević-Nedeljković), Limena (1998, soloist Hugh Tinney) and The Capsizing Man and other stories (1994/97). Recorded in Kolarac Hall, Belgrade, Serbia 8th & 9th July 2007.

Artist’s Statement:

“Hardly any of my work responds to the Troubles. This was a conscious decision I made early on since, when one has grown up with that ongoing situation as a backdrop, the idea of raking over it again was something I was unwilling to do. Limena is an exception to this – as I was working on the piece, in Belgrade where I was living at the time, the Omagh bomb atrocity took place. At that time I had a friend who worked as a teacher in Omagh, so even at that geographical distance that latest in a long list of Northern Irish tragedies took on a more personal aspect. Therefore the middle of the work, which is the part I was about to start when I heard the news, became a lament for those who lost their lives, and for the Province in general.”


Johnson, Tim, “Out of Belfast and Belgrade: Ian Wilson’s Recent Music”, Tempo Vol. 57 No. 224, 2-9.

Russ, Michael, “Some observations on form-building processes in twentieth-century music: shaping time in Ian Wilson’s Rich Harbour: Concerto for Organ and orchestra” in G. Cox and A. Klein, eds, Irish Music in the Twentieth Century, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2003, 109-133.