Vale, Phillip Houghton - A memorial tribute to one of Australia's leading guitar composers

Upon receiving the sad news of the death of composer and guitarist Phillip Houghton, in Melbourne last Saturday 30 September 2017, Daniel Nistico wrote a touching tribute to Phillip, sharing with us, the insights and memories passed to Daniel, during his time with Phillip.

With Daniel's permission, we share it with you. 


A tribute to one of Australia's leading guitar composers.

by Daniel Nistico

One of Australia's greatest guitar composers, Phillip Houghton, recently passed away. I want to pay tribute to this great artist and share some memories, music and artwork of Phillip's.

Just to give you an overall picture of who this legendary artist was, here is an excerpt from his biography:

"As a composer Phillip is self taught and his compositions reflect the influence of many styles: classical, jazz, rock, ambient and world music. His early influences include the music of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Gryphon, Gong, Miles Davis, Satie, Debussy, Ravel, Riley, Crumb and Eno, while his work continues to reflect a strong interest in art, mythology and the environment.

Houghton's guitar music has been performed and recorded by leading musicians, including John Williams, Carlos Bonell, John Mills, Nicholas Goluses, Timothy Kain, Guitar Trek, Karin Schaupp, Slava Grigoryan, Gareth Koch, Tonie Field, Peter Constant and Marion Schaap (ZOO DUO). Some 20 of his guitar solos, published by Moonstone Music, are on the national syllabus (AMEB) and he is also represented in the new Benjamin Verdery Guitar Series for Frederick Harris Publishers."

In 2016, I did a lecture recital that focused on Phillip's music. I sent Phillip some questions and was taken aback when I received 12 pages of handwritten answers. These answers contain some illuminating details about his thoughts on music, art and composing. Rather than say any more, I have attached his answers here and will let you read for yourself!

Later in 2016, my wife and I had the pleasure of playing one of Phillip's pieces for him personally. We spent two days getting his input, exploring the music in so much fantastic detail that by the end of it we were all buggered (very tired). Here is a picture of the three of us during that time.



Phillip wrote an astonishing array of pieces for solo guitar, various guitar ensembles (quartets, duos, etc.) and guitar with other instruments (flute, violin, etc.). Perhaps his most popular work for guitar is the multi-movement piece, Stele.

You can see and purchase (digital and/or hard copy) the wide range of his pieces here.

Below is a performance of From the Dreaming for flute and guitar. The work was largely inspired by one of Phillip's paintings, which you can also see below.

I'm deeply saddened at the loss of such a remarkable and unique artist. Phillip's music will live on for a very long time.

Daniel Nistico, 
October 4, 2017

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