Michael Stitt

Composer and Landscape Architect




A musical style which is a fusion between Japanese and Western Art music. Michael describes the process of his composing: “My knowledge of strict rules relating to harmony and music structure is intuitive, rather than academic. I write music more like a painter goes about dabbing paint on a canvass. I have an idea and structure in mind, and then I go about trying to create it. To a large extend it comes about but along the journey, new discoveries occur along the way.”

Michael Stitt is an Australian composer, writer, landscape architect, urban designer/urban planner, who currently resides as a Manager of Urban and City Planning, in the United Arab Emirates. From the age of twelve he studied the classical guitarist at what was the Sydney Spanish Guitar Centre and later at The King’s School, Sydney, Australia. At The King’s School he absorbed music informally in the life of the school, and often turned the pages of the King's school chief music master, and organist, Keith Asboe, while he played flawlessly, such works as the Widor Toccata, and Prelude and Fugues of J.S Bach. After secondary education, he majored in Architecture at the University of Canberra, but later took a career in Urban Planning. A brief period undertaking a Diploma in Musicology at the Canberra School of Music, he disenrolled, and returned to a career in urban design. After 2005 he married and moved to the UK, and then to the Arabic Gulf States. Michael actively recorded music and shared his recordings on the internet while living in the Arabic Gulf States. In 2016, he travelled to Tokyo to undertake tuition in Japanese traditional music on the Shamisen. He attend and took part in a Summer festival at the nearby Jindaiji temple, and to take day trips to various gardens and important places in Tokyo, but including Osaka, Nara and Kyoto. His time in Japan had a profound spiritual impact on him, and no more so is this evident than in the many compositions he has written when he returned to Australia, then the United Arab Emirates.




What does music mean to you personally?

Spiritual happiness, Self-expression; Essence of Life ; My Identity – my existence! A reason to breath air and to share with Nature and Humanity.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Yes - the faculty or activity of imagining impossible or improbable things. Yes - a fanciful mental image, typically one on which a person often dwells and which reflects their conscious or unconscious wishes. No! - an idea with no basis in reality. Music is very real, ipso facto, a basis of reality. It frustrates me that some people see absolutely no purpose, and no necessity to give music anytime at all. In my view, a person who absolutely has no empathy with music, is a very flawed individual. They lack a soul and very rarely do I share my time with zombies.

If you were not a professional musician, would you have been?

I am not a professional music in the strict definition of making a living composing and earning a living writing music. My mainstream is Landscape Architecture. I ‘marry’ the natural word with the human expression of design – a nexus between music and landscape design. In my own eyes I see my other career - role as music writing.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

As I do not rely on music as a paid career, I am fortunate not to have to worry about this.

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I believe there will always been a need for classical music, at least I really do hope so. There seems to be a decline world wide. As a young boy I used to save my pocket money to buy a classical record, and now - other than buying CD’s or music tracks online, the enormous range of music access seems to be less so. I do fear that Western Art music is declining in popularity, though in Japan it seems to be still popular and special.

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

I would sincerely hope two things: Musicians and audience in large would accept greater freedom in experimentation of popular historical composer’s works. Right now it seems that it is sacriligious to improvise Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Why not? The cadenza of a concerto as always been accepted, but not the concerto itself. I personally have tired of listening to the same concerto, sonata repetoire over and over by dead composers. Why can’t performers experiment more? Centuries ago that was accepted. I have great respect for Flamenco and Jazz performers, who see music in a dynamic “living“ form! Can you imagine a Flamenco artist reading note for note a traditional dance form by another Flamenco artist. Never!

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

Absolutely. Taking my former comments before further, we need to reflect a world of uncertainty. The world of science changed dramatically in the early to mid twentifth certury. Poincaré, Heisenberg, Gödel, Turing and others changed all that. The Art works of M. C. Escher and music by Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Villa Lobos, and many others, attempted to explore that uncertainty as new aesthetics. We musicians should strive to create new Aesthetics - new musical expressions. Every morning I wake up excited about music and composition. We need to take the listener more and more to contemporary compositions and not simply the rehashing of “old classics‘ of dead white male composers.

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

We must try and create a mix in our concert programs between contemporary and historical Wesern Art music. We should not be afraid to add a musical composition of our own, or at least a composer of our own times. I refuse to give concerts on the classical guitar by only the mainstream composers. For example, I recently included a set of Varations I wrote on Packington Pound, and was delighted how the audience enjoyed this work. One person after the concert commented that they had never heard this work before and asked after the name of the composer. When I told them I wrote it, they were genuinely shocked and surprised. Why is it that we don’t have courage to do this more often. In future that is my goal – to promote and share my humble create compositions. At some point I will record it.


Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

Oh my God! What a question.  There are so many works. Okay here goes. On-the-whole, I write my music extremely fast. I have a music idea well formulated in my head. I then simply write notes on a computer, which is a perfect medium because as a Design Manager, I just don`t have lots free time. My knowledge of strict rules relating to harmony and music structure is intuitive, rather than academic. I write music more like a painter goes about dabbing paint on a canvass. Indeed, I have an idea and structure in mind, and then I go about trying to create it. To a large extend it comes about but along the journey, new discoveries occur along the way. I have two favourite works. My first truly satisfying work is the concerto for harp and chamber orchestra. It was my first attempt to write a concerto: a work for a solo instrument with a story to be told woven with an orchestra. The original idea was to write a concerto in the style of Villa Lobo's guitar concerto. I even set up the instrument combination based on this beautiful work. The empty electronic canvas looked bear and I just started to consider the structure in my head. I quickly decided I preferred the harp rather than the guitar. In real life this might be different, but subconsciously I think I associated the Western harp as having a delicate sound more like a koto, perhaps even the banjo-like sound of the Japanese 3-stringed Shamisen. The concerto took shape very quickly and I simply started to write it in a joyous happy style with more and more the thought that it would become a concerto for flute and harp. Only when I started writing the cadenza for the first movement, did I persuade myself that the work would put the harp above the flute. At some point I may revisit this and incorporate the flute as a type of duelling element between it and the harp as a final cadenza. The second and third movements were written over two days. I wanted a sombre tone in the second movement. The listener still a letter to hear the original theme but with some thought towards Pathos. Shortly after writing the concerto and sharing it amongst friends on the Internet, a work colleague, who I'd also a musician commented that the work is rather Japanese influenced. I found this comment curious and at the same time delighted that there is within me a Japanese voice, for I believe that elements of the Japanese thinking and culture is so strongly part of me. I really learnt the art of composing in Japan. Then I disliked my Japanese Sensei for her strictness in teaching me to play the Shamisen. For two solid months living with her in Tokyo I endured strict practise discipline and long nights of her students learning to play through the thin walls. I left Tokyo telling myself I would never play the Shamisen again. Little did I know that all those hours, days, & months, of Japanese traditional music, sunk into my subconscience. A few months after returning to Australia, I would wake up desperate to write music down. I have a lot to thank Toshiko-Sensei. She significantly added a rich layer of musical creativity within me. I have many wonder musical ideas in my mind, just not enough time to put them on e-paper. My favourite work is my Japan Symphonic Poem. I wrote it in one go combining traditional instruments including Shakuhachi, koto, and Shamisen, with Western orchestral instrument, and the result was a myriad of Japanese musician friends all seem to enjoy it. The second movement: Peace Song, seems to be enjoyed by all. So many ask for the works inspiration and meaning. For example a Japanese composer, Yasuyuki Katayame wrote and asked me: I listened and found this very interesting. I thought I could feel how Japan was thought of. Can there be some uneasiness within this kind of peace? Shall I take this "From war" or "Into war"?

It simply reflects a complex set of emotions for the love of Japanese people, who showed me such extraordinarily kindness. A people who taught be Kindness, Humility, Humility and love of my fellow human beings. I have never been the same person since. Each day I‘m filled with inner happiness, love, and peace. My Japan Symphonic Poem seems to reflect all emotions. I cry when I listen to it, so many emotions. Japan Symphonic Poem


We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

I love the idea. I tried to encourage a similar approach with Landscape Architecture. You may like to read an article I wrote recently on this theme. Music as a Tool in Landscape Architecture: Creating places of Stillness, Meditation, and Tranquility.


Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Start with popular easy listening works like Vivadi and Mozart etc. At the sametime learn a musical instrument. When I was a child I begged my parents for a piano, but they wouldn’t have one in the house. So important to give two things: books and music. Love comes in the form of giving books and music!

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

Sadly, there is some truth in this. I am fortunate to share my compositions for the free enjoyment of others. If someone cres or likes my music works, I am happy to oblige.

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

No. You can’t force people to like your compositions, but you can introdue them to your efforts and hope they see some merit, albeit, enjoyment, listening to them. I’m pleased I have a small number of followers. I am easily content.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

1. I currently like writing Japanese style meditation music for people seeking inner peace: TEARS OF RICE 米の涙 https://vimeo.com/227739358

The Anguish Languishing Mind Calls for Peace https://vimeo.com/203549738

2. Further development of a suite called SYLVIUS IN KYOTO asking the question: What if the greatest German Lutenist composer, Sylvius Leopold Weiss (12 October 1687 – 16 October 1750) had visited the great Royal Court of Kyoto, Japan? What a wonderful fusion of Western and Eastern fusion/ composition would have resulted? Sylvius was a German composer, who was an exact contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach, and George F. Handel. He was also the highest paid musician in the Dresden Royal Court, and was legendary in his day for the quality of sound he produced from his instrument. Sylvius was born in Grottkau near Breslau, the son of Johann Jacob Weiss, (also a lutenist) Like G.F.Handel, he spend time as a composer in Italy. He served at courts in Breslau, Rome, and finally in Dresden, where he wrote an enormous body of music, the vast majority of which is for the Baroque lute only, some chamber music, and that is where the problem exists. His music is exquisite and harmonically inventive, but the instrument he wrote for has been redundant for at least two centuries. Only in the early 21st century was it revived, and only over the last two to three decades, many of his works have been recorded. Here is but a small taste of this huge endeavour: https://vimeo.com/204669737

3. I also like writing for the piano and working on a large scale work, a quasi- composition in the style of Liszt’s Sonata in b moll, and Villa Lobo’s Rudepoema.

=== I am a Fifty-five year old very happy male, who fortunately has not had to fight in a war, and now probably have about thirty years of life left – if I am lucky! I intend to do my utmost to live a life of kindness and humility. Give to my only son, Adam. Perhaps write a few more works that give a little pleasure and happiness to any person willing to listen to them. 

Thank you. ありがとうございます