Professional Profile

Nicholas Bannan

Conductor, singer and teacher researching the evolutionary origins of the human capacity for music

Internationally performed composer and arranger


Dr Nicholas Bannan

Dr Nicholas Bannan is an accomplished international composer, conductor, music researcher and Associate Professor at the UWA Conservatorium of Music. His research focuses on the evolutionary origins of the human capacity for music; vocalisation in song and language; music in child development; and musical communication and pedagogy. His teaching specialises in vocal studies and composition.

Dr Bannan was a Canterbury Cathedral chorister and choral exhibitioner at Clare College, Cambridge. He joined UWA from the University of Reading in 2006. He won several competitions as a composer, including the Fribourg Prize for Sacred Music in 1986, and has completed commissions for the Allegri and Grieg Quartets, the Guildhall String Ensemble, Cantemus Novum of Antwerp, and the Gentlemen of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Music and Evolution

Music, Language and Human Evolution

Why do human beings make music? No human society has ever existed without music, and people all around the world commit considerable resources, including time, effort, and ingenuity, to musical participation and consumption. Yet until recently archaeology has had little to say about the possible role of music in human evolution. This book examines the potential role of musicality in human evolution and its consequences for human culture. Drawing on a growing body of research in archaeology, anthropology, psychology, and musicology, it illustrates the inter-disciplinary necessity of accounting for the phenomenon of human music-making.

Music Education

First Instruments

Written for music educators from K – 5 onwards, First Instruments is a practical guide to teaching musical ideas through the first instruments we develop in early childhood, laying the foundation for how the collective creativity the book presents can sustain a lifelong commitment to music-making: voice and hand gestures. Founded on the belief that all children are musical, the book gives music teachers the necessary tools to develop students’ confident understanding of pitch relationships through improvisation and composition.

Peter Lang, Oxford, 2019

Every Child a Composer

This book breaks new ground in drawing on evolutionary psychology in support of advocacy for music education, and the presentation of innovative musical pedagogy.

The book adopts the perspective that musical experience is the birthright of all human beings through the decisive role it played in the evolution of our species, the traces of which we carry in our genes.

The author draws on scientific developments in acoustics, neuroscience, linguistics, archaeology and anthropology to examine theories that have emerged powerfully during the last twenty years and which argue for the significance of the practice of music as foundational to human culture.

Nicholas Bannan - Every Child a Composer

Spotify & YouTube

The Winthrop Singers 


Enjoy the Winthrop Singers on Spotify.


Enjoy the Winthrop Singers on YouTube.


X-Press Magazine

Englishman Nicholas Bannn, a former teacher with Dr Jonathan Fitzgerald at the UWA School of Music, describes himself as a composer of ‘chamber works that explore the interactive nature of acoustic communication.’ The more mundane, descriptive title of his single movement piece, Ensemble for Six Guitars, gives no scope for visualisation, allowing only for a purely aural response.

Although inspired very much by contemporary Western Australia, the piece has a stronger pre-post-modernist feel, a style that has sometimes wryly, often unfairly, been termed post-enjoyable. Coming from an older, more fractious space, it is nonetheless haunting, evocative and beautiful, conjures deep, sometimes dark and tense emotions, but overall is truly cathartic. There is beauty in fractiousness. The contrapuntal lines build in intensity then fade to dramatic pauses, only to build again into of cacophony of dissecting lines. Not for the faint-hearted, its rewards however are subtle and compelling.

Ian Lilburne
October 2023
X-Press Magazine

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