May Lyon


May Lyon is a composer, arranger, music educator and mezzo-soprano based in Melbourne. Lyon’s music explores a range of themes, from deep human emotions to mathematical concepts, as well as the lighter side of life. Stylistically eclectic, Lyon’s compositions move from dramatic and intense, to quirky. Emotion, precision, duality and rhythm are all strong recurring elements.

In 2019 Lyon will complete a Master of Music as a recipient of the Fay Marles Scholarship at the University of Melbourne under the guidance of Dr Katy Abbott Kvasnica and Dr Elliott Gyger. Currently Lyon is working on a chamber opera Pieces of Margery, in conjunction with Melbourne based opera company More Than Opera, to be premiered in 2020. In 2017 Lyon was a participant in the Cybec 21st Century Australian Composers Program, writing Ignition under the mentorship of Brenton Broadstock OA. Following this, the MSO commissioned Lyon to compose the main piece for the 2019 Snare Drum Award, Phosphorus. Lyon has received several other commissions, including composing for Syzygy Ensemble, Icon Trio, Forest Collective, Ensemble Goldentree, the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra, and The Glen Johnston Composition Award.

Composer website: or


On The Inside, for Flute, Clarinet, Cello & Piano

On the Inside explores the many aspects of identity throughout a woman’s life, from growth to complexity, (as opposed to innocence to uselessness). It rejects the idea that women are to be seen as objects only, that a woman’s value lies in her physical attributes and functionality to another. Having said that, some musical aspects that might be perceived as “beauty” have been retained because, like all characteristics, beauty is not something to be ashamed of or feared.

Commissioned by Samantha Wolf for International Women’s Day 2016 concert: This Will Be Our Reply. First performed on 7th March 2016 by Tamara Kohler, Gemma Tomlinson, Aaron Klein, & Adam McMillan. Recording by David Collins at Melba Hall, The University of Melbourne.

 Additional Words from the Composer:

When writing On the Inside for International Women’s Day 2016, there were two main points for me: protest and gender.

  1. I could tell you what is in my piece and why I wrote it, but would you hear it without reading the description? (Or even after having read it?) Will this challenge anyone’s thinking? I doubt those who continually treat women as a second gender will think differently simply from hearing my piece. Protest and petition, without context or the right audience, usually falls on deaf ears. However, that doesn’t mean I about to go silent.
  1. I can honestly say I was torn while writing this piece. I am motivated to write for injustice and to give a musical voice to inequality. At the same time, I felt uncomfortable to be composing “as a woman”. I don’t see my music as gendered. My ovaries do not compose. Yet, therein lies the rub, as I cannot get away from my gender. It is human nature is to categorise. Before a single note is heard, this piece has been labeled “from female” and is associated with all the connotations that come with that for each listener, positive or negative.

There is usually more complexity on the inside than what is initially seen.

Featured in Social Activism Waves playlist, March 2017

Daydreams and Nightmares, for Brass Quintet.

Based on the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The work is initially calm, rather like a daydream, but the jaggedness of the second theme is suggestive of being woken from a reverie, or perhaps of falling into a nightmare. The calmer first theme leads into darker thoughts, eventually becoming full night terrors. Overall, there becomes little division between the two states, as of one drifting between asleep and awake. “You must suffer me to go my own dark way.” – Robert L Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Featured in Dream Waves playlist, December 2017

Bugs, for violoncello duet.

Bugs is a Cello duo performed by Alister Barker and Chien-Hsie Ong, about a blowfly, a rhinoceros beetle, and a mosquito. Bugs was performed live on 3MBS on 9th November 2010 as part of their Live at the Convent series.

Featured in Place Waves playlist, May 2018

Pied Chorale, for chamber choir and piano.

Pied Chorale is an 8-part chorale where all the notes and words are derived from the mathematical constant Pi [3.1415…] sung consecutively up to the 195th decimal place, including a mensuration canon.
Each number represents a different note in the diatonic mode, with 8 and 9 doubling 1 and 2.
0 is the whispered word Sunya (shoon-ya), the Sanskrit word for 0, or is represented by a rest during the canon.
While there are later shifts, the piece mainly sits within the Dorian mode.

Featured in the playlist Vocal Waves II – August 2019.


May Lyon was interviewed for the Making Conversation: Australian Composers’ Podcast, Episode 4, 28/07/16.