Charlie Chan is an Australian composer, pianist, multi-instrumentalist and recording artist. She has written soundtracks, scores and themes for feature films, TV series and theatre productions, is sought after as a public speaker on composition and digital Innovation topics, plus also writes and records ambient solo piano compositions.
With a career spanning almost three decades following a prodigious start in her early-teens, Charlie brings broad-ranging musicality, a natural business affinity and contagious energy to all of her endeavours.
As a composer for feature films, TV series, documentaries, dance and theatre productions, Charlie has myriad screen and stage musical credits. These include soundtracks for Killing Time (2011’s most anticipated Australian drama series starring David Wenham), Me Myself I (feature film starring Rachel Griffiths), high rating Australian television staples McLeod’s Daughters and Australian Story, acclaimed Sydney Theatre Company play Gift of the Gorgon and numerous free-to-air, National Geographic and Discovery Channel documentaries including Addiction, The Last Warriors, Persons of Interest and many more.
Instrumentally, Charlie is a classically trained double bass player with a natural flair for guitars and percussion. But her favourite instrument, and primary compositional and improvisational tool, is her beloved 97-key Bosendorfer Imperial Grand piano. Charlie’s influences range from classical greats Mahler, Smetana and Wagner, to contemporary composer/artists Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass and Keith Jarrett, through to world-renowned Pakistani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and experimental pop artists like David Sylvian and his band Japan, Grace Jones and Peter Gabriel.
A multi-instrumentalist and recording artist, Charlie has released three critically celebrated solo albums on her own label in partnership with the Sony Masterworks classical label and Sony Music Publishing: “The Adventures of Charlie Chan” (1993), “East and West” (1996) and “Wild Swans” (1998). Wild Swans achieved Gold status for CD sales and contains two collaborative tracks with ARIA Award winning Australian singer/songwriter Monique Brumby. Charlie’s music is wonderfully diverse, exploratory and adventurous. Always with due consideration for the composition at hand, it takes in classical piano and minimalist figures, ambient soundscapes and ambient solo piano, globally inspired tribal folk music, jazz trio improvisation, world-pop styled music, meditation music and yoga music.
Charlie Chan is a pioneering Australian digital music business entrepreneur. She was one of the first female Australian musician/composers to embrace technology in her work. The interactive web site she built to support her solo albums bridges the gap between artist and audience. To date, Charlie has sold 75,000 physical CDs and more than 500,000 individual track downloads to fans via her web site – many of whom reside in the United States.
Charlie expanded her own label, Martian Music, into a successful independent online music service for herself and other artists in Australia and around the world. Its Internet based sales and distribution mechanism pioneered digital downloads and music ecommerce in Australia, a model that bypasses the physical retail arena and enables a larger portion of income to be channeled to the artist.
Charlie’s live concert appearances include the Sydney Opera House, State Theatre Sydney and Melbourne Town Hall. She has been awarded Best Music Performance at the Melbourne Fringe Festival along with being nominated for two APRA (Australian Performing Rights Assoc.) Awards for Best Music for a Television Series and Best Film Score, and three Australian Guild of Screen Composers nominations for Best Soundtrack Album, Best Music for a Feature Film, and Best Music for a Documentary.
Born and raised in Melbourne, with time spent living in Malaysia, Charlie now lives in Sydney where she writes and records music in her Pro-Tools studio, combining state-of-the-art technology with collectable vintage microphones and recording equipment. The child of a Chinese Malay father and Scottish-Australian mother, Charlie’s musical origins were buoyed by the limitless nature of youthful discovery and its associated lack of expectation. She received a ukulele at age three, began playing pianola and piano shortly thereafter, and started her first band at eight years of age with friends at her local Catholic girls school. By 15, Charlie was already composing music for small ensembles and drama camps.
No stranger to the pop arena, Charlie left Melbourne for Sydney at age 16 which led to commissioned work with drama and dance groups plus stints with successful pop bands Electric Pandas, The Allniters and iconic women’s band The Stray Dags. This all culminated with the release of Charlie’s solo recordings and, in 1996, an Australian and Asia Pacific tour supporting world music electronica band Deep Forest.
Select Media Quotes
“Charlie Chan is a refreshing change. She composes and she improvises (with) fluency and simplicity… the wide appeal of her music is attested to by the amount of work (she is) commissioned to write and perform.”
“Defies all boundaries, shatters musical categories and constantly takes the listener by surprise. Intelligent, sensuous music for the open minded.”
Sydney Morning Herald
“A harmonic meeting of classical music and high-tech soundscapes… ambient yet energetic.”
The Sunday Telegraph
“Organic origins of song, interaction of musicians, and cultural exploration create… a fresh and beautiful collection of music.”
Wild Swans Drum Media review
“To witness a Gamelan orchestra in full swing accompanied by drums and saxophone was an exhilarating experience. Chan’s music is truly universal.”
Benjamin Chen, Malaysian Times
“As well as being known for her forays into sampling and electronica, this cutting edge pianist and songwriter has a strong association with multimedia (and) the internet.”
Cal Clugston, Revolver magazine