DR Danae Killian-O'Callaghan

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  • Honorary

Research expertise

  • Second Viennese School (Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, serialism, expressionism)
  • integral and transformative epistemologies (contemplative practice, existential phenomenology, anthroposophy, western and eastern alchemical traditions, Martin Heidegger, Rudolf Steiner)
  • music and poetry in movement (eurythmy)
  • musical processes and structures of poetic language, and their human ontological significance (Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath)
  • ontology of performance (performativity, existential phenomenology)
  • piano performance (Bach, Mozart, Australian contemporary art music, 20th century European modernism)
  • poetry in performance (Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes)
Danaë Killian-O'Callaghan is an Australian pianist whose performances have found regard internationally for their intense originality and rare communicative power. Her repertoire ranges across the complete solo piano music of the Second Viennese School, major polyphonic works by JS Bach, and a wealth of Australian compositions. A passionate champion of contemporary art music, Danaë Killian-O’Callaghan has delivered nearly a hundred world premieres. Her interpretations of contemporary Australian and Asian music are documented on six CDs and have been broadcast on the ABC, 3MBS, the BBC, the NRK, Iceland NBS, Bartok Radio, Magyar Radio, Sveriges Radio, and Radio New Zealand. As soloist and chamber musician, Danaë Killian-O’Callaghan has performed in Holland, France, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, China, and the USA. She has been the recipient of prestigious awards both for her academic and her musical prowess, including the Australian Alumni (W G Walker) Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship, the Helen Macpherson Smith Scholarship, and an Australia Award Endeavour Fellowship. Danaë Killian-O’Callaghan earned her PhD from the University of Melbourne in 2010. Her thesis on Virginia Woolf’s playpoem The Waves as a contemporary imagining of the harmony of the spheres was nominated by the Faculty of the VCA and MCM for the University’s prestigious Chancellor’s Prize. Danaë Killian’s recording Arnold Schoenberg: Complete Works for Piano Solo for the Move label was launched in 2015 to critical acclaim. Currently Danaë Killian-O’Callaghan is working on a major practice-led research project in music and poetics, Transformations and Initiations: Sylvia Plath in Flames, in Performance, which explores the human potential for spiritual self-transformation through art. Deep ontological transformation involves the negotiation of challenging, even treacherous, existential thresholds, such as Sylvia Plath specta cularly articulates in her late poetry of initiation. In this project, Danaë Killian-O’Callaghan works creatively and contemplatively with Rudolf Steiner’s transformative spiritual-scientific epistemology to illuminate the initiation structure of Plath’s poetry and life, as she seeks like Plath to performatively cross flaming thresholds between biography and art, existence and death, potential and actual selves. The project has resulted in three major performances produced between 2012 and 2015: Sylvia Plath in the Domestic Sublime, The Dove’s Annihilation, and The Flame and the Rose Folded Together. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2DYSjSCKYA In overview, Danaë Killian-O’Callaghan’s research interests cover piano performance (Bach, Mozart, Australian contemporary art music, 20th century European modernism); the musical processes and structures of poetic language, and their human ontological significance (Woolf, Plath); integral and transformative epistemologies (contemplative practice, existential phenomenology, anthroposophy, western and eastern alchemical traditions, Heidegger, Steiner); poetry in performance; the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, serialism, expressionism); and the ontology of performance.

Subject Areas

  • Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing
  • Musicology and Ethnomusicology
  • Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies
  • Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
  • Music Performance
  • The Performing Arts (incl. Theatre and Dance)
  • Phenomenology

Available for supervision

In research supervision, the most intimate of teaching modes, my passion for sharing intellectual and artistic journeys of wide-ranging and deep discovery has guided several students’ research projects to fruition in work of outstanding quality. I introduce students to integral and contemplative perspectives on the knowledge process, as well as to the phenomenological methods appropriate for practice-led creative arts research. My holistic, depth-knowledge approach to research supervision is intended to generate student outcomes of personal as well as scholarly significance: on completion of a research project, a student will not only have discovered and articulated new knowledge of a topic; ideally, she or he will also have discovered transformative knowledge about him- or herself as a human being living as an artist in the world. This cultivation of personal epistemological dimensions complements my rigorous expectations that all students’ work upon completion demonstrate scholarly objectivity and integrity, intellectual cohesiveness, literary competency, and full facility with academic conventions. The Research Higher Degree and Honours theses that I have supervised cover a wide-reaching range of topics and specializations: Illuminating Significative Utterance in Performance: Helen Gifford’s Fable (1967) for Harp (J Dennett, PhD); Essential Gesture (J Dennett, MFAIAP); Blind Perfectionism: The Musically Impoverishing Implications of Executory Narrowmindedness (E Wright, MMusPerf); Developing a Melodic/Harmonic Concept for Non-Idiomatic Improvisation on the Electric Guitar Through the Study of Arnold Schoenberg’s Dodecaphonic Solo Piano Works (B Thomson, BMusPerf); Don Giovanni’s Avenging Women (H Morgan, MMusPerf); Essential Gesture: The Potential Confluences of Instrumental Performance Practice with the Movement Art of Eurythmy (J Dennett, MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts Practice): The History and Evolution of Cello Technique (F Shack-Arnott, BMusHons); An Improv

Contact Details

Phone Number: +61434599731
email: danaeko@unimelb.edu.au
Media Only contact?: Y


Journal Articles Unrefereed

KILLIAN-O'CALLAGHAN D, RAPSON B (2012), Arthur Zajonc in Australia January 2012, Vol 2012, Issue Autumn

Minor Recorded Works

KILLIAN-O'CALLAGHAN D, VELDMAN (2013), Butterfly Modernism / chamber music by Eve Duncan, Move Records

Publications of Creative Research

KILLIAN-O'CALLAGHAN D (2015), For Grasping Schoenberg: An Epistemology of Sense and Meaning in Word, Music, and the Moving of a Pianist's Arms

Conference Proceedings

KILLIAN-O'CALLAGHAN D (2009), Wave to the Depths: A Performance of The Waves' Hidden Music, Woolf Editing / Editing Woolf

Major Recorded Works

KILLIAN-O'CALLAGHAN D (2014), Arnold Schoenberg: Complete Works for Piano Solo



Sensuality in the City, Melbourne Recital Centre, Sensuality in the City brings together sexuality and sensuality in metropolitan centres through music and visual elements with a focus on queer composers, including two Australian premieres by Philip Venables. This concert is part of Metropolis New Music Festival.
Melbourne Composers' League Elbow Room Concert featuring premieres of duos by Henry Lewis and Diana Blom, Montsalvat, World Premiere of Le Bon Chanson for flute and piano by Henry Lewis; Melbourne premiere of The Green Man Dances and Little Cabbage for piano, four hands, by Diana Blom.
Dancing on a Volcano, St Stephens Church, Dancing on a Volcano, presented by Forest Collective. “The whole town and all its inhabitants are quite drowned in carnival din, masks and confetti. And on top of that the news of the Reichstag fire. Dancing on a volcano” -- Alban Berg. Dancing on a Volcano features rarely heard works created during the time of the Nazi regime. The performance focuses mainly on German and Jewish composers who were either supported or banned during this time, including works by Isla Webber, Kurt Weill, Franz Schreker, Frederich Hollander, Mischa Spoliansky, Henri Dutilleux and Olivier Messiaen.
Pierrot Lunaire: Ein geschlossenes Zauberbuch von Pierrot, St Stephens Church, This modern expressionistic melodrama by Arnold Schoenberg, including poems by the Belgian writer Albert Giraud (translated to German by Otto Erich Hartleben), was performed in a small and intimate setting at the haunting St. Stephen’s Church Richmond. The vivid atonal settings of the text brought to life Pierrot's stories of love, sex, religion, violence, crime, blasphemy and his haunted return home to Bergamo. Director Daniel Sinfield joined Forest Collective for a performance of one of the most important musical works of the 20th century -- Pierrot Lunaire -- framing virtuosic performances by Danae Killian of major Schoenberg piano works.
Melbourne Composers' League Elbow Room Concert featuring world premieres of solo piano works by Selleck, McKellar, Vaughan and Lynch, Montsalvat, Included on the program were world premieres of solo piano works by Australian composers Johanna Selleck (Homage ot Liszt), Dindy Vaughan (Bush School and Sacred Carvings), Colin McKellar (Scottish Dancing), and John Lynch (Sunburnt Country)


A Russian Dream, Seymour Centre, Presented by Kithara Music Association. Produced by Gotthard Killian and Danae Killian. Conceived by Gotthard Killian. A Russian Dream is a duo cello and piano recital of passionate Russian and Russian-inspired modern music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke, and Gotthard Killian.
The Flame and the Rose Folded Together, Bluestone Church Arts Space
Fire of Life: Light-Eurythmy Ensemble, Switzerland, Changsha Performing Arts Centre; Xing Hai Concet Hall; Qingdao Opera Theatre and Beijing Spring Valley Cultural Development Centre
Ernest Bloch, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ernest Bloch (1880-1959). Music for Viola and Piano. The performance includes the rarely heard, texturally dense and technically demanding Suite for Viola and Piano, alongside selected shorter works for viol and piano duo, viola solo, and piano solo.


Sylvia Plath in the Domestic Sublime: A Pianist Opens Her Veins and Speaks, Ormond College
The Dove's Annihilation: Sylvia Plath and the Kingdom, the Power, the Glory, Melbourne Fringe Festival


The Dove's Annihilation: Sylvia Plath and the Kingdom, the Power, the Glory, Orana Performing Arts Centre, Killian, Danae concept, direction, piano, spoken word and Baker-Finch, Jan eurythmy, choreography, costumes. The Dove's Annihilation: Sylvia Plath and the Kingdom, the Power, the Glory. Publicly presented by Kithara Music Association at the 2013 Conference of the Anthroposophical Society in Australia, 'Spiritual Ideals for Culture and Democracy: A Contribution Towards Canberra's Centenary Celebrations.' October 5th, 2013
La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune, Multiple: Xi'an Conservatory, Theatre Studio at Shenzhen Concert Hall, Yinchuan Conservatory, Shijiazhuang Performing Arts Center (as well as in Chengdu and Zhengzhou -- venues not recalled), Killian, Danae piano and Killian, Gotthard cello. La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune. Duo cello and piano recital. Western music by Debussy, Shostakovich, Messiaen, Beethoven, Bach. Chinese folk songs. Toured in six Chinese cities.


Goldberg Variations by Johann Sebastian Bach, Yude Hall Shekou, Shenzhen, CHINA, Solo piano recital
Sylvia Plath in the Domestic Sublime: A Pianist Opens Her Veins and Speaks, 35 Hotham, Killian, Danae curator, pianist and speech artist. Sylvia Plath in the Domestic Sublime: A Pianist Opens Her Veins and Speaks. Music by Bach (Goldberg Variations), poetry by Plath (from Ariel and Winter Trees). Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Education and Training

  • Doctor of Philosophy PhD , University of Melbourne, 2010
  • Master of Music Performance (By Research) MMusPerf , University of Melbourne, 2006
  • Bachelor of Arts in Music BA(Mus) , Victorian College of the Arts, 1993
  • Associate of Music Australia (Piano) AMusA , Australian Music Examinations Board, 1988

Awards and honours

  • Awarded for postdoctoral research in Beijing, Endeavour Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, 2014
  • Ileen Macpherson Trust Travel Grant, 2013
  • Keith G Chapman Scholarship, 2008
  • Helen Macpherson Smith Scholarship (University of Melbourne), 2007
  • Postgraduate Equity Scholarship (University of Melbourne), 2004
  • Alexander Stiftung Grant, 2001
  • Ileen Macpherson Trust Travel Grant, 1998
  • Australian Alumni (W G Walker) Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship, 1993
  • Awarded to the undergraduate dux of the VCA School of Music, for outstanding academic and musical performance, John Gaitskell Memorial Mensa Prize, 1992
  • For outstanding achievement in the field of performance, Gwen Nisbet Prize (Victorian College of the Arts), 1991
  • Elsie Dickinson Prize (Royal South Street Society), 1990