b. 1946, United Kingdom

Swayne was born in Hertfordshire, England. His interest in Africa and African music has influenced his work both directly and indirectly.

He began composing at a young age encouraged by his cousin, the composer Elizabeth Maconchy. He studied piano with Gordon Green, Phyllis Hepburn, James Gibb and Vlado Perlemuter. On leaving Cambridge in 1968 he won a composition scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, London, where he studied with Harrison Birtwistle, Alan Bush and Nicholas Maw. In 1976-77 he visited the Paris Conservatoire to study with Olivier Messiaen.

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Cambridge Claire College and the Leeds Catholic Cathedral among others. In 1980 his huge piece CRY for twenty-eight amplified voices (which is dedicated to Messiaen) was premièred by the BBC Singers under John Poole. In 1981 Swayne made a field trip to Senegal to record the music of the Jola community of Casamance (southern Senegal); these recordings are now in the British Library's Sound Archive and available online. 

He now lives in London and teaches composition at Cambridge University, and is composer-in-residence at Clare College, Cambridge.

Artist Compositions


Premiere Title of Commission Listen
11/14/2004 Lonely Hearts Listen Close

Although often very funny and rather saucy (the fourth song, Verse for a Birthday Card, is a mini-fugue on the words “Some people like sex more than others”), they also have distinctly serious and quite poignant undertones.