Since its inception in 2003, The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Cybec program has grown to become one of Australia’s foremost opportunities for emerging and early-career composers.

Each year, four participants are commissioned to write a 10-minute work for chamber orchestra, receiving individual tuition along the way, with all four works premiered by the orchestra in a showcase concert. Following this, one of the four participants is then selected as the MSO’s Young Composer in Residence, receiving further commissions from the orchestra.

The 2024 Cybec composers: Martin Cheney, Kleahos Murphy, Christine Pan and Katia Geha. Photo © Laura Pemberton

Christine Pan’s Sunburnt Lichen opened with rhythmic post-minimal ostinati, underpinned by deep brass and sweeping string melodies. Over a minute or so, the chamber orchestra crescendoed to a bright and powerful climax, before the music just as quickly melted into an entirely different sound world and emotion.

Pan’s skill across a range of compositional techniques was obvious. Counterpoint reminiscent of John Adams met a fearlessness to fully explore the colours within the orchestra’s range, and a clear understanding of the instruments she was writing for. The orchestra themselves handled the multilayered rhythms, fluid tempi...