Geoffrey Allen (b.1927) was born in the UK, where his musical education was limited to private piano lessons, and consequently he is self-taught in all other aspects of music. Allen began to compose while a teenager, but his ambitions for a career in music were thwarted by parents and teachers, who were opposed to such a step. Instead, he studied geography at Oxford University while continuing to compose in his spare time. The first of his acknowledged compositions dates from his university years.
After his graduation in 1951, Allen moved to Sydney, where he taught geography for two years at Trinity Grammar School. At the end of this period, he took up the first of a number of positions in Australian libraries, accepting a place on the staff of the State (then ‘Public’) Library of NSW. He was a scientific librarian with the CSIRO from 1958 until 1961, when he moved to Perth to work in the library of the University of Western Australia. He later became foundation Librarian of the WA Institute of Technology, and, when this became Curtin University in 1987, the University Librarian. Allen retired in 1992.
While in Sydney in the 1950s, Geoffrey Allen founded the Recording Society of Australia, and acted as its Secretary until 1961. During this period, the Society issued a number of LP recordings of Australian works and performers, on the Brolga label. Allen’s own music (Two Lullabies) was recorded by the Society, along with that of other Australian composers, such as Edgar Bainton, Nigel Butterley, Margaret Sutherland and Larry Sitsky. In 1990 he established the Keys Press for the purpose of publishing contemporary Australian classical music. Between 1990 and 2002 he has published over 200 separate titles by around 50 composers, including Roy Agnew, Miriam Hyde, Ann Ghandar, and Larry Sitsky, and this activity is continuing.
After a lull in composing during mid-life Allen has experienced a resurgence of creative drive since the late 1980s. His body of work is approaching his opus 50, and includes nine piano sonatas, many shorter piano pieces and numerous works for woodwinds, together with songs and a few works for strings. He acknowledges the major influences on his style as those of mid-19th century British and French composers. His music is generally melody driven, and is characterised by chromatic and frequently shifting tonalities with the rare flirtation with atonality. He eschews serialism, minimalism and other fashions of the last fifty years that he believes will prove to be passing fads.