Gareth Farr was born in Wellington, New Zealand. He began his studies in composition and percussion performance at Auckland University. The experience of hearing a visiting gamelan orchestra prompted his return to Wellington to attend Victoria University, where the characteristic rhythms and textures of the Indonesian gamelan rapidly became hallmarks of his own composition. Farr continued with postgraduate study in composition and percussion at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where his teachers included Samuel Adler and Christopher Rouse.
In 1993, at the age of 25, Farr was appointed composer-in-residence by Chamber Music New Zealand, the youngest-ever composer to hold that position. This resulted in the composition of three substantial works, Owhiro (String Quartet No.1), Kebyar Moncar (for gamelan) and the chamber sextet Cadenza. At the conclusion of the residence, Farr returned to the Eastman School to begin a doctorate in composition. As well as composing Kembang Suling (for flute and marimba, his most popular work to date) and three works for orchestra during this time, Farr also introduced audiences to his on-stage alter ego, the percussion-playing drag queen Lilith Lacroix.
The inclusion of his works in four events at the 1996 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts ? the ballet score for Douglas Wright?s Buried Venus, Lilith's Dream of Ecstasy, for orchestra, Kembang Suling, and the Bach-in-Bali piano solo Sepuluh Jari ? kick-started his career as a dedicated freelance composer. Since then, his music has been heard at, or especially commissioned for, high-profile events including the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (the 25-minute From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs), the opening of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa, for orchestra with soprano, tenor and karanga (indigenous New Zealand Maori chant), a work hailed as ?music with a powerful and moving impact that transcends idiom and individual taste?), and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney (Hikoi, a concerto for percussionist Evelyn Glennie and the NZSO). Most recently, a commission by the 2003 Auckland Festival resulted in Stone and Ice, composed for the combined forces of the NZSO and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. In 2006 Gareth was awarded the Order of New Zealand Merit, for his services to music and entertainment.
Gareth Farr?s music is particularly influenced by his extensive study of percussion, both Western and non-Western. Rhythmic elements of his compositions can be linked to the complex and exciting rhythms of Rarotongan log drum ensembles, Balinese gamelan and other percussion music of the Pacific Rim.
In addition to his music for the concert chamber, Farr has written music for dance, theatre and television.