I’m always impressed by how versatile Australian composers are. Last night Sarah Hopkins put in an appearance on Australia’s Got Talent. She is one of the composers who features in my book Women of Note.

She’s rather overqualified for the show, in fact her audition was at the request of the show’s producers who ‘discovered’ her online. I think she’s incredibly brave because television is so manipulative in its goal to create entertainment value. But she survived it with dignity intact and made it through to the next round. She has chosen not to continue with the show because she has too many projects on the go already.

The Whirlies she is playing are instruments she invented to facilitate her philosophy of ‘music for everyone’. THey are made from corrugated hoses of various lengths that produce different pitches from the harmonic series when they are whirled through the air. The pitches change depending on the speed they are being whirled. She uses them in workshops with students and community groups.

The show provided a brief history of Sarah’s classical background and you get a sense of her hippy personality and explorations into music as a healing tool.

For a long time she was into more radical experimental music but more recently her focus has been community music. She has written some powerful choral pieces including her signature piece Past Life Melodies (1991) which has become the most performed Australian choral work in the United States. It channels a melody that came to Sarah while meditating and features harmonic overtone singing in it.  There are lots of versions on Youtube, below is one of the better ones.

Spellbindingly simple.
Past Life Melodies has been hugely popular in the US and with school and professional choirs around the world. Some say it is a bit spooky. I’d be interested in people’s reactions if anyone wants to post a comment.