Today is International Women’s Day so we are featuring Cat Hope one of Australia’s most active and interesting composers. There is no genre boundary Cat hasn’t crossed from classical flute to rock, punk, noise, opera, politics, academics and graphic notation. The formidable artist has been awarded the APRA award for Excellence in Experimental Music in 2011 and 2014. She is associate professor at the WA Academy of Performing Arts where she will be performing this month with Decibel ensemble.

What music gets your heart racing?

Opera and experimental music, for different reasons
What calms you down?
Drone music, and my favourite band, Low.

What do you sing along to? 

Opera and my favourite bands.

You started your musical career as a flute player at UWA, with a Mohawk haircut and a preference for inserting Stockhausen cadenzas in Mozart flute concertos. What do you wish you’d known when you were an undergraduate? 

That there were other people in the world like me, and that new music is not a ghetto.

You now work as a composer, professor and experimental bass performer. Your next concert is at the WA Academy of Performing Arts (March 23rd) featuring French composers Eliane Radigue and Lionel Marchetti – what can we expect from the concert?
This program features a work we commissioned as a join composition from Eliane Radigue and Carol Robinson, who often work together. The work is a very, very slowly evolving, delicate acoustic work, that draws on electronic music as a source of inspiration. The Lionel Marchetti works are similar in nature, one of them has been written especially for us and features a music concrete part created by the composer in addition to the acoustic parts. Marchetti, incidentally, often organizes the diffusion of Eliane’s electronic music, so I thought they would work well together in a concert. 

Ensemble Decibel in performance
Decibel have become one of the best recognized and busiest new music groups in Australia. What was your original intent behind the formation of the group?
To synthesise the music I had been making and playing – electronic music, acoustic chamber music, songs, sound installation and improvisation. Whilst it remains focused on music that features combinations of electronic and acoustic instruments, we have also taken on a focus on the realization and performance of graphic notation.

Graphic score for  Kuklinski’s Dream, performed by Decibel

You’ve recently become more intentional about including more women composers in your programming and dialogue. For example your groundbreaking After Julia concert in 2015 and your provocative keynote “Make forChange: challenging gender issues in computer music” at the Australasian Computer Music Conference. What is the impetus behind this?

It was actually Julia Gillard, and the way she was treated in the top job, that make me genuinely concerned for the status of women in Australian society. It caused me to look at myself, my experience, and the experiences of those around me and I realized that I didn’t really live up to what I expected from others  – that is, to be inclusive. It also planted a desire to address the problem in my own art making: how can music address social issues whilst keeping its ‘artistic’ integrity?

What do you think is the greatest challenge for women composers currently? 

Visibility – in concerts, festivals, labels/releases, ensembles and prizes. They are out there, but for some reason, they are a little harder to find, and the more we look, the more likely this is to change.

Composer Mark Applebaum says music should be above all else interesting. What do you think is the most important role of music? 

I agree with him! I think it should also be relevant – to our culture and place.

You have a soft spot for (and a PhD in) music at the lower end of the sound spectrum – what is the appeal of low frequency sound which you have previously described to me as “neglected and very beautiful”? 

It has a rich, subtle quality that has the ability to engage a more somatic relationship between the listen and sound, and therefore, music.

Cat Hope solo bass, Mlebourne, at the launch of ‘Ladyz in Noize’ vol2

How have you managed to juggle your career and parenting your two children? 

Children like to see their parents happy. I have a very supportive partner and that has really enabled me.

Decibel Ensemble

Where did you learn the skills to become a successful composer and confident experimental artist? 

I learnt (some!) confidence from my favourite artists and peers. Lots of listening, conversations, and trying things out.

What is your favourite place in Perth?
Kings Park.
Do you have a soft spot for anything else in life or is it all about the music?
I love doing things with my family and friends, slow bike riding and spending time with our adopted greyhound Cookie.

A big thank you to Cat Hope for making the time for Celebrity Soft Spot. For more information on her upcoming concert The Nature of Sound with Eliane Radigue and Lionel Marchetti go here.  Cat Hope has more details about work on her website Cat also features in Women of Note.

I hope you are enjoying the 2016 Celebrity Soft Spot series. Do you have a suggestion of who we should include on the list? Is there an artist you know doing something exciting in WA? I would love to hear your suggestions.