In 2017 Kate Moore became the first woman to win the Dutch Matthijs Vermeulen Award. Kate is an Australian composer based in the Netherlands since 2002 and currently in residence at Gallop House, Perth where she is feeding the kookaburras, singing along to Stockhausen and writing exquisite music.
What music gets your heart racing?
The sound of the bass drum always gets my heart racing, especially when found in medieval music, both sacred and secular, Turkish, Greek, Arab and European, particularly Spanish, Italian and North African and all music sourced from an ancient past. Currently I have been obsessively listening to Las Cantigas de Santa Maria and southern Italian folk music based on the tradition of Tarantism. I am also in love with music by Ligeti, especially the violin concerto and the etudes.
What calms you down?
Plain-chant, the music of Arvo Part, Messiaen and swimming.
What do you sing along to?
The music of Stockhausen!!!
How are you settling in at Gallop House?
This is an interesting question. I love the house. It’s perfect, situated in a perfect location overlooking the Swan River. It has taken me more time than usual to find my way and feel settled here. This could be for the reason that I have so many things to work on. Finding my routine and creative track in a new place takes time.
What does your daily routine look like?
When I awake I work for three hours and then go walking to find an internet café or visit the UWA library where I can access scores, recordings and other resources. Then perhaps meet up with some people and then return to my cave where I play the piano for the rest of the evening and then have a little chat with my friend the kookaburra and my family of magpies that visit me every day. I love them very much.
You did a music masters at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague and have been based in the Netherlands since 2002. What made you decide to come back to Australia?
Officially I have not come back to Australia. In my time away, I have been wanting and needing time back at home, to engage with the red earth once again. However, it is only temporary as my work and life continues in many places. I love being home, however the universe makes the plans and I am subject to where my work takes me.
Kate Moore was awarded the Matthijs Vermeulenprijs in 2017 for The Dam, a work based on the rhythms made by cicadas, crickets, frogs, birds, flies, spiders and other creatures that inhabit a waterhole in the bush. Far away from human intervention, their evening song becomes a great choir joyously singing out into the vast universe. Below is an excerpt of The Dam performed below by the Icebreaker ensemble.
2017 was a big year: you witnessed the premiere of your 40-minute oratorio Sacred Environment at the 2017 Holland Festival, were awarded the prestigious Matthijs Vermeulenprijs for The Dam, became the recipient of a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship in Italy and a Yaddo Fellowship in The United States and your work Fern was shortlisted for the International Rostrum of Composers. Is Gallop House your recovery hermitage!? What plans do you have for this year?
It was an intense year last year and I find it hard to keep up the intensity without retreating into quietude for a period. For writing this is a necessity. As the year picks up though so too does my work and I will be travelling quite a lot. I have a major composition that I am focusing on this year. It is a sonic novella written for Jane Sheldon, Anne Harley, Anna McMichael and Louise Devenish. It is a very specific project related to the bushland and the question of homeland.
You have a soft spot for nature which you integrate into your compositions. What is the appeal of the natural environment?
The natural environment is an explosion of raw energy. It is inspiring and rich with beauty and colour but also elements of the fierce and moments of danger. It is filled with life and death and the give and take of fecundity and decay. Tapping into the wild is the wellspring of creativity from where frequencies themselves originate.
What do you hope the audience will experience through your music?
Escapism, revelation and the intensity of sentience.
Composer Mark Applebaum says music should above all else be interesting. What do you think is the most important role of music?
Music is a universe in its own right. Once it is alive and thriving, it becomes important.
When did you decide you wanted to be a composer?
I had a burning desire to know how music worked. From the earliest moments, I wanted to understand how it could be so incredibly captivating. In order to understand the beauty of music, I had to understand how to compose it.
The ensemble Alarm Will Sound released a recording of Kate Moore’s The Art of Levitation this month for International Women’s Day:
Where did you learn the skills to navigate a freelance, self-motivated career?
I learned the skills to navigate a free-lance, self-motivated career through trial and error and the need to survive. I followed a lot of guidelines such as those posed by organisations such as The Australian Music Centre and certain summer schools including Tanglewood and Bang on a Can and I have learned to trust one’s instinct. It is perhaps the most important armoury with which to enter the professional field. Having said this, I am learning all the time.
What is your composing process?
Sketching and drawing, improvising, remembering and feeling phrases, ideas and motives that speak to me, sketching a short-score and then the slow process of orchestrating, typesetting and publishing.
What’s the thing you love most about your work?
I love going deep into an adventure and being lost there somewhere for a little while and then emerging once again a little bit different. I love flying through the rainbow of sound colours as they shimmer, transform, float, reflect and weave their way around an architectural space, seeping into one’s bones and remaining in the nervous system like a magic serum.
Pianist Saskia Lankhoorn performs Sensitive Spot, composed by Kate Moore
What is your favourite place so far in Perth?
My spot in the garden where the Kookaburra comes and eats from my hand.
Do you have a soft spot for anything else in life or is it all about the music?
I love drawing. This is a passion of mine that brings peace of mind. I also love swimming and being in the ocean or a river or any other water place in nature. Another secret passion of mine is archaeology, history and storytelling and the place where they intersect.
Thank you Kate Moore for participating in the Celebrity Soft Spot Series. For more information on Kate and her work head to https://katemoore.org/.