In time to music and nature
Composer Kate Moore draws from the visual arts and outside world in her work, writes William Yeoman
Dutch-Australian composer Kate Moore is the latest lucky artist to take up a 12-month residency at Dalkeith’s heritage-listed Gallop House, following previous residencies by Andrew Batt-Rawden and Mace Francis.
Part of the Prelude Composers Residencies managed by Bundanon Trust, the program, which originally started at late Australian composer Peggy GlanvilleHicks’ Sydney home, allows composers to focus almost exclusively and for an extended period of time on producing new work. The WA residency is the result of a partnership between the National Trust of Western Australia and the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composers’ Trust.
Based in the Netherlands, Moore is an acclaimed Grammy-nominated composer of international stature whose works have been widely performed and recorded by artists and ensembles such as The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, The Bang on a Can All-Stars, The Calder Quartet and the Song Company.
Her music exhibits or engenders clarity rather than mere simplicity, directness rather than mere accessibility, sensuousness rather than mere attractiveness. Her most recent large-scale work is the 40-minute oratorio Sacred Environment, commissioned for the 2017 Holland Festival.
As the environmental themes of her music and ceramic sound sculptures suggest, Moore’s immersion in music is synonymous not only with her immersion in the visual arts but with her immersion in nature. They are all of a piece. “Visual arts and music exist in space,” she says.
“They are corporeal and happen in real time. The visual art becomes the music, which is an organic logical progression from it. They are interrelated and it seems strange to separate them. I always think about structuring shapes so they speak, whether in sound or material form.”
Moore approaches a sculpture and a composition in the same way. “A sound installation is an orchestral work and an orchestral work is a sculpture. You create sounds in an architectural space and the music infiltrates your inner being.”
She says nature and the environment are an integral part of that creative process. “I enjoy being in nature, discovering nature and becoming more aware of its richness and complexity as well as its fragility,” she says. “As a composer, you harmonise with nature, you draw something from it, you connect with it.”
Being on a hill overlooking the Swan River foreshore, Gallop House provides ample opportunities for such encounters with the natural world. But there are also those encounters with the self in a space emptied of hours.
“The house is amazing and I have no other distractions,” Moore says. “No television, no internet. At first I thought ‘What do I do with no structure and an empty space?’ Then I found myself falling into a routine.
“The only way to click into the day is write something in words or sit at the piano and see what happens. I like that way of starting, with no real objective, just doing something everyday and then reflecting on it. Taking a line for a walk, keeping my mind as free as possible.”
Moore’s decision to become a composer grew out of her own nature. “It was a part of my personality right from the beginning,” she says. “As a kid I liked to make stuff up. I loved the imaginary world. I especially liked to draw and, from a young age, I kept going. I learnt piano and cello, and was in orchestras and ensembles. But I was never that comfortable being on stage, in front of people. I prefer to hide and make things.”
Her decision to write music that spoke to the heart was likewise instinctual. “I really wanted to write music that speaks to people, that resonates with them,” she says. “It’s where I personally become entangled with the music. It can be some remembered musical language, perhaps folk music, that is in one’s blood.
“There is also that power music has to tell stories and inspire collective memory or reveal truths, that perhaps other mediums can’t. You can touch on things that might be too uncomfortable in words.”
Kate Moore with some of her work.