Kate Moore (b. 1979) is an Australian-Dutch musician and composer of new music. Having obtained a master’s degree from The Royal Conservatory of The Hague she has been based in the Netherlands since 2002 and in 2013 was awarded a Ph.D. from The University of Sydney. In 2017 she was the recipient of the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize, the most prestigious Dutch prize for composers, for her work The Dam commissioned for The Canberra International Festival. Her major work Sacred Environment was premiered by The Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir with soloists Alex Oomens and Lies Beijerinck at The Holland Festival Proms in The Concertgebouw.
Her works have been released on major labels including ECM New Series and Cantaloupe and performed by acclaimed ensembles including ASKO|Schönberg, Alarm Will Sound and The Bang On A Can All-Stars in venues including Carnegie Hall and The Sydney Opera House and at many festivals.
1. How did it come about that you are the new composer in residence?
As with so many stories about how things come to be, it was a long line of coinciding moments that resulted in finding myself in Rostock in Germany with my friend and colleague, the pianist Vivian Choi and the conductor Nick Milton. Vivian and I had been travelling in Italy and Germany over the Christmas break and a mutual friend of ours, our dearly beloved music teacher, Erica Booker, gave us Nick’s contact details because she knew we would be travelling in that direction. We contacted him and were fortunate enough to attend a concert wherein he was conducting. The atmosphere was festive and we enjoyed a celebratory evening of music in the darkest days of Germany’s most northerly region. Vivian, Nick and I hung out, as three musicians from Sydney battling with the cold and wind of winter in Europe. It turned out that both Nick and I attended the same primary school in Lane Cove. As our stories crossed paths in so many ways, subjects related to music came up and we spoke about our inspirations. Having grown up playing in orchestras and chamber ensembles, I was interested in the orchestral palette. Having recently written a major orchestral piece for the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, I was interested in writing more for the orchestra. Nick invited me to send some scores and we continued our discussion via email. From there he offered the possibility to write a new work for Vivian as a soloist! This suggestion was a dream moment and I think fate played a role because I have wanted to write a concerto for Vivian for many years. Vivian and I have been working closely together as musicians since high school. We played in a piano trio together and I learned so much about the piano from her. I know her very well as a player.
2. Where do you gain inspiration from?
Inspiration for pieces comes from a continual track of research and thinking about the history, cultural heritage and the environment of a place, the architecture and structure of the piece as well as being open for the imagination to run wild. I formulate my compositions while I am walking or hiking and therefore many of my pieces take direct inspiration from nature and places that I encounter on my journey. I am fascinated by the way in which the history of a place is written in a landscape and I imagine the sort of music that would have been played there by ancient people long gone. I try to imagine how the music would make sense in those surroundings; what would the energy and mood of the landscape be transferred to the sonorities of traditional instruments. I like the idea that music can be a mnemonic. Music, being carried within one’s mind, is the ideal light weight travel companion, needing space only in one’s imagination. In this way a beautiful place can be captured and distilled within a remembered melody or the words of a song and can be can be retrieved years after the event. The sight, smell, taste and feel of the place can be encoded into the music so that when performing the piece years later, one is taken straight back to that particular moment and place in time.
3. Tell me about the two major works you will be showcasing
Lux Aeterna: VIVID is the 2018 Bosch Requiem, commissioned by November Music Festival in association with the Hieronymus Bosch Foundation for the city of ’s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands. It is a Requiem that celebrates light, the vividness of life, revelation and transformation. The work is in three movements outlining three states of seeing Lucidity, Revelation and Clarity. Words are based upon the Latin Mass for the Dead, Revelation of Saint John and the Latin names for native animals and trees of Western Europe.
The piano concerto (premiere) is called Beatrice and it is 20 minute concerto based on Dante’s beloved guide Beatrice who leads Dante through The Divine Comedy. She is the one who represents the Beatific Vision of divine perfection and is in harmony with the universal communion of creatures and creations.
4. How do you overcome composer’s block?
The way to overcome composer’s block is to have the discipline to write every day and the technique to make work regardless of all obstacles, even if it is just one idea at a time. It is the regularity and continuity of one’s practise that contributes to the fluency of ideas. As with any job that requires creativity as a main ingredient, one learns to ignore the inner spectre of doubt. By ignoring that voice, the gate is opened a jungle of possibilities and thoughts. Having the privilege to work as a composer, where my life’s work is also great fun, I remind myself that it may not always be so and I could lose that privilege at any moment. This is an incentive to make use of every moment constructively.
5. Where did you career start?
I began to earn a living as a composer ten years ago when Bang on a Can and the Dutch ensemble ASKO commissioned me to write new works. From that moment I have had a steady flow of commissions, projects and other opportunities that have allowed me to keep writing, steadily developing my craft and allowing the environment to thrive as an artist.
6. How long does it take to complete a composition? What is the longest time and the shortest time, and what have been the works?
Making a composition is a detailed and time consuming process at the best of times. The physical act of writing out notes into a score and making individual parts for each player is in itself a full time job. This takes place after a composition has been written out on score paper. The composer, faced with the daunting task of creating something from scratch, must start every piece from a blank page. Even before the first note is scribbled on a piece of manuscript page, the composer must already have formulated a story and direction for the music, making a decision about the character of each parameter such as rhythm, shape or concept, whether it will be fast paced or mellow, introspective, organic or spectacular. Every moment in the process is a decision and there is no instruction book to follow.
7. Where are you normally when you compose work? Home? Library? Café?
I compose at the piano or cello or with my notebook and graph paper. As long as I have access to a piano and a quiet space, I am not concerned about where I am particularly, although writing in a beautiful place such as at an artist residency does influence the music and the story it tells.
8. What was your first pinch me moment, and what has been your most recent?
My entire life has been a series a pinch me moments that never stop. I am constantly pinching myself and asking myself how I got to this moment and how it is possible that everything keeps going. I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am and I am pinching myself over and over again.