Cat Hope talks about After Julia

Decibel Artistic Director Cat Hope talks to Tura  about After Julia program – going up at PICA 7.30pm Monday 20 April:

After Julia was your idea and something you felt passionately enough about to make happen, what does the final program mean to you as a composer and musician?

Julia Gillard’s term as prime minister of Australia made me realise how bad things were in Australia for women. I had thought, before that, that things were quite egalitarian. I felt like I had to highlight this, or at least respond in some way – I was feeling like there was no forum for protest. So I decided to experiment with using my art to respond, and invited other women to do so too. I am please with how it’s turned out: the responses are varied and have managed to avoid any commentary on Gillard’s politics on the whole.

Can you tell us a little about your piece, ‘Tough It Out’?

‘Tough it out’ is a phrase Julia Gillard used to describe her way to move through the obstacles thrown in her way – her way to implement her policies and simply ‘work’ at her job. It seemed impossible to hear about what Gillard was doing as prime minister because there was just so much noise and interference. This concept of trying to continue doing something you have been trained to do, through all kinds of railroading, is used as a structural device in this piece. The performers play a graphic score made from popularity graphs of various Australian prime ministers over time. As it starts, it sounds like a ‘typical’ piece of mine – but a set of recorded instructions and commentary designed to interrupt the reading, understanding and performance of the piece are sent to the performers over headphones. They provide some trying ‘railroading’ for the performers!

After being involved in both the academic and presentation ends of composition for a long period of time, how do you see the status of Australian women composers currently?

I think that there are lots of women composers in Australia, but they are not featured in concerts in any real way. Many graduate but don’t end up pursuing a career. I am getting to the stage where I don’t want to see concerts with all men in them. I am interested in what women do. But I think the time has come to do a proper study in regards to women in music.

What’s the basis of your compositional approach?

It changes – but perhaps an ongoing interest in glissandi, drone, noise, bass sound and graphic notation have concerned me since I started writing music down.

What would you say to an aspiring female composer?

Put yourself out there. Put your hat in the ring. Don’t wait to be asked.

Where do you see the most interesting areas of experimentation and development in Australian new music and sonic arts?

Adventure. People trying new things. We don’t have a lot of the baggage our counterparts in Europe carry with them. What Americans might call mavericks are my favourite kinds of Australian new music and sound art.

What’s next for you?

My noise opera. It’s going to be a long slow process but it will come to fruition some time.


After Julia PICA 7.30pm Monday 20 April