INSIDE THE MUSICIAN. Kate Moore: Lost in a world of thought

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Through a large easterly facing window overlooking the zoo, the spring sun streams on to my face. I live on the 5th floor, in the roof of a historical building. Many birds come to visit my window curious about what lies on the other side. The birdsong that surrounds me includes that of the stalks, herons, blackbirds, woodpeckers, European magpies, pigeons and crows. I listen for the nightingales as they return from their winter migration. My window lies in line with the tree tops and it is a perfect vantage point to observe the coming and going of the creatures as they inhabit the branches. This sets the scene for the place where I write, my desk upon which the sun streams. From my desk I enter into the world of imagination filled with anticipation. Being next to the zoo I can hear the calls of the animals during their daily activity and they become part of my journey. I hear the gibbon monkeys in the morning with their iconic call to prayer, the wolves lament the moon at midnight and when the direction of the wind is right, I can hear the elephants and seals as they make exclamations and observations. On occasion I can hear a lion’s roar.

Writing about my artistic practice in the depths of a worldwide pandemic feels like writing about the world from the ocean floor. The experience is strange and existential, a disconcerting vision of familiarity through the ripples and currents of diffracting, distorting light. The ground that could be taken for granted shifts in the tide. Upon touching pen to paper, the ink immediately dissolves before my eyes. The compass needle has to be adjusted. The situation has been drastically altered. I redefine my role. Without an audience, I wonder whether the composition exists at all. I attempt to navigate new currents, and feel the tug of the undertow pulling me deep. I drift seamlessly between exterior and interior worlds. The wall between the two dissipates.

Image copyright Boris van Berkum

As I write, I think about my life as a composer and notice how elusive that term has become. With no concerts I find it hard to talk about my work. I am lucky that I can still work at all through the lockdowns and curfews, unlike many of my colleagues who are performers. Fulfilling assignments with no concerts is exhausting and weighs heavy on one’s emotional state of being. Writing a piece and then locking it away in a drawer waiting for better times, is confronting. I am faced with the fact that the act of writing music in itself, is not the reason why I write music. I write music to hear it. My thoughts come from questions about what an idea sounds like. My contribution as a composer is connected to a greater picture, one of which embraces musicians, concert halls, the audience, the journalists, the record labels and the students. We are all part of one tree and it is not possible to have the leaves without the trunk. Without the trunk the leaves slowly begin to fall and float away.

As the world has closed down, I bury myself in my interior world, retreating into a metaphysical state of being. As a distraction, I look up to my window and look at the little maple tree that I have been growing for a year and notice how perfect its new leaves are, with five fronds exactly like little hands. Those leaves are hands, splayed outwardly to feel the warmth of the sun. I find myself wondering what the tree is experiencing. What does it feel? My feeling is that there is nothing in the world more beautiful and perfect than those little tiny leaves, as the sudden burst of life emerges after winter. Within my inner world, creativity takes root and grows like a plant. Over time, the creative process builds up a complex network of pathways reaching in every direction, stemming from one idea to the next, constantly growing and searching.

During the winter months I became acutely aware of the shape of trees. Observing their intricate form without leaves to hide them. I noticed how perfectly balanced they are, not in any way symmetrical, as we think of balance in relation to classical form, but organic, where even the tiniest branch is a counterweight to another tiny branch elsewhere on the trunk. Thousands of tiny counterweights keep the tree and hold it upright allowing it to grow strong and tall against the force of gravity. I realise how complex these forms are. At every moment they are shaped by their surroundings. The intensity and angle of the sun draws it in one direction, the wind pulls it in another, the depth of the ground water in relation to the surface draws it close.  All the forces act together to form the tree to become what it is, different from all the others. A tree is a visual manifestation of Memory itself, one of which is living testament to the direct connection between its environment and experience from the moment it began to grow.

I am writing from my desk in Amsterdam. We are still in a state of semi lock down and evening curfew. This means that concerts are few and far between and almost exclusively online. We have been adjusting to this new reality for a little over a year, with a small hiatus last summer where tourists ruthlessly descended upon the centre of the city as though nothing had happened. This brief euphoria came to an abrupt halt as cases began to rise staggeringly quickly. We began to come to terms with our new reality of social distance and possible lockdown for months to come.

I have experienced quarantine only once. In this time, a person became ill who lived close by and ensured that everyone in the building had to stay inside. We had to take a test and we were all negative, and we took another test a week later and were negative again. In this time we were not allowed to leave the building and food had to be delivered to us. In a strange way it was exciting, observing the world from inside. It was not unlike being a character in a dystopian science fiction novel. Perhaps this entire year is one great big huge sci-fi novel.

My modus operandi has been reduced from The World to My Street. From a fast life of concerts, artist residencies and recording sessions where everything was possible, to a situation where I have not travelled outside The Netherlands for over a year with the exception of one concert in Belgium at the Transit Festival. I miss the adrenalin and social interaction, but there is another side to the sudden change. For the first time in a long time, I feel a sense of place, a sense of being grounded. I feel no expectation to travel. I feel calm and happy that I am safe. I begin to reach out to my neighbourhood. I meet my neighbours for the first time. I start working as a volunteer for a kitchen for vulnerable people and through this I begin to make many new friends. Everyone has a story to tell. I no longer feel the anxiety of the rat race, no pressure to prove oneself, no unrealistic expectations, no disgruntlement from The Hierarchy. I begin to enjoy the company of people around me, and listen to their experiences and feel more strongly than ever that we are all vulnerable and unsure of the future. Everyone needs each-other’s kindness more than anything in the world. If there is one thing that I hope we have learned from this ordeal, it is to watch each other’s back, be there for each other, care about other people’s well-being. Listen to each other.

As I write, I begin to realise that the block that I am experiencing in writing anything down has a reason. It is not because I have nothing to say. I have a lot to say. Maybe too much. I am overwhelmed by everything that has happened in recent years, that, with time to reflect, becomes overbearing. I revisit The Global Financial Crash and how that wreaked havoc upon the creative sector, The Me-Too Movement and the way in which suddenly it became known how devastating the thoughtless, cruel and bullying behaviour of people in positions of authority can devastate the lives of their victims for decades to come. The Environmental Activist movement attempted whole heartedly to change global habits with regards to resources and waste. The Black Lives Matter movement placed under the spot-light the persisting corruption of prejudice and discrimination based on superficial attributes such as skin colour. These moments in recent years have taken time to process and their impact has left deep and lasting impressions. Each movement seems to have recalibrated the world, winding it up like clockwork only to release it suddenly in a violent spin.

In light of all this, writing about my work from the perspective of my career and achievements seems futile. I consider the nature of the creative process and what it means to me. In a simple sentence I can sum it up. It is my home, my garden, my field, my landscape, my country. I exist here and no matter what happens, whatever I encounter along the way, my inner world is a place where I can safely retreat. I participate in the “real” world as an outsider, as an observer, an alien in the landscape, invisible like a chameleon. In my inner world, there is always an internal adventure in process.

I consider the aspects of my career that I am most proud of, my CDs, my PhD, my Holland Festival Commission Sacred Environment, winning the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize and all the composition commissions that gave me so much food for thought. I think back to these times and find myself in awe that all of this was possible. I appreciate the support I was given at this time to realise my dreams. I am so grateful. I learned so much.

I ask myself, where do I go from here. The road ahead seems less clear that it was when I set out. I reread The Consolation of Philosophy, and find solace in the Golden Verses, I know that there is but one from which all emanates, I know that there is always a way to transcend. Great love for The Creation propels me forward. There is indeed a world without end. I can’t wait to go hiking again.

Beyond the exterior walls of physical presence contains another world infinitely deep. The outer walls do not define what lies inside. The inner world is not gendered, not coloured, and does not adhere to borders. It is only the exterior walls that are shaped and scarred by the outside. The inside remains unscathed. It is not defined by anything from the outside world at all. Although the body is a vessel, a vehicle for sensing, seeing and hearing, the inside world is a well spring connected to a rich and complex underground river system that reaches an unfathomably deep ocean.

It took a long journey with no map, to find the secret paths to this inner world and there are many dead ends to be encountered which make the journey slow. To reach the depths, step by step through the labyrinth, at every corner awaited a riddle to be solved. Each riddle revealed the next part of the map. Only when they were solved was it possible to proceed with a clear conscience and an open mind, avoiding stumbling upon anything that may be confounding. The puzzles remained consequential, leading from one to the next in logical order, and the answers drawn by untangling the loose ends, removing the knots which were tied to expectation, desire, and prejudice. It was only then that the true path emerged. The melodies were the road maps through the labyrinth. Each melody connected to all the others like branches of a giant tree ever growing, sprouting from the trunk. Not one melody has meaning without the others in context. In this way the map can be navigated via a network of paths trodden from the beginning of time.

Kate Moore, April 2021


Artist Statement

Kate Moore is a sound artist, visual artist, composer. Her works are directly inspired by the organic shapes and sounds found in nature and lost objects of the natural biosphere, both sonic and visual. In search of shapes, structures and lines unique in form but in harmony with the diversity of living creatures plants and animals, Moore recognises the correspondence between physical form and resonance. The harmonic sequence of matter, filled with the kinetic energy is present in everything and the transference of sonic currents connects and links all objects. Everything is related in this respect and the fluidity between physical matter and sound are inseparable. It is in this way that Moore’s works are conceived, where the visual and the sonic become one. She is attracted to the invisible world of sound where an object’s sonic potential may only be realised when it is engaged with, pondered and considered, like a hidden treasure, or the possibility that a visual object hidden from the eye may not be silent. In this way the artist is no longer separated from the work but in physical and spiritual being becomes part of the work itself, directly tuning in to the sacredness of the surrounding environment.

Composer Biography

Kate Moore (b. 1979) is a composer of new music. In 2001 she was awarded B.Mus first class honours with the University Medal from The Australian National University majoring in composition and electroacoustic music. Having obtained a masters degree from The Royal Conservatory of The Hague she has been based in the Netherlands since 2002 and in 2013 she 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, taking place at The Holland Festival Proms in The Concertgebouw followed by a commission to write the 2018 Bosch Requiem Lux Aeterna for choir and large ensemble. In 2018 she is the Zielsverwanten artist in residence at The Muziekgebouw aan ‘t Ij in Amsterdam featuring her own group Herz Ensemble and she is composer in focus at November Music festival in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Her works have been released on major labels including Grammy and Eddison nominated album Dances and Canons, released on ECM New Series and Cantaloupe release Stories for Ocean Shells. Active on the international scene, Moore has had works performed by acclaimed ensembles including ASKO|Schönberg, Alarm Will Sound, The Bang On A Can All-Stars and Icebreaker. Her works have been performed in venues including The Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall and The Sydney Opera House and at major festivals including The Holland Festival, ISCM World Music Days and MATA.


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