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Katy Abbott : Represented Artist

I seek to unpack the human side of life; humour, foibles, quirky things we do and say, beauty, grief and friendship...

Random Audio Sample: Words of wisdom : song cycle for vocal sextet by Katy Abbott, from the CD domestic sublime

Photo of Katy Abbott

Photo: Nicholas Purcell Photography

Artist website: http://www.katyabbott.com

The music of Katy Abbott (1971) leads the listener through a narrative of sound, exploring concepts of home, place, connection and human nature, frequently exhibiting a cheeky humour and cleverly juxtaposing contemporary flavours on traditional settings.

Abbott's compositions have been performed, published and recorded around the world, brought to life by many of leading Australian chamber ensembles including Halcyon, The Song Company, Syzygy Ensemble, Ironwood Chamber Ensemble and Sydney, Adelaide, Tasmanian and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras. Her works have been performed in UK, Europe, Asia and the USA and featured in many Australian and International music festivals.

A versatile creative talent, her body of work incorporates orchestra, chamber and music for voice, an area where she exhibits a particular flair. She completed her PhD in 2007 including a guide to writing for the voice as her thesis, working with Brenton Broadstock and Linda Kouvaras at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne. Several of her works appear on the AMEB, ANZCA and VCE/HSC syllabi.

Abbott won the 2013 Boston Metro Opera 'Gold Medal for Art-Song' for her new song-cycle The Domestic Sublime and the 2011 Albert H. Maggs Award for Composition. She also spent several weeks at Banff at the Centre for the Arts, Bundanon Trust and UKARIA Cultural Centre.

Two orchestral works which receive numerous and repeated performances are The Peasant Prince (2009, commissioned Adelaide Symphony Orchestra), the story of Mao's Last Dancer Li Cunxin, with a TSO/ABC Classics recording pending). Introduced Species (2014, commissioned for Melbourne Symphony Orchestra), explores the work of Australian artist Matthew Quick and the North Pacific Ocean's Garbage Patch/Trash Vortex. Also, Abbott's symphony Souls of Fire (2004), was released with the Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra.

Apart from these orchestral works, significant compositions include song-cycle No Ordinary Traveler (2006) for Halcyon, MultiSonics (2010) for Australian bassoonist, Mark Gaydon, The Domestic Sublime (2011) recorded by Greta Bradman and Leigh Harrold, Midnight Songs (2013) for flugel, trombone, guitar and loop pedals; recorded by Ensemble Three on their 2016 album Midnight Songs.

Abbott has four solo discs: Sunburnt Aftertones: The Chamber Music of Katy Abbott (Move Records), The Domestic Sublime: the vocal music of Katy Abbott (ABC Classics) and Famous (Leeward Side Records). Punch: the Brass Music of Katy Abbott (ABC Classics). Her scores are published by Reed Music, Promethean Editions (NZ), The Australian Music Centre and Morton Music.

Hidden Thoughts is Abbott's current series of works using the hidden thoughts of various collections of people who are surveyed (anonymously). Responses are chosen and set to music.

Hidden Thoughts 1 (2017) is a festival piece for The Song Company and Syzygy Ensemble based on the 'hidden thoughts' of women collected in an anonymous survey. An interview and ABC FM recording of Hidden Thoughts 1 is available as a New Waves Podcast. Hidden Thoughts 2 and 3 are in their early stages (with performances in 2020 and 2021).

As well as freelance composition, Abbott is Senior Lecturer in Composition at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne and is the recipient of the Australia Council of the Arts Fellowship (Music) for 2019/2020.

Katy Abbott — current to December 2018

Studied with

Stuart Greenbaum (1998 - 1999)

Brenton Broadstock


Teacher/Influence on

Lisa Cheney (2017 - 2018)

Katherine Rawlings

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample Aspects of Dreaming 2 : for violin, B flat clarinet and piano (2018) Commissioned by Plexus Ensemble.
Earth Lullaby : for shakuhachi and string quartet (2017) Commissioned by Riley Lee, Enigma Quartet.
Digital sheet music sample Hidden Thoughts : for SSATBarB voices and mixed instrumental sextet (2017) This work was partly composed in residency at Bundanon Trust NSW. The development of the work was also supported by Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and UKARIA Cultural Centre.
Digital sheet music sample Flying : 'June' from the 'All Leunig Almanac' (2015) This work is commissioned by the family of Robert and Tania Black; in memory of Dorrit Black, painter and printmaker
Digital sheet music sample Those other things : for SATB voices and piano (2015) Commissioned by Gondwana Chorale.
Digital sheet music sample Introduced species : Symphony no. 2 : for orchestra (2014) Commissioned for the MSO's education series' Up Close and Musical Program'

Analysis & Media

- Review: The Song Company Trans-Tasman Waves i February 2005

- Video: Katy Abbott on composition - In conversation with...

- Video: Katy Abbott on setting text - In conversation with...