Professor Cat Hope appointed Head of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music


The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University is pleased to welcome Cat Hope as Head of School and Professor of Music.

Professor Cat Hope is an accomplished Australian-based musician, composer, songwriter, sound and performance artist whose practice is an interdisciplinary one that crosses over into film, video, performance and installation. She is a classically trained flautist, vocalist, improviser, experimental bassist and electronic composer who has conducted extensive funded research into digital archiving, graphic and digital notation, low frequency sound and surveillance techniques for use in performance. She is also an active researcher in the area of music archiving, film music, digital art and electronic music performance.

And as for her music? It is conceptually driven and uses mostly graphic scores, acoustic or electronic combinations and new score reading technologies. It often features aleatoric elements such as drone, noise and glissandi that are inspired by her ongoing fascination with low frequency sound. Her composed music ranges from works for laptop duet to orchestra, with a focus on chamber works. Generally, her practice explores the physicality of sound in different media, although she is also well known for her forays into noise improvisation.

We chatted with Cat about all things music, Monash and Melbourne ahead of her first academic semester:

So, tell us more – performance, research, composition, direction, conducting, digital archiving, notation, board and council membership – how does your extensive and diverse experience in the music industry influence your role as Head of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music?

I hope that my broad range of experience and engagement with the industry will help me to get to know and bring together all the wonderful and diverse activities of the school. I see music as a broad discipline that incorporates different styles, purposes, forms and aims.

What initially attracted you to the position?

I was familiar with a number of Monash graduates and staff, and the high calibre of practice and scholarship always impressed me. Monash students have gone out into the world to do wonderful things! The diversity of activity was also appealing. The history of music at Monash and its incredible achievements over the years is quite a legacy. I look forward to building on that in my role.

Are there activities or events you are most looking forward to getting stuck into this year?

At Monash I am excited to be working with the wonderful staff and students, and going to the fantastic concert programs at the school and MAPA.  I am working on building collaborations with other schools in the Faculty.

After only being in the job a few weeks, you have developed a strong vision for the School of Music. Can you tell us what this is, and what are your main focuses will be coming into the 2017 academic year?

My vision for the school is to make it the leading centre for Australian music – from educative and research perspectives.  And to do that, we have to focus on equity, diversity and internationalisation. To some this may sound like a contradiction, but Australian music is not just about compositions and musicians, it is also about our unique context and cultural fabric. It is about who we are, as artists in the world, and the world in Australia. As a starter, I have introduced quotas for the inclusion of recent music by Australian and women composers into our student recital programs, and am building ways to connect with students and academics that experience hardship.

What is the world view you are bringing to your new position as Head of the School of Music?

I think these are difficult times for artists and intellectuals in many parts of the world, including Australia. We have to come together – and thats an opportunity. I really believe that art is important; I believe in its power to bring people together, how it helps us challenge and reflect on our views, enrich our perception of the things around us and improve our quality of life. Arts should be at the core of our national identity, and art helps us make sense of it. Overseeing the training of the next generation of musicians, composers and researchers of the future is a enormous responsibility and even greater honour.

You are the Director of Decibel New Music Ensemble and have commissioned over 60 new works since its formation in 2009. What does that experience bring to you new role?

Founding and directing Decibel has shown me just how rewarding music made with your immediate community can be. Over half of that figure you have quoted came from Western Australia, where Decibel has been working. This foundation in our own culture of artists has led to national and international projects and opportunties. Decibel is leading the forefront of digital alternatives to standard music notations and ways to create, read and perform them. Technological innovation is central to what we do and I am a big supporter of electronic music and its place in tertiary education.