Listen Up! Composer Q&A: Kate Neal

We spoke to Aussie composer Kate Neal about the world premiere of her work Wound at our micro-festival of new music, Listen Up! on 11 September.

Your music often seeks to translate non-musical concepts into sound. Can you tell us what was at the front of your mind while composing Wound?

How do we understand the differing classifications of textile yarn (staple fiber, ply, filament) and use this information to generate sonic, performative and metaphorical ideas in relation to self and other?

How does this sit within your compositional catalogue to date? You often use synchronised movement and sound (such as your recent work While You Sleep). Does Wound explore this fusion of art forms as well?

Taking as a launching place the idea of interweaving threads of cellular material, the work looks at slowly evolving and repeating motives which unravel, travel, wind, unwind, and interweave in textural evolutions to create a kind of woolen jumper, wrap or covering. It speaks to the form of an etude – a series of works looking specifically and in detail at a particular type of thread. 

Initially the work was titled Strikt – referring in German to [ge-strickt] for knitting, using the concept of the cord, the rope, with the idea “to pull on one rope together” –  the webbing and working of strands of thread we might fuse and interweave across time, culture, genre, art-form. This webbed entity of the ge-strickt relates to the idea of opposing or addressing the informational network, the structures universally that connect and disconnect us as global media-users, and how this interconnectivity might fuse or dislocate thoughts and actions of the singular.

The work (in this iteration) goes back to the purely sonic acoustic terrain and tries to spin a series of immersive and somehow static yet evolving landscapes. Much like our own lives, the threads of which travel, entwine and unravel into ever circular states of forward and backward motion.

This piece (commissioned by an Art Music Fund grant) has been a long time coming thanks to the pandemic. How has the work changed since its initial conception? 

Wound is a series of etudes for Ensemble Offspring. The piece has been a long time coming and has been compromised severely by the COVID Pandemic. Initially the work was commissioned as a hybrid collaborative work between electronic producer Grishca Lichtenberger, Ensemble Offspring and a choreographer/dancers. During the pandemic the work evolved into a video work, and after much canceling and reconfiguring, has its initial opening as an acoustic concert work. It is my hope and vision that this work will again extend into a hybrid performance work – with future manifestations evolving into a collaborative piece with electronics and dance.

Even though this piece has by circumstance had many obstacles, and much time has passed since its inception, it still feels like a work at its very beginning. In due course this may evolve to a work with physical and other non-musical syntax’s. My aim here is to begin, to weave, to unwind, to initiate and harvest.

About Listen Up!

Listen Up! is a micro-festival of new music, bringing together Australia’s most inspiring musicians who share an obsession with the newest of the new. A smorgasbord of contemporary-classical and jazz virtuosi, First Nations artists and art music fiends come together over two 60-minute programs. Hear both concerts and save $15 with a festival pass.

About Kate Neal

Kate Neal is an artist with over 20 years’ experience as a composer, arranger, educator, and collaborator. In 2020/21 Neal premiered Sentiment Logistics with Sal Cooper, a TURA No Borders commission, as well as new works for Golden Gate Brass, Muses Trio and sound design for the RISING featured theatre work The Dispute.