KATE MOORE Seeing and hearing the shapes of nature
"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."
KATE MOORE Artist statement
Kate was born in 1979 in Oxfordshire, England. She grew up in Australia and now lives in Amsterdam. At the time of her birth minimalism was in the air. Perhaps it reached her in the womb. There is an obvious link to minimalism in her work but with a softened, reflexive, organic quality to deflect the often dogmatic original first forged in the USA. Kate's musical statements seem to be inquiries as much as assertions. Although the pulse can race, and things can get noisy, there is a gentleness to much of her music, and to her persona. As inviting an introduction as any to her beguiling - and sometimes witty - compositions is Alone Together, a piece she created for the Cello Octet Amsterdam in the early stages of the
Minimalism? What minimalism? So how about the following? It presses the question: what demands can a piece like this make on the pianist? You can see the concentration occasionally turning to strain on Saskia Lankhoorn's face as she tackles the remorseless repetition in Sensitive Spot. Yet the look of concentrated triumph is also present, like the reward for a good workout. And for the listener too it is a rewarding piece.
"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."
KATE MOORE Artist statement
Close collaborations with other artists and performers a central to Kate Moore's approach to composition. The intimacy of the creative relation that led to the Cantaloupe Music album Stories for Ocean Shells is described by the writer
Picture yourself walking along a beach, listening to the soft crashing of the waves and collecting shells on the ocean shore. Each shell a beautifully delicate, one-of-a-kind work of art—each shell with its own story and its own unique song. That’s the inspiration behind this composition, which tells a wordless tale of two friends and musical collaborators living oceans apart: Australian composer Kate Moore and New York-based cellist Ashley Bathgate.
The two first met in 2009 when Moore came to New York to rehearse one of her pieces with Bang on a Can, of which Bathgate is a member.
“I knew from that moment that we would work with each other again,” says Moore. “Sharing similar experiences, aesthetic interests, and being at a similar place in our lives meant that we could immediately see where the other was coming from. We were both rebels from a background playing the cello, and we both wanted to break out, with the aim to create something new that we could call our own, tapping into that vast energy around us.”
Moore has written a number of solo cello works which Bathgate has premiered over the past seven years—and Stories for Ocean Shells is a culmination of their close musical collaboration thus far.
The album begins with an invitation. “Whoever you are come forth” is an introspective prelude of sorts—a slow and gradual immersion into the intimacy and strength of a solo, unaccompanied instrument. The piece was written as a wordless interpretation of Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of the Open Road,” about the long and winding journey of a lonely traveler. Bathgate paints a tender image of the lone traveler through her rich tone, bittersweet lyricism, and warm phrasing.
It’s followed by the album’s title track, which Moore wrote as a present for a little girl from Thailand who had shown her gorgeous silks with elaborate handwoven patterns. The young girl’s name translates to
“The cyclical patterns were intricate and beautifully ornate,” Moore says, “Reminiscent of those traced on the surface of a seashell, spiraling in ever-expanding and contracting formations.”
The piece expresses its inspiration through intricately layered cello motives which circle and expand around one another in beautiful waves of sound.
Published by R Ackerman in the Strand, London 1820
Ashley Bargate: “At any given moment, at any given location, somewhere in the universe, two people like us are picking up shells on a beach, listening into them for answers, for ideas, for a connection, for peace, for hope. They’re listening, like we are, with wild imaginations and dreams of what’s to come. The possibilities are endless.”
ASHLEY BATHWICK viola Stories for Ocean Shells
INSIDE THE MUSICIAN
Kate Moore: Lost in a world of thought
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.
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
JELLANTSJE de VRIES viola Tarantella
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.
CRASH ENSEMBLE Music Box
SEAN SHIBE Intensity and introspection
CORAL by Federico Mompou on CAMINO 2021
"What’s really striking is the way in which Shibe sustains a world of intensity and introspection through playing that buzzes with vitality. The attention to detail in his playing is breathtaking; nothing interrupts the flow of the music, and nothing is done purely for effect.”
ERICA JEALE The Guardian
Editor’s Choice: “…a release that considerably enhances Shibe’s reputation for having one of the most discriminating ears in the business.”
WILLIAM YEOMAN Gramophone
Suite compostelana: I. Preludio by Federico Mompou
Monks in many traditions shed their hair as a symbol of their decision to withdraw from everyday pleasures and distracting preoccupations. They choose to fully focus their attention. Regain their concentration. Change.
This is surely one of the messages that Sean Shibe, the Scottish guitarist of Japanese and English heritage, is
sending out to us with his current album, CAMINO. Another message is that this album is a response to the
"Over the last year and a half I have gone through periods of believing that recording my feelings of isolation and solitude would be worthwhile, but it didn’t take very long before I realised that I’d taken in enough meditations on loneliness for a lifetime. Instead, I’ve recorded something closer to the opposite. Some of these pieces are from my childhood; others reference a sort of ideal childlike state; but everything on this album has given me deep comfort and sustenance over a difficult and traumatic period."
The album CAMINO is structured as a musical conversation between France and Spain. The focal piece is composed by the Catalan, Federico Mompou, who provides a still and reflective musical tribute to the pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela, Among the other pieces in this beautifully assembled recital there are the Spanish composer de Falla’s moving tribute to the French composer Debussy, Poulenc’s introspective “Sarabande”, a handful of Satie's singular works for piano and Ravel’s “Pavane pour Une Infante Défunte” - all of them played with a spaciousness, a luminosity and a clarity that gives the listener a chance to depart - at least for a while - from everyday pleasures and distracting concerns. Perhaps even to fully focus their attention. Regain their concentration. Change.
Rodrigo - Tres piezas espanolas - iii) Zapa
At 19, along with other students from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he had the opportunity to perform in Sichuan, China. The venue was noisy but Sean fought noise with fire. He was already building a reputation. By 22 he was a BBC New Generation Artist - often a gateway to an international career.
He gave an interview to BBC Radio 3 in 2012
Suite in E-minor BWV 998 iv Sarabande by J S Bach
This trio of clips from Sean Shibe reveal just some of the extraordinary range and depth he brings to what must be the world's best loved instrument, being in played in its most intense and intimate form. Two recent reviews confirm the feeling that this is music being played at the highest level, but with a delicacy and sensitivity that makes it completely approachable, even friendly:
“The best ever Bach recording of [guitar] … There seems to be no limit to Shibe’s characterful melodic instincts, with flourishes of rolling arpeggiations, exquisite harmonic placements and all kinds of textural delights. … the most interesting voice on the guitar for a generation”
“The greatest performers always push the boundaries, and that 28-year-old Sean Shibe […] is already in their select company. The spell, as always with Shibe, was total; no other guitarist that I know of is working at this artistic level.”
THE ARTS DESK 2020
G Gargoyle (Gerald Garcia) talks with Sean Shibe in his shed, after the
three years of career-shaping close contact with the BBC.
ELECTRIC COUNTERPOINT for guitar and tape by Steve Reich 2020
Sean Shibe performs Steve Reich's joyous and ever-fresh Electric Counterpoint in the warm and welcoming acoustic of the Wigmore Hall, London. And, because of Covid lockdown, no coughing and shuffling from anyone in the audience. Sean brings the same elegance and relaxed control to the Fender as he does to the classical guitar. He brings the smiles out in Steve Reich's sonatina, written in 1987 for Pat Metheny. The soloist pre-records as many as 10 guitars and 2 electric bass parts and then plays the final 11th guitar part live against the tape.
Anita Awby of the PRS magazine puts the questions
As an uncompromising new classical force, Sean Shibe is riffing on the chaos and calamity of our times to push his instrument into pioneering new directions. Over the years, Sean has been influenced by the contemporary classical repertoire of Europe alongside the avant-garde jazz of his dad’s record collection, growing up on a worldly-wise diet of sound that defies pigeonholing. Coupled with his astute reactions to world power politics and the everyday violence that now permeates our social narratives, he’s harnessing these stimuli to pour fresh thinking onto his music.
What music did you grow up listening to?
A clean mix of avant-garde jazz, usually Sun Ra, also John Coltrane and socialist mining songs from Scotland and the North East. I also got into things on the zanier edge of Classic FM’s remit. My dad was really into all of that.
What led you to classical guitar?
Coincidence. There was a shop on the way to my mother’s work. She saw it and we thought, why not? My sister did highland dancing and I did the guitar. It’s quite random. My sister is the one person that’s have a formative effect on me musically. She’s been my rock through my whole experience of this business in a really powerful and profound way.
Why is that?
I think it’s probably because she doesn’t let things go – you’re always reminded of how to do things better. It’s that persistence and bloody-mindedness which makes you consider what you’ve done and your mistakes. It gives you a stronger sense of civic duty and how that bleeds into your artistic life: life as an expression of art rather than the other way around.
How is your style evolving as you get increasingly involved in music?
The guitar is very susceptible to more populist directions and I’m veering away from that. There are acts of unspeakable violence everywhere. We need to speak to higher goals and move in different directions to reflect, and to understand how to manifest that reflection.
The guitar usually does, for example, Spanish music, but I don’t feel that adequately reflects the pain and chaos. I’m trying to find out what I feel does express that authentically. So, there’s a direction of travel towards somewhere less conventional, but I’m not sure there’s a destination yet. It’s about expressing the indelible atrocities of our time. I’m trying to be less afraid of being pretentious because if we’re not out there to change the world, then what the fuck are we trying to do?
Who has shaped your musical outlook most over the years?
My first guitar teacher Allan Neave and my current mentor Paolo Pegoraro. Allan always left all options on the table, and I think that was really important. Often the best things a teacher can give you are the things they don’t know they’re giving you – they don’t understand the power of the echoes of the words they have spoken.
What advice would you give to upcoming classical musicians and composers?
If you ever think of not doing this, then don’t do it. Always keep that in mind, because you probably shouldn’t do music if you’re thinking of doing something else, and if you’re constantly aware of the possibility of not doing this, then you’ll have greater artistic goals. It’s like the freedom that exists in nihilism. People think of nihilism as the philosophy of despair, but I think it’s a mechanism for genuine interpretational liberation.
I'm trying to be less afraid of being pretentious because if we’re not out there to change the world, then what the fuck are we trying to do?