Australian Composer


[Abbott] demonstrates a keen ability to musically capture and transform human experience through a poignantly sensitive approach to composition
— IAWM Fall Journal 2012

Katy Abbott is an Australian composer based in Melbourne. Abbott says of her music: 'In my music, I am trying to capture the little things that make us human or happen to us because we are human. I seek to unpack the human side of life; humour, foibles, quirky things we do and say, beauty, grief and friendship'. 




Katy Abbott

B.Ed (Sec)
University of Melbourne

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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 HalcyonThe 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 HalcyonMultiSonics (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 work is here.  Hidden Thoughts 2: Return To Sender is in progress (with performances in 2020).

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 2018 Australia Council of the Arts Fellowship (Music).

© Katy Abbott. 2019





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