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

Cat Hope: Professor of Music and Head of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University.

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.

What has inspired you so far in your new role?

The  talented staff and students,  but also Monash’s support for equity and research. The Schools’ professional staff, the other heads of school and my Dean have been overwhelmingly supportive and make me feel that ambitious projects are plausible!

What role does music play in your life outside of academia?

Well, the line between music in and out of academia is increasingly blurry, and thats not a bad thing in my opinion. I love free improvisation, bands and noise music. I love listening to LPs.  You will see me at the Make It Up Club, the Northcote Social Club, at sound installations and in the concert hall. 

You have been at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Perth for the past 12 years. What has excited you most about the move to Melbourne? (apart from our world-famous coffee?!)

Sorry Melbourne  – but the coffee is not always world class! I was born in Altona, and did my PhD in Melbourne so I am not a newcomer to this city. But moving here has brought me closer to so many friends, peers and colleagues I have worked with over the years. Living in WA can be isolating, and requires more effort to get out into the national scene. There is a wonderful music life there that I continue to be invested in.

Music aside, what else do you enjoy sinking your teeth into?  

I love contemporary art, books and film. I love spending time with friends and family, getting out with our adopted greyhound and taking a slow bike ride. 

Do you have any advice for our next generation of artists and performers continuing their studies in 2017? 

Musicians are an important part of Australian life.  Being a musician is a challenging, awesome and rewarding experience. Studying music at University is just part of the life long journey of gathering knowledge that all of us artists and intellectuals undertake, University can be one of the most fun parts of that –  soak it all in, make friends and find collaborators – there is every chance they will last a lifetime.

For more information on Professor Hope, including a full academic and performance CV, visit or 

Professor Cat Hope can be found at:

The Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music
Level 1, room 111, building 68
55 Scenic Boulevard
Clayton Campus VIC 3800 Australia