26 April 2021

Award-winning composer Katy Abbott asks an important question: do I matter?

| Lottie Twyford
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Katy Abbott

See Katy Abbott performing in Canberra on 2 May. Photo: Pia Johnson.

In 2015, Australian composer Katy Abbott came up with an idea to anonymously survey and compile women’s hidden thoughts. Then they were set to music.

She says the genesis for the idea was simple.

“I see people and I want to know what they’re really thinking – what is their true experience of the world?” says Katy. “I’ve wondered about this, even as a child.”

Now the piece – Do I Matter? – is set to be performed in the capital as part of this year’s Canberra International Music Festival.

Seeing it live is likely to be a unique experience as the audience’s thoughts are to be incorporated into the performance.

Although event organisers are as yet unclear how this will happen, they envisage a dropbox in the foyer where any audience member can submit their hidden thoughts on pen and paper. Then, just before the performance, these hidden thoughts will be worked into the performance either through spoken word or sung.

“I imagine it is going to be confronting, or perhaps exhilarating, to have voiced something you may never have told anybody else, and then hear it in a public setting,” says Katy. “I hope it validates, or makes fleeting thoughts real.”

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Initially, the survey received 200 responses from women all across the country.

Their hidden thoughts were enlightening, delightful and sometimes harrowing.

“It felt like a huge responsibility to have these thoughts in my possession,” says Katy. “People trusted me with their private thoughts, and I wanted to treat them all with respect.

“I laughed out loud – my heart went out to people and much of it really resonated with me.”

She says many of the thoughts she unearthed were filled with both torment and anguish.

“Many were simply too dark for me to grapple with myself,” says Katy. “So many women wrote about feeling trapped by relationships with spouses, children or parents.”

Those responses that could be included were treated with the utmost respect, she says.

Katy says she hopes people who contributed to the survey will also attend the Do I Matter? show so they can experience having their hidden thoughts voiced aloud.

“I set ordinary, everyday words to music so there can be a real human connection between audience members and performers,” she says.

It will also be an occasion of great excitement for all the performers as they return to the stage after an extended period of lockdown due to COVID-19.

You can catch Katy Abbott’s performance of Do I Matter? on Sunday, 2 May, at 6:30 pm or 8:30 pm at the Fitters’ Workshop in Kingston.

Tickets range from $65 to $75 and are available here. For a full program of Canberra International Music Festival events, visit here.

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