PODCAST: Interview + Recording – Hidden Thoughts I

By THE ABC.  Published May 2016 ABC New Waves Podcast (2018)

Private thoughts turned into music for The Song Company and Syzygy Ensemble by composer Katy Abbott.

‘Hidden Thoughts’ is a bit of a journey into that murky place – it’s the chatter in your head, as dark as it is ridiculous. And it asks you to consider what confines you. Eckhart Tolle say “Become a witness to your thoughts and you are no longer a slave to them.” That’s where it started. Not necessarily from that quote. But that’s the idea behind it.

Hidden Thoughts is a piece that’s been a number of years in the making. The text for the work is distilled from the answers of over two hundred women to a confidential survey about their private thoughts. Abbott’s collaborator on the survey was writer and cartoonist Kaz Cooke.

The survey they created asked:

1. Do you have hidden thoughts and feelings? Tell me what they are.
2. What have you learnt to be brave about?
3. What would you like to be braver about?
4. Do you have anything further to say about hidden thoughts and/or courage?

The nearly hour-long work begins with a hi-hat percussion solo, and ends with 12 a capella voices singing in unison. Along the way the six voices of The Song Company, and the six musicians of Syzygy Ensemble each get opportunities to shine as the music shifts between full ensemble textures and numerous solo roles.



i: introduction (solo percussion) 2’06
ii: teabag (solo cello) 0’08
iii: runaway (‘tutti’ – whole ensemble) 7’03
v: do I matter? (tutti) 10’01
vi: stop talking (voices, flute, percussion) 1’12
vii: ghostly (piano, violin, cello) 1’36
viii: sweet sixteen (voices, flute, clarinet, violin, cello) 2’33
ix: what would you like to be braver about? (tutti) 5’33
x: support her, protect her (male voices, flute, clarinet, piano, violin) 3’51
xi: what have you learned to be brave about? (voices, piano, violin, cello) 6’29
xiii: cigarettes on the ground (voices) 2’31
xiv: crazy dreams… silver thread (instrumental sextet) 1’53
xv: beauty and ashes (tutti) 7’00
xvii: do I matter? (reprise) tutti (all singing)

[Three movements were not included in this recording session – iv: eat whatever I want (voice, clarinet, piano, cello); xii: vocal interlude (voices); xvi: my lover is a woman (tutti, except clarinet)]

The Song Company: Anna Fraser (soprano) and Chloe Lankshear (soprano), Hannah Fraser (mezzo-soprano), Robert McFarlane (tenor), Mark Donnelly (baritone), Andrew O’Connor (bass), directed by Antony Pitts.

Syzygy Ensemble: Laila Engle (flute), Robin Henry (clarinets), Jenny Kfaghi (violin), Campbell Banks (cello), Leigh Harrold (piano), with guest artist Andrew Penrose (percussion).

Recorded 8 and 9 February 2018, studio 520, ABC Adelaide, by producer Jakub Gaudasinski and sound engineer Tom Henry.