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9 July 2012 ·

Artists and Animals, Katy Abbott, composer, and Hermione

I’m fascinated by how composers work – other people’s art tends to sound much more romantic than your own–  and so I’m delighted to hear that for practical purposes, it doesn’t matter so much whether you’re creating stories with musical notes, or with words: at some point you have to sit down, do it, and keep on doing it till you get it right. And of course that’s easier with an animal around. 
Katy Abbott is an Australian classical composer:  She writes music for orchestras, chamber ensembles and choirs from all over Australia.
Have you ever been inspired by an animal, or animals in general, in your life or art?
Not specifically with music but having the dog in the studio with my while I compose generally keeps me in there longer and is a lovely (quiet) companion.
I have recently had to say goodbye to my lovely old cat.  She used to sit on my knee with her legs over my arms while I typed in notes.  Not so helpful!
Animals inspire me.  Domestic animals played a huge role in my childhood and I had many strong bonds with my animals over the years, particularly my first 20 years.
Hermione looking ‘a bit too comfortable’ in Katy’s studio
I had many pets as a child: dogs (Penny and Flossie), cats (Twopence and Homer), fish (Threepence, Fourpence), budgie (Blinky – so original!), horses (Dandy and Kalifa).  I also had rabbits and mice but they didn’t last so long I am afraid.  However, a friend in my (suburban) street had a deer that slept on her bed and I always thought that sounded fabulous.
Do you have an animal companion now? How did it get its name? 
I have an 11 month old chocolate Labradoodle named Hermione.  She got her name from a popular children’s book about a boy wizard.  My children had just finished reading the first book when she came into our family.  I would have liked to call her Gretel. But I was talked down.  Her nickname is Eeny Meenie Miny Moe.(sp?)
What would your pet tell us about you?  
My husband says that Hermione and I are soul mates.  We are starting to look like each other.  I am not sure what to make of this but she has the same brown hair as I do and as it grows we both get lighter on the ends. 
If you were an animal, what would you be?  
Ooh, that’s tricky.  I’d probably say a hermit crab as I like to sit in my studio and hide away writing music.  It sounds romantic doesn’t it?  If only it were!  In fact, it’s often quite difficult.  My favourite studio days are when I have the heater going on a dark Melbourne brooding day.  I tend to work very well in the winter.  So perhaps I should say I would be a Hermione, curled up by the fire.
Favourite animal books?
The Famous Five.  I used to love Timmy the dog.  

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Wendy Orr is a Canadian-born Australian writer. Her books for children and adults have been published in 27 countries and won awards around the world. Nim’s Island and Nim at Sea have also become feature films, starring Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin (Nim’s Island) and Bindi Irwin (Return to Nim’s Island.) Her latest book is Cuckoo’s Flight, a companion to the highly acclaimed Bronze Age novels Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance. Read full bio