#12 Musician Catherine Milliken
Cathy Milliken has been an artist many young Australian musicians have looked up to when they have travelled abroad to continue their studies in Europe. A renowned oboist, composer and music educator, Cathy has held key positions with two of the world’s leading music ensembles, Ensemble Modern and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
A graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Cathy completed a performance degree in both oboe and piano. In Europe she continued her studies with renowned musicians, such as Heinz Holliger and Maurice Bourgue. She also studied the Dalcroze Method of teaching music.
In 1980, Cathy was a founding member of one of the world’s leading new music ensembles, the Frankfurt-based group, Ensemble Modern. The group has appeared at most renowned festivals and distinguished performance venues around the world and works closely with the composers themselves. They rehearse an average of 70 new works every year, 20 of which are world premieres. Among the composers Cathy Milliken has worked with during her time with Ensemble Modern are György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Steve Reich and Frank Zappa, to name just a few.
Cathy remained with Ensemble Modern for 26 years before taking up a position with another of the world’s prestigious music ensembles, the Berlin Philharmonic, where she was appointed the director of the orchestra’s much-celebrated education program, a position she held until 2012.
Cathy left the Berlin Phil to dedicate herself to composing. She has composed for theatre, opera, radio, film and created installations. Among her commissions are works for the Berliner Staatsoper, South Bank Centre London and the CCMIX (enakis) Centre in Paris. Her accolades include the Australian Art Music Award, the Mario Merz International Music Prize for composers and a Prix Italia.
Today Cathy is recognised internationally as a leading creative director. Recent participatory compositional projects have led her to South Africa, Japan and Oman. She was recently appointed Associate Composer for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra for the next three years, a position that will allow her to create a new orchestral work each year for that ensemble.
Breandáin caught up with Cathy Milliken in Berlin, where she talked about her illustrious musical career, working alongside many of the world’s leading musicians, composing and creating participatory compositional projects around the world. And about how it all started back in the Queensland Youth Orchestra.
Title: The Yellow Shark, Frank Zappa Ensemble Modern Composer: Three Step, for horn, violin, cello (Cathy Milliken), Earth Plays I-IV Orchestral Work (Cathy Milliken) Recording: Spiral, for a soloist with a shortwave receiver, (Karlheinz Stockhausen) Trim (Cathy Milliken) Shifrorl (Cathy Milliken)