Music changes along with new discoveries, major social or political events or technological developments. Art and music reflect our reaction, because human beings are impacted by change, and have a deep need to express it through the arts. As part of the continuum of adjusting and adapting, some artists naturally look back to tradition, as they forever reach forward in their eagerness to embrace progress and invention. Musical performer and composer, Cathie Travers, is an example of such an artist.
Innovative and fearless, Cathie Travers was educated as a composer and trained as a classical pianist and a guitarist, and much later began her studies as an accordionist. She graduated from the University of Western Australia with a Bachelor’s degree in music and emigrated to America from Australia and settled in the Seattle, Washington area. While in the United States, Cathie began to perform with the piano accordion in 1992, but became a very serious student of the instrument beginning in 2002 through 2007. She began to move in the direction of making the accordion her primary instrument. With that determination, after decades of performing with rock bands on the West Coast as a multi-keyboardist, and then as a concert pianist, Cathie Travers returned to her homeland, and the city of Perth, Australia.
Since her arrival, Cathie Travers has become one of the premier accordionists in Australia and has also broken new ground with the use of sophisticated technology in her music. With an interest in creating new music and with her respect for tradition, it is fortunate that a gifted artist, Cathie Travers, chooses to use the accordion in her work. Since the piano accordion, itself was new technology at its invention, Cathie Travers is fast becoming a noted ‘game changer’ for the instrument.
Cathie Travers’ talent and expertise as a professional musician, her education in music and her natural musical curiosity led to her involvement in the study of the piano accordion in 1992. But it is her keen interest in experimental electronic music that drives her use of the piano accordion in the art form, today. American composer and accordionist, Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) also used the piano accordion in experimental work and in developing and investigating new ways to focus attention on music and the natural environment with her concepts of “Deep Listening” and “Sonic Awareness.” Like Oliveros, Cathie Travers is a composer of original and avant-garde music, but also a performer of classical and classic works such as the dark and riveting “Oblivion,” by Astor Piazzolla.
Along with Stewart Greenhill, in 2016, Cathie Travers co-authored a paper for New Interfaces for Musical Expression, (NIME), “an international conference dedicated to scientific research on the new technologies and their role in musical expression and artistic performance.” Their paper discusses the use of Focal, an “experimental eye-tracking musical expression controller which allows hands-free control over audio effects and synthesis parameters during performance.” It involves a simple head mounted display fitted with eye software that enables the performer to control the many parameters. With this device, what would normally require multiple foot pedals is achieved with the musician’s eyes. Cathie Travers demonstrates this technology, with her original work, “Elegy #2”:
Cathie Travers has composed a number of works that have been performed for worldwide audiences in Australia, Canada, America and Japan and that feature the accordion and electronic music. She has developed a formidable reputation, not only as a composer, but also as a performer. Cathie Travers has performed with artists such as Robyn Archer, Midori Takada, Washington Symphony Orchestra 20th Century Ensemble, Adelaide Chamber Orchestra and Nova Ensemble and many others. She has also performed with dance companies and national arts Festivals, and for ABC radio programs and numerous arts events around the world.