Amy Kirsten

Notes from the Composer

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Little Falling Red

Performed by the Norfolk New Music Workshop

Lately I’ve been researching the history of The Little Red Riding Hood for an opera I’m composing. I’ve come across quite a number of versions of this well-known story. Many of the modern ones explore a more edgy and controversial relationship between Red and the Wolf. 

 For this project, the poets Elisa Gonzalez and Jordan Jacks thought that it might be interesting to incorporate their original poetry in the recounting of the fable. 

 The result is a composition in two parts. In our telling, the girl is not victimized by the big, bad wolf but instead has some part to play in the ill-fated and questionable nature of the relationship. And in Jordan’s text for the wolf, I was able to find some sympathy for this tortured beast, who will forever mourn his own terrifying and irremediable appetite. The excerpt here is Part One – The Girl.

lightgirl - and the interference of her human shadow

Performed by members of l'Orchestre de la Francophonie Canadienne at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa

This piece for chamber orchestra includes a vocal element: the instrumentalists are asked to vocalize while playing. I have always been fascinated by the sound of multiple human voices speaking or whispering at once and thought that the phenomenon would provide an interesting musical timbre. I had a conceptual motivation for including these sounds as well. Lightgirl was inspired by the idea of a superhero made of light who desires to be human. The intermittent interruptions caused by her dark desires are manifested in the music as interruptions as well; I aimed to compose sounds of static, radio interference, and mumbled voices as a means to this end. The conflict between the melodious and the interruptive, and how this conflict is reconciled, is what lightgirl is all about. 

More in:

Comments [40]

Kyle Werner from New York, NY

Amy Kirsten is by far one of the most strikingly fascinating composers I have heard lately. Her music makes a strong, personal impression, and each detail is exquisite. On a practical level, she knows how the instruments and voices work. Having looked at scores for several of her works, I can see that she knows exactly how to produce each sound. I would love to see her compose a piece for Orpheus. I think Amy could bring a breath of fresh air because her music is quite different from composers such as Aaron J Kernis, Peter Maxwell Davies, Melinda Wagner, and Ned Rorem who have recently written works for Orpheus. She does not fit into any of the current fads or scenes - she is a truly original voice.

Jul. 28 2010 12:47 PM
Maggie Hasspacher from Los Angeles, CA

Amy Kirsten often pulls music from a fantastical, alternate world and then weaves it with human nature to create unforgettable works. During performances of her music, the creativity and risk-taking leave no audience member and no performer behind: we are all drawn into a different world for an Augenblick, only to emerge on the other side, asking each other what the experience was like.

Looking forward to hearing and performing more of her music!

Jul. 27 2010 03:36 PM
K. Gupta from Chicago

Very cool, could imagine the scene being played out before me. Hope to hear (and see) the rest.

Jul. 18 2010 04:02 PM
Julie Gupta from Chicago, IL

Amy's passion for music and history, and her ability to create sound from personal experiences emanates in her pieces. She creates an auditory arena for the listener to deduce his/her person interpretation of the story and inspires the audience to think outside the box of everyday, popular trends in the field of music.

Jul. 12 2010 11:55 AM
Douglas Pew from Cincinnati, OH

You have such a great ear Amy, I really enjoyed your piece.

Jul. 08 2010 05:55 AM
Carolyn O. from Chicago, IL

Amy's music is as sensual as it is intelligent. I had the privilege of hearing her chamber piece "L'ange pale" twice last week in Switzerland and found every second of the piece to be evocative, eerie, moving and well-crafted. It was more than apparent that the performers of this piece were just as engaged as her listeners, which made the experience all the more moving to behold. I'll be looking forward to hearing more from Ms. Kirsten.

Jul. 07 2010 12:30 PM
Rebecca Danard

It's great to hear more of Amy Kirsten's music!

Jul. 06 2010 04:26 PM
H. Shullaw from Chicago, Ill.

Intriguing, amazing - kept me wanting more!

Jul. 01 2010 08:44 PM
Jeff Helgeson

Amy Kirsten's compositions combine a sophistication of musical style with a potential for broad audience appeal. I particularly found her use of simple pionoistic ornimation in contrast to complex vocal harmonies to be intriguing and to serve as an on-going juxtoposition that advanced the progression of her piece.

Jul. 01 2010 05:59 PM
J Keaton from Chicago, IL

Amy is an amazing talent I especially enjoyed how she tells the story. I look forward to hearing more.

Jun. 29 2010 04:22 PM

Amy's music is beautiful and scary, energetic and colorful, and above all extremely well thought out. I wish she had put the second movement of Little Falling Red on this website - it is amazing!

Jun. 29 2010 01:34 PM
John Highberger from Chicago, IL

As an actor, I have learned to appreciate artists of all genres over the years. Listening to Amy's "Little Falling Red" allowed me to picture in my mind what it would look like onstage; vivid red costume, tortured souls; it all adds up to a winning combination of music, operatic high notes and theatricality.

Jun. 29 2010 12:22 PM
Dr. Karen Kelly from O'Fallon IL

While I was "schooled" in the sciences and not the arts, I know what I enjoy and what moves me. I very much enjoyed both pieces by Amy. I found them creative and intriguing. Bravo, kiddo!!!!

Jun. 28 2010 11:18 PM
Trevor Engelhardt from Chicago

Having known Amy for almost two decades; I can attest that she posesses a rare combination of passion and self discipline. Her collective works have always amazed me. I can only say that the 1 minute and 22 second excerpt was far too short to completely appreciate what an accomplishment it really is. Keep truckin' A.K.

Jun. 28 2010 07:41 PM
Elena Jaacks from Las Vegas, Nevada

I always enjoy every opportunity that I get to listen to Amy's pieces. This excerpt leaves me wanting to hear more of this piece and to learn more about the creative reinterpretation of the relationship between Little Red and the wolf.

Jun. 28 2010 07:28 PM
Mark Winges from San Francisco

I have had the pleasure of hearing several of Amy's pieces over the past few years, and have been thoroughly engaged by her music. In addition to her fine ear for sound and texture, I believe she has a wonderful feel for narrative and dramatic shape, whether writing for theatrical forms or strictly instrumental genres.

Jun. 27 2010 01:22 AM
Kimberly Stemm from Aurora, IL

I enjoyed the energy and almost confusion of sounds in this excerpt. Exciting without feeling rushed, I want to listen longer to hear the story emerge.

Jun. 26 2010 05:36 PM
Holly Wehmeyer from Chicago, IL

As a poet and writer, I'm fascinated by the variety of interpretations that classic verse, fairy tales, etc., invoke for other artists. I eagerly await more from Amy!!

Jun. 26 2010 03:08 PM
Anna from Berlin, Germany

This time I'm not agreeing with Dr. Scott Giles. I find the use of text and voice in the first piece quite inspiring.

Jun. 26 2010 11:39 AM
Elisa Gonzalez from New Orleans, LA

Since meeting Amy last summer at the Norfolk New Music Festival, I have been impressed with the intellect and talent with which she approaches music.

I am awed by the way she interpreted my words, reinventing and imagining in a coherent and interesting way. I loved the "Little Falling Red" piece and, having been lucky enough to hear some of Amy's other pieces, know that she is consistently amazing. She would be a wonderful Orpheus composer.

Jun. 25 2010 09:26 PM
Susan Oetgen from Brooklyn, NY

I've been following Amy's music with great interest since she was a finalist in the ACO Underwood New Music Readings a few years ago. Let her music be heard far & wide!

Jun. 25 2010 12:33 PM
Bernadette Arnold from Baltimore, Maryland

After listening to every composition on WQXR, I find Amy's to be the best. New York needs more composers like this. The use of instrumentation and sparse rhythms to create color demonstrates a real mastery of composition. I found the programatic nature of the music easy to follow, as little red riding hood explores herself and her temptations with the big bad wolf! I think an opera would be a great feat, I hope the composer is considering it. Congratulations to Ms. Kirsten, I have heard her music around town at concerts, more and and more recently, and she is a worthy upcoming new music composer.

Jun. 24 2010 10:24 PM
Dave V from Los Angeles

Amy is a wildly creative composer whose work transcends emotion through a voice that is unique, innovative, and brimming with a depth that reflects her own tender yet vivacious character.

"Little Falling Red" is only a glimpse into the creative labyrinth that is her compositional toolbox. Amy is an exemplary individual who, without a doubt, would do wonders for Orpheus.

Jun. 24 2010 10:12 PM
Joanna Manring from Central NY

I have had the distinct pleasure of being both an audience member and singer for performances of Amy's piece "Ophelia Forever." When music evokes a visceral response in me, I do everything I can to promote it and the composer because I believe it is critically important that we continue to hear and be changed by music. I look forward to hearing more of Little Red! Amy richly deserves every opportunity that comes her way: she is a truth teller of the highest order.

Jun. 24 2010 09:05 PM
Stephanie Taylor from Kansas City

I spent a few years in a small, rural grade school with Amy - amazing you never know what a childhood friend will grow to be! Being a music lover myself I had no idea Amy would grow up to have such an amazing talent! I am blown away by your ability to piece together such an arrangement and wish I could hear more than just a clip! You are so accomplished. I'm sure this snipet is just the tip of the iceberg on your "Little Red" project!

Jun. 24 2010 08:32 PM
Lee Kesselman from Chicago, IL

I've known Amy for nearly 20 years and have watched her early love of music mature into accomplished, intriguing, fresh music of her own. I find this excerpt intriguing, energetic and colorful. I think Amy's maturing craft and unique perspective make her a leading composer of her generation.

Jun. 24 2010 07:38 PM
Charlie from Houston

I've known Ms. Kirsten and her music for almost 5 years now. Opera is one field in particular in which she really shines, and like others who have left their comments, I would really like to hear the rest and discover how this excerpt fits in to the work as a whole. Even after listening to this short excerpt, one immediately understands that this is a composer who writes music which is both inspired and engaging. Her economical use of instrumentation highlights these qualities even further.

On a more personal note, Ms. Kirsten always displays both enthusiasm for the music of her colleagues as well as humility for her own achievements, which are many. As fine a person as she is a composer!

Jun. 24 2010 06:48 PM
Patrick Moore from Houston, Tx

Amy is a talented composer with exceptional expressive capabilities. I thought this excerpt was adventurous and interesting. Her insightful take on an old tale really makes me want to hear the complete work.

Jun. 24 2010 02:30 PM
Lloyd Sederer

Great subject masterfully handled by Amy. I have heard the story line develop and the music evolve.

Jun. 24 2010 02:01 PM
Angie Costin from Melbourne Australia

Over many years I have experienced listening to contemporary, original musical pieces at our Art/Music Festivals in Melbourne Australia but this piece took me by surprise! What a rich and moving piece of music. I found the connection between music, art and storytelling was well fused together into a fabulous, frivolous, folly. Just wonderful!!

Jun. 23 2010 08:52 PM
Paul Kerekes from Queens, NY

I had the pleasure of attending the Norfolk Festival with Amy while she was working on "Little Falling Red". Not only do I think this piece is fantastic and imaginative, but after hearing some of her other compositions she presented at workshops, I realized how great all of her pieces are. Her compositions are so well thought out and the dramatic aspects make them exciting to watch. I can't wait to hear more new works by her!

Jun. 23 2010 10:52 AM
Nicholas Schutzenhofer from Chicago, IL

Amy Kirsten's music repurposes tableaux dramas, bringing life to ubiquitous fairy tales through contemporary collaboration and sincerity. For me, her work playfully engages nostalgic hallucinations. As a listener, I immediately connect with a sense of longing in her music, that initial feeling is followed by my minds ears and eyes ascending through a carnivalesque realm. You Rock.

Jun. 23 2010 10:01 AM
alice Schutzenhofer from chicago, il

Hmmm.... I'm wondering if Dr. G from Sacramento was listening to the same piece as the rest of us? Amy Kirsten has presented at many different venues and I have been fortunate enough to witness the emergence of this very talented artist. Little Falling Red is the most creative work I've experienced in many years.

Jun. 22 2010 06:16 PM
Mark Stockman

Amy Kirsten has composed a rich and moving piece and is one of the rising young talents in contemporary opera. I enjoyed this immensely.

Jun. 22 2010 05:08 PM
Vicki Ray from Los Angeles, CA

I heard Amy's music last summer at the Bang on a Can summer festival. I found her music to be utterly engaging on every level. It was imaginative and colorful in a way uniquely her own. The pacing was dramatically fresh and surprising. The time flew by and when the piece ended I wanted to hear more. I still feel that way - and have commissioned her to write a solo piano piece for me. I can't wait to see/hear what she does next!

Jun. 22 2010 03:02 PM
Robert Geary from San Francisco

As the director of Volti, a vocal ensemble of professional singers in San Francisco whose mission is to commission and perform new American music, I view Amy Kirsten as one of the emerging composers who has something original to offer and the compositional skill set to say it. She is part of a group of young composers who avoid clichés and inpire us to think and listen with more care.

Jun. 22 2010 11:40 AM
Lindsay Kesselman from Ann Arbor, MI

I have had the great pleasure of performing music by Amy Kirsten over the past year, and find her to be a uniquely talented, thoughtful, subtle, and captivating composer. Her carefully chosen colors and her complex layering of textures make for beautifully crafted and incredibly creative, thought-provoking compositions.

Jun. 22 2010 10:57 AM
Dr Hannah Lash from New York, NY

I find this a surprising comment; I recently discovered Amy Kirsten's music and find it to be some of the more inspired as well as imaginative music being written by any composer of her generation.

Jun. 22 2010 08:17 AM
Jordan Kuspa from New Haven, CT

I have been fortunate to hear several of Amy's pieces before, and they are consistently engaging and often startlingly beautiful. This is a lovely and enigmatic excerpt. The scoring is lucid and the dramatic pacing is excellent. It makes me want to hear the rest!

And speaking of hearing the rest, where is "lightgirl"? I want to hear more!

Jun. 22 2010 07:52 AM
Dr. Scott Giles from Sacramento, CA

"Little Falling Red" was unimpressive. It was apparently composed by someone who was well-schooled but uninspired.

Jun. 21 2010 01:23 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR