COMPOSITIONAL INFLUENCES: Astronomy - Jazz/Improvisation - Flamenco - Theatre - Landscapes - Impressionism
Keyna has always had a fascination with astronomy, ever since she saved up to buy a telescope at age 13. Astronomy provides a rich vein of ideas, images and space sounds that stimulate the imagination, so are fertile grounds for composition. Her compositions explore astronomical phenomena in a range of ways; Using jagged shapes of heavily cratered landscapes of Saturn's moon Rhea to inform pitch content in Craters of Rhea and angular melodies for moon of Jupiter Callisto mimicking ragged rocky terrain; Using repetitive bass lines to mirror a pulsar’s hypnotic rotations in Distant Pulsar; Using the concepts of void and space to inspire a zen-like state in Full Moon and Aurorae Sinus which captures the vast stillness of the largest crater on Mars knows as the Eye of Mars. Some of her space inspired pieces are fast, lively and tonal representing future human space travel e.g. Mars Part 1: Red Dirt, Mars Part 3: Red Children and Orbital Waltz, while others some are slow and contemplative. Though astronomical phenomena have long been an inspiration for composers around the world, it is only recently that authentic space sounds deriving from astronomical phenomena have been available for use in acoustic composition, due to increasing advances in space technology and the accessibility of the information collected. After a web search, Keyna came across the website of astronomer Dr Paul Francis, who has constructed a library of space sound mp3s drawn from NASA’s electromagnetic data and made it audible through processing through a spectrograph. These sound beautiful, eerie and often contain pitches in similar patterns to the harmonic series. There are also real recordings from NASA's Mars Rover microphone and radio signals from Saturn's rings in his collection. She contacted him and he was keen to share his material and be involved in creative projects. Pieces that use electromagnetic waves of various astronomical phenomena as a sonic foundation include Floating in Space, New Galaxy and Blackhole, a musical reflection of current theories on what happens in a black hole through use of radio wave samples from around the world and space sounds in an accompanying soundtrack. She also uses the space sounds as a found sound basis for group improvisations, for example Cassini and Solar Flare.
While Keyna was classically trained in childhood, she always had an interest in jazz/improvisation and taught herself the basics from books and CDs during her early teens. After hearing Tibetan multi-instrumentalist Tenzin Choegyal perform in Sydney in 2000 she took lessons with him in which she learnt about intuitive conceptual Tibetan buddhist improvisation which inspired her immensely. She went on to take jazz piano lessons with Oliver Gross at Hildesheim Univeristy (Germany) in 2002 during her mainly classical music course, and has since performed with various jazz/latin jazz ensembles such as UK based Ben Modley's Miami Smoke Machine band with saxophonist Ed Leaker. In 2008 she collaborated with musician-composers Alexandra Evans, Matthias Strassmuller and dancer Mary O'Shea to create Sonic Odyssey, a semi-improvised semi-composed concert of original works with textural projections at Bridgwater Arts Centre, UK. After immigrating to Sydney in 2009, she worked with and composed for a range of ensembles: She wrote and performed jazz song Hot Chocolate for Martini Rouge jazz quartet which was performed at Sydney Royal Easter Show 2012 to over 10 000 people, was part of Bagatelles Gypsy jazz duo performing around Sydney during 2013, and improvisation trio Ad Libitum with Elsen Price/Will Gilbert who were accompanying silent films at SHH Centre for Hybrid Arts during 2015. In 2012 she also released an entirely improvised solo piano album Jazz Reverie. Her jazz and improvisational performances have led Keyna to believe in the symbiotic relationship between performer and composer. She feels that in order for a musician to engage with the composition on a deep level and perform it well, they need to feel they own and can put their personal stamp on it in some way. They can put a very clear stamp on it if they are allowed to improvise. Improvisation adds immediacy, intimacy, and the sense that each playing is unique. It is also more rewarding and fulfilling as a performer. Her compositions often include improvised sections such as Craters of Rhea, Buleria Fiero, Callisto, Distant Pulsar, Mars Part 3, Star Dance, Orbital Waltz, Titan Tango, as well as many of her piano pieces have extended improvised sections. Keyna's connection with improvisation is also linked to her compositional process, which is intuitive and often begins with improvising fragments of a melody. Jazz influences are present in nearly all her compositions, for example through use of extended jazz chords i.e. ninths, elevenths and thirteenths, such as in Dinner Party.
Keyna's flamenco journey began while studying in Germany in 2001 when she joined a tango/flamenco ensemble Faux Pas that performed around Germany and Italy. While living in UK Keyna joined other flamenco/tango ensembles such as UK based guitarist Tom Dwyer's classical flamenco shows. After immigrating to Sydney in 2009 she worked with many similar groups. Highlights include opening the Adelaide Fringe Festival with Flamenco Australia and performing regularly in 2012 and 2013 with eight-piece group Pena Flamenca at festivals such as Darling Harbour Fiesta and shows at the Basement, Venue 505 and many others as well as working with Alin and Melike's Persian/flamenco fusion show and flamenco/jazz fusion ensemble Arrebato as well as flamenco/tango fusion project Art of Candencia. Her flamenco background directly influenced her to write Buleria Fiero (solo flute), a virtuosic flight of fancy based on the buleria dance, and Flamenco Etudes (solo flute), a collection of 9 studies grades 1-8 based on the traditional flamenco dances Solea, Tientos, Farrucca, Fandagos de Huelva, Tangos de Triana, Sevillanas, Seguirillas and Buleria using prominent rhythmic and melodic features of each. In other less direct ways flamenco has influences her compositions by inspiring her to use flamenco tonalities and shifting time signatures. Flamenco tonality often revolves around the Phrygian mode (with flattened and sharpened 3rd) as well as other modes such as Lydian and Aeolian. These modes are prominent in Keyna's compositions such as Star Dance/Luna Llena, Full Moon, Titan Tango and Andalucian Fantasy.
While living in England 2000-2009, Keyna composed music for theatre projects at Bath Spa University and at Bridgwater Arts Centre as well as for filmmaker Dan Gale on short film Lavish Gizzards which was shown at the Bath International Film Festival in 2006. In 2013 Keyna was commissioned by Marquez Laundry Theatre Company to write music for Fred and Ginger at Sydney Fringe Festival. She was a character on stage, wrote the music and performed it every night for eight days at Old 505 Theatre. For the show she wrote two piano pieces In an Empty Warehouse and Hypnotic Struggle and a flute piece. Alicia Gonzalez and Keyna co-devised the piece for the two-piece ensemble and the narrative was rather abstract, drawing from the Beckett tradition. Ephemeral Time is highly influenced by this abstract approach. These theatrical aspects have contributed to the development of chamber opera Dark Genesis and music theatre piece A Raft Adrift in a Storm of Stars, both of which are still being written. Her theatrical cabaret-style songs include The Transaction, Circus Waltz and Spider Girl.
Keyna spent her early childhood in rural Somerset, UK, born to an Australian mother and English father. The pastoral setting of south west England created an imprint of the importance of landscape, while the vivid Australian land provide a striking contrast in texture and mood. Sky Pieces, Mirage and Onyx is highly influenced by terrestrial landscapes, while astronomical landscapes are prominent in Full Moon, Callisto, Mars Parts 1,2,3, Craters of Rhea, Aurorae Sinus and Titan Tango. Australian composers who are deeply affected by the expansive Australian landscape and who have inspired Keyna are Peter Sculthorpe, Anne Boyd and Ross Edwards.
Keyna's solid classical training has nurtured a love of Debussy and the impressionist movement. Significant features of her music that can be linked to Debussy are: use of parallel chords using fifths and fourths, lyrical melodies that evade a steady beat, exploring the subtle nuances of instrumental timbre, and shifting time signatures. These aspects can be seen in most of her compositions.