Keyna Wilkins 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. Many of her compositions are inspired by astronomy, whether it's conceptually or whether it's based on a particular object such as a planet or star. Though astronomical phenomena has 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. In 2013 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 them 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. After contacting him and gaining his permission, she began using these space sounds in her works.
Wilkins' flamenco journey began while studying in Germany in 2001 when she joined a tango/flamenco ensemble Faux Pas on flute and piano, who performed around Germany and Italy. Since then she has performed in many flamenco and tango ensembles - most notably recently in Sydney with Arrebato, Pena Flamenca, and Art of Cadencia (shows at the Basement, Venue 505) as well as opening Adelaide Fringe Festival with Flamenco Australia in 2012. Flamenco and tango music has influenced many of her works in the form of flamenco/tango tonalities (such as phygian mode), use of dance forms/structures, shifting time signatures, and driving rhythms.
While Wilkins is classically trained, she was always interested in jazz and pure improvisation and taught herself in her early teens. After hearing Tibetan musician Tenzin Cheogyal perform in Sydney in 2000 she took lessons with him on intuitive conceptual improvisation which inspired her immensely. Improvisation adds immediacy, intimacy, and the sense that each playing is unique. In many of her performances, she explore stream-of-consciousness spontaneous musical ideas inspired by her myriad of music experiences with the aim of synthesizing into one voice, creating emotional connection and attaining a meditative state. Her composed works often include structured improvisation sections. Jazz influences are present in nearly all her compositions, for example through use of extended chords and bebop-style melodies.
Wilkins' classical training on flute and piano has nurtured a love of Debussy and the impressionist movement. Features of her works that reflect this include 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.
Wilkins 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. Her compositions display a range of landscape depictions from terrestrial to extra-terrestrial.
While living in UK 2000-2009, Wilkins composed music for theatre projects at Bath Spa University and at Bridgwater Arts Centre as well as for films. After immigrating to Sydney, Wilkins composed for a number of theatre projects including being commissioned by Sydney Fringe Festival to compose for Fred and Ginger, an original abstract production at Old 505 Theatre in 2013. These experiences have influenced her work in that there is often a theatrical element and/or story. From 2018 Wilkins has also been writing music for independent films, exploring mood and atmosphere through music.