Amanda Lee Falkenberg, composer

Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

My journey into composing began in my early 20’s when I was accompanying dancers in ballet studios. After observing their classes, I became curious whether I could write custom-designed music for each exercise, as I felt the music could connect deeper to their artistic experience.
Those experiences were the inspiration behind a three-part album series — Moving with Music, which contains over 120 piano pieces showcasing different styles of music that reflect various types of characters and emotions expected from the dancer.

A commission soon followed in 2003 by the Barossa International Music Festival, which led to the performance of Edge of the World, a 30-minute ballet for piano and orchestra.

The visual inspiration of other visual mediums was a natural progression from ballet studios to begin composing for films, stage plays, TV, and documentaries.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

The most significant challenges of my career have been the enormous research involved in my latest project — THE MOONS SYMPHONY. This symphony just received its professional recording this year (2022), with Marin Alsop conducting the London Symphony orchestra with the London Voices. I spent years researching the science for each of the seven moons featured in this symphony which drove the entire creative process, so retaining the scientific facts and figures has been a challenge. Fortunately, I had the incredible privilege of consulting planetary scientists from leading space organizations such as NASA |JPL to ensure their stories are anchored in scientific accuracy. So rather than allowing the science to intimidate me, I kept focusing on my desire to share these fascinating worlds with as many people as possible.

I am also developing a cutting-edge outreach program called L U N A R to inspire
the next generation of space explorers.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

Sometimes the challenges associated with commission work can be in the tight deadlines around the project. But the pleasure of a commissioned piece is the human exchange, where one can provide an artistic, hand-crafted experience for a special occasion. There is something special in those human requests for custom-designed music.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles or orchestras?

It’s always a pleasure working with musicians, singers and ensembles. Especially true was my collaboration with Russian pianist Anna Tsybuleva on my piano concerto and working with the wonderful Marin Alsop. Marin is profoundly respectful, producing music representing the composer’s vision and desires.

Of which works are you most proud?

Looking back on THE MOONS SYMPHONY, the scope of this work feels enormous, and I am proud (and relieved) that I was able to manifest that part of the vision for this project. It took years to pull the science and musical elements together, especially when I recognized the incredible facts associated with each moon early on in the project. From there, the project seemed to grow exponentially and take on a life of its own. There are layers of inspiration built with this symphony, and the journey of learning and discovering these fascinating moons continues to be a joyful and meaningful experience.

I am so grateful for the hugely talented team who has contributed scientifically or musically to help bring this work to larger audiences and, of course, manifest its premiere professional recording with Marin Alsop conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

People have often described my compositional language as majestic, cinematic and epic, where it can transport and take one on an emotional journey. THE MOONS SYMPHONY employed the forces of a choir to sing the science, so the passages are largely tonal and melodic to enable the stories of the moons to be communicated as clearly as possible.

How do you work?

I begin my musical ideas with a program called Logic Pro X that enables me to produce a pretty realistic idea of what to expect from my musical canvas ahead of the live musicians that will eventually perform and breathe life into the work. I am so comfortable working with that program, so it allows me to indulge in one of my favourite aspects of being a composer – orchestration. The idea of creating a melodic phrase and then assigning colours from an
orchestra is a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying part of the composition process. From there I transfer that music from the electronic canvas into a wonderful music notation program called DORICO by Steinberg.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I have always believed that if the music I write can move and transport me, I have succeeded in my artistic mission.

And if the music does the same for others, then I have succeeded in connecting in a meaningful way with the audience.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring composers?

Follow the joy, don’t expect things to come to you. Put yourself in a constant state of curiosity to become the best creative version you can imagine of yourself. There are no boundaries to the creative spirit. So go and play with the magic of sound, and never give up the quest for learning more.

What next – where would you like to be in 10 years?

I have many ideas for new projects that have been around since creating THE MOONS SYMPHONY, which has been a 5-year project, and I can’t wait to get started on them.

We would also love to see the world tour fully established for THE MOONS SYMPHONY. Conductor Marin Alsop, astronaut Nicole Stott and I have a vision for this symphony to reach as many people as possible with its message for humanity, including its educational outreach. We all share the same vision for this work to be part of planetariums and outdoor venues with telescopes placed all around for audiences to experience the MOONS while listening to
music that has been custom designed for each of them.

I also love film scoring, a process that played a significant role in THE MOONS SYMPHONY treatment. I approached each moon as you would actors for a Hollywood film, casting them, directing them, and writing their scripts based on scientific fact, so this “MOONS MOVIE experience” is perhaps why others describe the music as “cinematic”. I’m also excited to see the incredible outreach possibilities with Imperial College of London and THE MOONS
SYMPHONY for a new outreach program I am developing called L U N A R, an immersive education discovery series for students. The program celebrates the intersection of ART, MUSIC and SCIENCE and bridges concepts from the symphony into music and science classrooms.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is having written music based on content and themes that are important to me. And then to also have those ideas resonates with others. This is truly gratifying.

What is your most treasured possession?

My bicycle which enables me to ride outdoors by an ocean while enjoying a sunset or moon rise. Nothing beats the bounty of Mother Nature to inspire us as artists. To transfer those experiences into meaningful art in some shape or form, it’s that process that ultimately becomes the treasure.

What do you enjoy doing most?

I enjoy allowing my mind to wander, my imagination to roam and explore new artistic horizons while climbing those creative ladders with curiosity and always asking, “how far can I stretch creative possibilities?”

What is your present state of mind?

Abundance and gratitude. I respect and admire the great masters who came before us. We all grow and learn from their great craft and inspirational works.

The Moons Symphony by Amanda Lee Falkenberg is released on the Signum label on Friday 7th October

Australian born composer and pianist, Amanda Lee Falkenberg, began her journey into composition through the hours spent in the ballet studio as dance accompanist with the Australian Ballet company in 2000. She wrote over 120 compositions to accompany ballet dancers as they trained, which led to the production of her Moving With Music 3-part CD series. In 2003 saw the world premier of her orchestral 30 minute ballet “Edge of the World” commissioned and performed at the International Barossa Music Festival with the prestigious Leigh Warren and Dancers which received glowing reviews from the National press. 

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