Kirsten Volness – Guest presenter: composer, performer

Open to all at no cost

Time and Location

Internationally recognized composer Kirsten Volness creates sublimely intimate and emotive soundscapes that inspire immersive listening. Through the refined use of electronics and modern composition techniques overlaid with jazz and pop influences, Volness’s music is both groovy and graceful, “irresistible” (San Francisco Chronicle) and “nothing short of gorgeous.” (New York Arts). Each of her compositions reveals “an exquisite sound world” (New Classic LA) with disparate, suggestive musical elements and idioms woven together to create sonic atmospheres that hold listeners in beauty and fascination. Inspired by nature, myth, spirituality, and environmental and sociopolitical issues, Volness’s music is smart, relevant, timeless, and transcendent.

Volness’s work features around the world, with past performances at The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS), L’Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges, The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF), Illuminus Boston, Electronic Music Midwest, Noise Floor, Electroacoustic Barn Dance, Third Practice, Tribeca New Music, American Composers Alliance, LunART, the Montréal and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, and concerts throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. Her rich commission history includes projects with the World Future Council Foundation, ASCAP/SEAMUS, BMI Foundation, Kansas City Electronic Music and Arts Alliance, Hotel Elefant, NOW Ensemble, Transient Canvas, Opera Cowgirls, Experiential Orchestra, Cambridge Philharmonic, and Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra. Volness received the MacColl Johnson Fellowship in 2017, the Fellowship in Music Composition from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts three times (2018, 2014, 2010), and the 2017 Composer-in-Residence position at the Music Mansion. Her first opera, Letters That You Will Not Get: Women's Voices From The Great War, is in development with The American Opera Project with support from OPERA America's Opera Grants for Female Composers program, supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Also an active performer, producer, and a passionate promoter of multimedia, Volness has cultivated and curated numerous festivals and series featuring the work of interdisciplinary artists. Her broad creative practice fosters hybrid genres of performance which explore modes of presenting and experiencing art that generate larger, and more diverse arts communities. A highly sought-after collaborator, she is the Co-Founder, Director and pianist for Verdant Vibes (Providence); multi-instrumentalist for Hotel Elefant (NYC); Co-Director of homeless advocacy group Tenderloin Opera Company (Providence); Composer/Performer in Meridian Project, a multimedia performance/lecture series exploring astrophysics and cosmology (Chicago/Providence); and Affiliated Artist of Sleeping Weazel (Boston). 

Volness is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Reed College (2019–21), and previously taught at the University of Rhode Island with guest appearances at Brown University, University of Michigan, Johnson & Wales, Western Illinois University, and Interlochen Arts Camp. With composition degrees from the University of Michigan (D.M.A., M.M.) and the University of Minnesota (B.A., summa cum laude), her greatest mentors include Evan Chambers, William Bolcom, Betsy Jolas, Bright Sheng, Michael Daugherty, Karen Tanaka, and Judith Lang Zaimont.


Kirsten Volness is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Reed College. She is an electro/acoustic composer and pianist whose music is inspired by nature, myth, science, spirituality, and environmental and sociopolitical issues. She has received commissions from the BMI Foundation, ASCAP/SEAMUS, World Future Council Foundation, and Third Practice Electroacoustic Festival, writing new works for Hotel Elefant, NOW Ensemble, Transient Canvas, Ann Arbor Symphony, and Experiential Orchestra. She performs with New York City–based Hotel Elefant and Providence-based Verdant Vibes, a new music ensemble and concert series she co-founded in 2015. Recipient of the MacColl Johnson and RISCA Fellowships in Music Composition, Kirsten was 2017 composer-in-residence at the Music Mansion, creating the First Fridays concert series, and served on the board of directors as Secretary. She collaborates with Meridian Project on multimedia performances exploring astrophysics, writes and performs operas with the homeless advocacy group Tenderloin Opera Company, and is an affiliate artist of Sleeping Weazel theatre company. She earned composition degrees from the Universities of Michigan (DMA, MM) and Minnesota (BA summa cum laude) and taught privately and at the University of Rhode Island before joining the faculty at Reed.

Disability Accommodations

For disability accommodations, please contact the department presenting the event. Disability access information is available online at Parking Services, and further resources can be found by contacting Western's Disability Access Center.

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