William C. Kersten (born 1955) is an American composer and filmmaker, whose work spans over three decades. Kersten composed Neo-Romantic symphonic pieces in the early 1970s at a time when the term was only beginning to be used. His work has been used internationally in film and television, and it has also been performed independently with recording available commercially. As a film maker, Kersten's work anticipated, among other things, the "J-horror" of the 1990s. According to film and music critic Jack Neal, "Kersten knows what many of his contemporary composers don't evidently know, or at least don't care to express: that contemporary music can reflect its time and still be accessible to listeners who want to be thrilled by modern sounds adorned with lovely melodies, without being pummeled by extraordinary gritty dissonance." (liner notes for "Romantic Symphony," 2003) Similarly, his films are free of commercial restraint and progress in directions bounded by no more rules than one would expect with a dream.
Kersten was born and educated in Reno, Nevada. He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno after studying music, literature, and several foreign languages.
Kersten's "Sinfonia Fantasis" (1972) and his "Fanfare for Brass and Percussion" (1972) exhibited the youthful exuberance of someone trained in percussion and French Horn. Kertsen began to exhibit more maturity with his "Apotheosis - Tone Poem for Orchestra," and "Songs Without Words" both completed and performed in 1973. Then followed the "Concert for Band" (1976), and "Symphony for Band" and "Ritual Music for Flutes and Percussion," both completed in 1978. The following years, Kersten completed a number of compositions, each one an exploration of the Neo-Romantic movement: "March for Brass, Percussion and Organ" (1979), "March for Brass and Percussion (1980), and "Symphonic Suite for Orchestra" (1982). His piece "Saga - Symphonic Poem" composed in 1984, was inspired in part after his reading of the Grettir's Saga, a medieval Icelandic saga, which Kersten read in the original Old Norse. "Heroic Overture," was composed the following year. Kersten's work "Andante and Allegro for Violin and Piano" and his "Earth and Paradise - Song Cycle," both completed in 1985, exhibit haunting melodies and original sounds that were far less dependent on the percussive jolts of his works in the 1970s. "Earth and Paradise" is noteworthy for its striking use of songs of Christina Rosetti, Anne Brontë and Thomas Beddoes. Following along this line were "Two Victorian Songs" (1986) and "Remember Tomorrow," (1988), the latter being Kersten's first Motion Picture Score, composed for his award winning film of the same title. In 1989, Kersten returned to heroic literature for his inspiration with the ten-part composition, "Chivalry" A Symphony Fantasy for Orchestra." A subsequent gap in composition reflects a shift in Kersten's artistic career, which focused on film during that time, but composition was never far from his creative core. Between 1994 and 1997, Kersten was composing a major opus, "Symphony No. 1 "Romantic," which is completely immersed in the Neo-Romantic movement with evocative melodies and full-bodied orchestration. Later works include "Chromatic Aberration," a Motion Picture Score (1996), and "Fantasia on Amazing Grace" (2003), which was commissioned for a CD produced by the Sierra Highlanders Pipe Band. Most recently, his "Bacchanale for String Quartet" (2005), "Shadows of the Soul" (2010), "Metaphysical Toymaking," a Motion Picture Score composed in (2010), and "Age of Light" of the same year, all demonstrate that Kersten's creativity and his exploration of the Neo-Romantic genre are far from exhausted. Two reviews of his work attest to their importance: the Reno Gazette Journal, reflecting on the premiere performance of "Earth and Paradise," asserted in January 27, 1992 that "Kersten's music, always interesting and provocative, has become a rarity; it has shed any hints of being derivative, and has stepped, by virtue of its originality and freshness, across an important threshold into the realm of elegantly crafted, inspired art." As Dietz Tinhof of the Vienna Symphonic Library wrote of Kersten's work, "I'm floored. Great music, performed masterfully." An important breakthrough occurred with Kersten's work with his innovative implementation of work with "virtual symphony orchestra" performance using MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) at the highest possible level of accuracy which is only possible currently with the Vienna Symphonic Library. As a computer-based performer of symphonic compositions, Kersten has gained notoriety for the performance of compositions by earlier artists. More importantly, this new medium of a new millennium has allowed Kersten to perform his compositions in exactly the way they were intended. Since Kersten often arranges his compositions in such a way that tests the limits of instruments and less experienced musicians, the use of a virtual orchestra has allowed performances of his pieces with perfectly conceived nuance. His collaboration with the Vienna Symphonic Library has included a performance of "Prospice" (2007) - a long aria-like song for Tenor and Orchestra, based upon the poem by Robert Browning and featuring the Austrian tenor Ferdinand von Plettenberg, as well as several highly detailed realizations of classical masterpieces for their official online demos, including works by Vaughn Williams, Holst and Borodin. Kersten's library of published CDs had steadily increased in number throughout the twenty-first century thanks to the opportunity that a virtual symphonic orchestra represents.
As indicated, Kersten's films anticipated the J Horror movement, indicating how this artist senses the cutting edge: his work looks forward to new trends rather than being derived from what others have created. Most recently, Kersten's produced the well-received HD short film, "Metaphysical Toymaking," HDV 12 minutes, featured at the International Surrealist Film Festival in 2010. Using stop motion animation, puppets and elaborate miniature sets, the film depicts a metaphysical world inspired by dreams as well as the style of the Metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico. Other films include "Remember Tomorrow" (1989)16mm 84 minutes: A mysterious love story about Paul Stevens, composer, who dreams of a beautiful woman in a cemetery only to meet her in reality. He falls in love with her, but she is haunted nightmares that of her past that also become real for Paul. "Aberration" (1996) 16mm 76 minutes: A surreal film about the strange life of Connie Sproutz, a young woman who has been taken over by an amorphous alien entity. This film was distributed internationally by Jerks, Inc. "Abstractions and Figurations" (1994-99)16mm 36 minutes: Experimental short silent film sequences depicting mystical landscapes and forms in a partly abstract, partly realistic style. "Composition No. 1" (2003) HDV 8 minutes: A purely abstract HD video with original analog synthesizer accompaniment. "Composition No. 2" (2010) HDV 10 minutes: An abstract video work using all real-time optical and mechanical processes to create complex visual designs. "Empyreum" (in production, 2011) HDV: The first motion picture created by William Kersten using the "Lumia" style originally created by Thomas Wilfred in the 1930s. It is a complex abstract universe created entirely with deliberately old-fashioned optics and devices made especially or the film. A basic concept of the film is the deliberate contrast between the digital recording and layering of images with the complex and unpredictable physical processes used to create them.