Jonathan Higgins

Image of a train station entrance at night Cover of Bootlegs EP (2019) released on Fractal Meat Cuts

Music for Fixed Media

Good thanks, you? (2022)

“Good thanks, you?” This minimal, innocuous and, some might even say, deflecting phrase so many of us have used, serves as the starting point for London-based composer Jonathan Higgins’ investigation of overload and tension. “Over the last couple of years I have been writing tracks every time I felt particularly anxious or overwhelmed,” he explains. Composed on Higgins’ modified CD players which malfunction and glitch their way through sound samples, this album emphasises not so much the beauty of malfunction, but its ubiquity. The glitch in Higgins’ work is not an exception, but the norm. The malfunction he has built into his modified CD players forms here the bedrock of his compositions, and the warps, omissions, and possibilities this process involves serves to echo our own struggles to adapt, communicate and make sense of the ever shifting, ever unpredictable, layers of life itself, and our connections with others.

Album released by Flaming Pines Ocotber 2022, on Bandcamp and streaming services.

Sechs Kleine Klavierstücke (2022)

Sechs kleine Klavierstücke (Six Little Piano Pieces) is a set of pieces for solo piano written by the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1911. For this EP I remixed each of these little pieces guided by the original tempo instructions of each movement. The miniatures were reimagined through electronics, stretching, glitching and warping the original piano material into something both old and new.

EP released by Classical Remix July 2022, on Bandcamp and streaming services.

a_single_point (2022)

Sitting, still in a single point while everything else moves on. A remix of Andrew Haines’ Wayward Sketches of a Manual Labourer. Released as part of the RENTAL YIELDS: VOLUME THREE fundraising compilation on Front and Follow.

Purchase on Bandcamp

Coda (2022)

Ticking, disintigration.

Released as part of the bivouac of the avant​-​garde: contemporary minimal, electronic and experimental music, vol​.​2 compilation on Difficult Art and Music.

Purchase on Bandcamp

3053 (2022)

A miniature composed from shortwave radio broadcasts coming from Ukraine.

Released on Diary of a Madman on The Dark Outside, a fundraiser for Ukraine Red Cross.

Purchase on Bandcamp

Focus (2022)

The original recording is of a Canon film SLR camera autofocusing and then taking a photo. I looked to focus in on the individual elements of the sound, starting by using (and misusing) noise reduction tools to isolate each element of the recording: the beeps, shutter clack, winding gears, and background noise. I then processed these to emphasise and draw out the rich details of this minuscule sound. The piece is structured around altering focus. The camera sounds scattered throughout the piece trigger a shift in the various layers of the composition bringing different elements into focus each time. Composed for the Cities and Memory Obsolete Sounds Project

South on North (2021)

Phone recordings of a journey going south on the Northern Line processed and augmented through Holly Herndon’s AI voice generator Holly +.

Purchase on Bandcamp

Wallpaper (2020)

Words from those without access to the internet transformed through feedback on Zoom. Also available on 0330 818 0351 (calls cost your standard landline rate).

Purchase on Bandcamp

More details During isolation we have looked to the internet to replace in person communication. Zoom and similar services have provided much needed interaction for many. However, those who lack access to the internet are excluded from these virtual social spaces. Wallpaper utilises words from those isolating without access to the internet. In an online recording session their words were read back, performed and manipulated via the imperfections of the internet until digital noise overtook all meaning. These recordings were then arranged to create Wallpaper.

Wallpaper exists in two versions: the digital download available here and a hotline available on 0330 818 0351 (calls cost your standard landline rate, if you're outside the UK please call +44 330 818 0351). The phone you use, where you are and the time of day you call will all affect the quality of the playback through the hotline creating a unique ‘version’ of the piece on each listen. As the quality of the call changes different aspects of the piece are filtered out, forefronting or hiding various layers within the music. The EP available on Bandcamp consists of the digital download of Wallpaper and three recordings of the hotline from different phones and locations.

Performers: Patricia Auchterlonie, Mimi Doulton, Ella Taylor and Juliet Wallace.

Supported by Sound and Music's ‘Interpreting Isolation’ Grants.

Bootlegs (2019)

An EP of improvisations performed on hacked CD players. Recorded in a feedback loop with each track being a reprocessing of the previous until all trace of the original is lost.

More details Bootlegs began as two low quality recordings of glitch turntablism gigs. To make the first track of the EP, these raw, unprocessed recordings were burnt to CDs, improvised with and the output recorded in a single continuous take. This improvisation was then burnt to CDs and used as the source material for an improvisation for the second track; this iterative process was repeated for each track on the EP. With each iteration the sounds become further removed from the original bootleg gig recordings until eventually almost all trace is lost. By the end all that is left is the sound of the CD players themselves.

Bootlegs is built from sounds recorded at Liquid Sky, Berlin (01.05.19) and Hatch, Sheffield (20.07.19).

Released on Fractal Meat Cuts.

Purchase on Bandcamp

Bluetooth Disruptions (2019)

Countering claims that art that utilises noise inherent in media is an act of nostalgia by exploring the noise of contemporary playback media.

More details Discourse on music which utilises the noise of a medium often focuses on how this process can be viewed as an act of nostalgia. Whilst in many cases this can be true often the utilisation of these sounds can be for other reasons. Bluetooth Disruptions looks to apply techniques often utilised by artists working with the noise of mediums like tape and vinyl to contemporary ‘noiseless’ audio mediums. All sounds utilised in this composition were created by interfering with and disrupting streams of Bluetooth audio.

Uncovered Creature (2018)

Composed to accompany Lilja María Ásmundsdóttir piece Lurking Creature. Uncovered Creature looks to the noise made by the dancer’s movement in Lurking Creature, bringing these sounds to the fore.

Akai 4000D (2018)

A sonic exploration and recreation of a simulacra of nostalgia I feel for the medium of tape.

More details For years musicians, producers and engineers sought to reduce the noise-floor of tape. Technologies such as Dolby dbx were developed to minimise the influence of the media on the recorded sound. However today, for many the noise-floor of tape carries a sense of nostalgia, similar to the crackle of vinyl. Akai 4000D is an exploration of the sound of tape and tape machines. The piece looks to question the function of these sounds in a post-digital society. Whilst composing this piece I was particularly interested in exploring the simulacra of nostalgia I felt for the medium of tape as I was born after the invention and popularisation of the CD.

Seethe (2017)

Recomposing the sonic waves of a protest as they move through a city. Composed for Cities and Memories: Sounds of Protest.

More details Chants move through the busy streets of a protest as if liquid. Trickling, bubbling, cascading, seething. Rivers of sound carry, mutate and weave over and away from you. Some erupt suddenly whilst others wash over and dry up, leaving only a distant murmur in their place. A torrent of emotion carving its way through the city. Seethe was written for the Cities and Memories: Sounds of Protest project and is composed from the sounds of protest in Paris on Boulevard Beaumarchais in October 2010. The original recording ‘Rhythms of Protest’ was made by Des Coulam. More information about this recording can be found here.

Disinter (2017)

Composed from a recording of a granite quarry in the Viseu Dão Lafões region of Portugal. Inspired by the process of quarrying granite, the piece is structured around the concept of gradual unearthing.

More details Individual layers rise out of the underlying texture to prominence before being forced back into the background by the next incoming layer of sound. Winner of a Jury Award in the Viseu Rural 2.0 // Sonic Explorations of a Rural Archive competition.

City of Falling Angels [Remix] (2016)

Remix of Liza Lim’s City of Falling Angels.

More details Liza Lim’s original programme note for City of Falling Angels features the following Walter Benjamin quote: ”This is how one pictures the Angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.” This remix aims to be an electroacoustic recreation of this vivid image. The opening impact is the single catastrophe perceived by the Angel and from the tail of the opening impact the wreckage builds. Individual sounds burst into prominence before forming part of the underlying texture, creating a tempestuous force that hurtles towards the present. This piece is a remix of the work City of Falling Angels for percussion ensemble composed by Liza Lim and recorded by the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt.

Fractured (2016)

Unstable layers of sound recorded from destroyed CDs that originally contained white noise.

More details Fractured started out as a CD containing 12 tracks of white noise. This CD was destroyed and the resulting sounds recorded to another disk. Repeated over and over, eventually the original sound was lost, leaving only the sound of the process. The broken disks produced a plethora of harsh noise and volatile rhythmic patterns, these were layered the interaction between them explored. A CD can only be so broken before it is unplayable. Similarly the layers within the piece can only be so dense before they have to stop.

Torpor (2016)

Slow evolving drones loosely following the daily, near death, torpid state of a humming bird.

More details Due to their small size and lack of insulating downy feathers hummingbirds rapidly lose body heat to their surroundings. Because of this hummingbirds must regularly consume large quantities of nectar and insects to feed their rapid metabolism. To survive when sleeping at night hummingbirds must enter a state of reduced physiological activity called torpor. This process involves the bird lowering its internal temperature to a level barely able to maintain life, becoming hyperthermic. Doing so allows the bird to reduce its metabolic rate by as much as 95%, causing the bird to consume up to 50 times less energy. Alexander Wilson first described torpid hummingbirds in his book, American Ornithology; “No motion of the lungs could be perceived […] the eyes were shut, and, when touched by the finger, [the bird] gave no signs of life or motion.” Awaking from a torpid state takes approximately 20 minutes; the bird gently vibrates its wing muscles to warm the blood supply. This process leaves the hummingbird with just enough energy supplies to survive the first feeding bouts of the morning.

Stratum (2016)

Noun: A layer of material, naturally or artificially formed, often one of a number of parallel layers one upon another.

Inaudible Soundscapes (2015)

Recordings from the electromagnetic spectrum processed and layered to create an alternative electronic world soundscape.

More details The human senses only allow us to experience a very narrow section of the world around us, Inaudible Soundscapes is an exploration of what we cannot hear. Focusing on the interplay between pitch and noise in the turbulent sound world of the inaudible; the piece is composed of recordings of electromagnetic waves outputted by various pieces of audio hardware, presenting the medium of delivery as the piece itself.

Digital Spaces (2015)

Non-audio data converted into audio files, processed using convolution through real world spaces and resonances.

More details Composed for the Furnace Park Project, Digital Spaces is an exploration of noise through the resonance of the real world. The sounds used throughout the work were generated by converting images of the park into audio; this harsh noise was then processed using convolution to allow these digital sounds to interact with real spaces and resonances captured at the park.

Niederau [Remix] (2014)

Remix of Gary Carpenter’s Niederau recorded by the Tempest Flute Trio. Shortlisted for the Nonclassical 10 Remix competition.

More details Niederau [Remix] focuses on a slow disintegration of the original flute sounds resulting in a gradual transition from a natural sound world into an electronic, abstract one. With the flute being a classical instrument I looked to the forms associated with that aesthetic when structuring the piece; for this reason I chose to write in rounded binary form.

Drum Solo (2014)

The broad spectrum of sounds produced by a drum kit, torn apart and reimagined through granualation.

More details Originally for 4 channel surround plus LFE. The drum kit offers an eclectic mix of sounds and although not pitched offers one of the widest harmonic ranges of all western instruments. Drum Solo is an exploration of the timbral qualities of the drum kit and the musical possibilities of the noise based sounds that these can create. The piece focuses on the interplay between stasis and rhythm changing rapidly between noise based drones and glitch inspired beats.