Jonathan Higgins

Mimi Doulton stood in front of a four metre torn score suspended from the ceiling Mimi Doulton performing Man in Regent Street

Music for Instruments

Squeaky Gates (2021)

For woodwinds, percussion and strings. Composed for the Orchestra of Opera North.

The entrance to my flat is through three old cast iron gates that squeak no matter how much I oil them. Squeaky Gates is derived from the frequencies of those squeaks, slowed down to last one minute and arranged into a moment of calm stasis, like stepping through the door at the end of a long day.

Selected for Opera North’s Minute Masterpieces.

Download score here.

Man in Regent Street (2021)

For soprano, paper and live electronics. Composed in collaboration with Mimi Doulton.

More details Man In Regent Street is an installation and performance piece that explores themes of environmentalism, destruction and rebuilding. A four-metre-long score is performed iteratively and progressively destroyed by the performer. The damage inflicted provides the opportunity to restructure and rebuild the piece and as the performance progresses new musical structures and materials emerge as a result of this process. Some words are lost, new melodies and meanings are formed, and details once hidden are uncovered.

Man in Regent Street was developed as part of a Wild Plum Arts Made at the Red House residency. The recording was filmed at City, University of London and supported by The Marchus Trust. Jonathan Higgins is supported by PRS Foundation’s The Open Fund.

Download score here.

Music for Piano 21-36 & 37-52 (2020)

For Baritone Voice, C Trumpet, Tenor Trombone and Bass Clarinet

Music for Piano 21-36 & 37-52 was inspired by and derived from the eponymous suite of pieces by John Cage.

More details Cage’s composition process for the piece began by looking for imperfections in paper and interpreting this visual noise to create musical meaning. Inspired by Cage’s process I took fragments from the scanned reproduction of Cage’s hand-written score that contained imperfections and created a small collage. This collage was then degraded further through repeated photocopier reproduction and the result (see image above) was sent to the Loadbang ensemble for interpretation.

Recordings of the interpretations were processed to remove all pitched material. The resultant sound files were then run through an algorithm designed to identify pitches and the results utilised as modes for composition.

The score consists of three main sections which are punctuated by short shared fragments of score for all performers. Throughout the performance the performers are required to listen to each other for cues, however the musical material they are listening for has been deliberately distorted in the score. This is deliberate introduction of noise into the communication between performers has been designed to create a staggered terrace like structure to the progression of the piece.

Download score here.

And/Or (2020)

For two or more singing violists

And/Or is an exploration of how context can alter the interpretation of distorted information and how the gradual removal of context can be utilised in order to introduce increasing amounts of indeterminancy to a piece. It is scored for two or more performers who play the viola and sing simultaneously. All performers perform the same score ‘in unison’ .

Download score here.

Vitiation (2019)

For classical guitar and electronics

Recording performed by Alex Hart.

Vitiation is an interogation of the means of communication between a score and performer. The score consists of three pixelated fragments of notation and the performers role is to try and decifer them. Their attempts are recorded, played back and distorted through the electronics creating a gradually developing hetrophonic texture.

Download score and Pure Data patch here.

Requeim (2017)

Song cycle for three sopranos, piano and electronics

Original Text: Anna Akhmatova

Translation: Judith Hemschemeyer

More details Akhmatova’s Requiem is an elegy written over three decades depicting the terror of the Stalinist regime. The poems in this cycle reflect the horrors Akhmatova personally experienced and those experienced by the people around her. In this setting of the text, the words are placed at the forefront. Akhmatova wanted people to learn of the horrors of this regime and it felt wrong for me to potentially obfuscate the meaning of this important cycle through song. Instead, the majority of the text presented here is clearly spoken. The singers and the piano work together to create textures that underpin the words. This musical material is derived from the melodic line of the spoken text as well as the rhythms produced by it. The sounds sung by the singers are taken from the vocables that make up individual words. Rather than being a text set to music, I have treated this as music set to text.

Schutzwall (2017)

Chamber opera for two sopranos and live electronics

Performance by Mimi Doulton and Ella Taylor.

Berlin, 1961. The newly erected Berlin Wall has fractured the city. Put up overnight without warning, residents awoke to find themselves divided from their families, friends and livelihoods. In the following years thousands of refugees would attempt to escape over the wall into West Berlin. Set one month after the wall’s construction, Schutzwall tells the story of two sisters who meet either side to wait for nightfall and their chance to be reunited.

“An impressive and confident piece which showed a strong control of the medium” – Planet Hugill

Download score here.

West Pier (2016)

For bass guitar and live electronics

Opened in 1866, closed in 1975 and damaged beyond repair by fire in 2003, the carcass of Brighton’s West Pier is arguably its most iconic landmark. The skeletal remains have be left to disappear, as the structure breaks down and is gradually reclaimed by the sea.

Download score and Pure Data patch here.

Matryoshka (2015)

For piano and live electronics

Recording performed by the Edison Ensemble

Inspired by the discussion in Simon Emmerson’s article ‘Losing Touch?’ Matryoshka aims to blur the boundaries of causality for the listener. Rather than the electronics functioning on their own they instead function as an extension of the piano, both consisting of and triggered by elements of the piano performance. Rather than being a piece for prepared piano and electronics, the work could be considered as being simply for prepared piano, with the electronics functioning as part of the preparation.

Download score and Pure Data patch here.