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Jenny Olivia Johnson was born in Santa Monica, CA in 1978. She then lived in several Inland Empire locations, including West Covina, San Dimas, and Claremont, CA. At 18 she moved to New York City to attend Barnard College, where she earned a BA in Music (magna cum laude) under the tutelage of Jonathan Kramer. She went on to earn a Masters in Classical Composition at Manhattan School of Music (2002), under composer Mark Stambaugh, and a Ph.D. in Music at New York University (2009), where she worked with composers Louis Karchin and Elizabeth Hoffman. She is currently an Associate Professor of Music at Wellesley College, where she teaches courses in music composition, digital audio, and critical theories of sound.
Jenny’s first solo album, DONT LOOK BACK, was supported by a New Music USA project grant and released on Innova Recordings in 2015. Her music has been described as “gorgeous, ominous, and hypnotic” by the Boston Globe, “stunning in its simplicity and power” by the Boston Musical Intelligencer, “delicate” and “bold” by Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times, “deeply moving and beautiful” by Brian Rosen of musicvstheater.com, and “iridescent, shimmering, and evocative” by Steve Smith of Time Out New York. Her works range from compressed electronic operas and epic pop songs to abstract chamber works, multi-media meditations using amplified instruments and video, and, more recently, installation works involving interactive sound and lighting. Her first installation work, GLASS HEART (BELLS FOR SYLVIA PLATH) (2013), was commissioned by the Davis Museum at Wellesley College and on exhibition there from February 2013-July 2014. It will next be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution, as part of their ONE LIFE series honoring Syliva Plath (June 23, 2017-May 2018; curated by Dorothy Moss). Jenny’s second installative project, TENEBRAE: NYC, 3AM (BURNT OFFERINGS), was exhibited at the Galeria Machina in Santiago, Chile in 2014, as part of a special show curated by visual artist Daniela Rivera.
Jenny’s academic work, which focuses on musical synaesthesia, acoustic memory, and childhood trauma, has been published in The Transcultural Music Review and the academic journal Women and Music, and was also the subject of her doctoral dissertation, advised by Jairo Moreno, Suzanne Cusick, and Ana Maria Ochoa Gautier.
Jenny’s honors and awards include a project grant from New Music USA (2015), the NYU Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship (2008-09), an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award (2006), a Metlife Creative Connections Award from New Music USA (2011), two CAP grants from the American Music Center (2006, 2007), the Prix de Composition from the Conservatoire Americain de Fontainebleau (2004), and an Honorable Mention for the 2007 Lise Waxer Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. She has held artist residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (2005, 2008) and the Banff Centre for the Arts (2008, upcoming in 2017), and was also a finalist for the 2008 Gaudeamus Prize.
Her work has been performed by such ensembles as The Industry, Wild Up, Wild Rumpus, Avant New Media, BMOP (Boston Modern Orchestra Project), Rhymes With Opera, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), Alarm Will Sound, the Asko|Schoenberg Ensemble, Ensemble Robot, Bang on a Can, the Arditti Quartet, orkest de ereprijs, Voices of Change, the Young People’s Chorus of New York City, and New York City Opera, who performed two of her short operas at their VOX Contemporary Opera festivals in 2006 and 2007.
Jenny is also a drummer, most recently active with Winter Company (a laptop/percussion duo with composer Paula Matthusen), and indie rock band RENMINBI (now Magnetic Island).
Photo by Ramon Palacios-Pelletier.
Contact Jenny at janeairplane at gmail dot com.