Jenny successfully completed a PhD in composition at the University of Sheffield in 2009 following an exploration into the relationship between notational possibilities and resulting performance outcomes. This, as well as an enthusiasm for the visual and dramatic arts and literature, has prompted an ongoing investigation into the theatricality of musical performance. She often chooses to exploit the visual aspect of musical performance in her concert pieces so that there is a tension in the work between what the eye perceives and what the ear hears, sometimes using specific stage placements of the musicians to create perspective in both sound and image. The balance between audio and visual elements of performance has been developed further to create two fully staged pieces of music theatre and other collaborative multidisciplinary projects with visual artists, sculptors, writers and choreographers.
In 2009 Jenny was selected to participate on the HCMF & Nieuw Ensemble Yorkshire Composers’ Professional Development Scheme. As a result she wrote ‘Self Portrait’ which was performed by the Nieuw Ensemble at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and at the Musiekgebouw aan’t IJ in Amsterdam, and was also broadcast live on Dutch national radio. It was inspired by a long-term interest in portraiture in the visual arts and, more recently, the work of David Hockney. In 2007 she was selected to participate on the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme, based at the Britten Pears School, Aldeburgh where she collaborated with Marcy Kahan – a comic script-writer – and wrote ‘Mimi on ze Bridge’. Prior to this, Jenny wrote her first piece of staged music theatre, ‘The Rape of the Lock’ (2006), which is an adaptation of Alexander Pope’s mock-heroic poem.
Other pieces include ‘Fluxus Boxes’ (2007) for clarinet trio & ﬂexible wind orchestra, influenced by the Fluxus art movement, and ‘to break a young horse…’ (2007) for string quartet & string orchestra which deals with perspective in a monochromatic soundworld. ‘Hot Flush’ (2006) for string quartet, and ‘Nine Moving Pictures’ (2007) for piano & string trio employ more traditional instrumental combinations but are more concerned with timbre so the instruments are not used in the traditional roles as in the standard repertoire. In other pieces Jenny has sought to incorporate extra-musical and dramatic gestures such as ‘Isti Mirant Stella’ (2004) for mixed ensemble. This was extended further in ‘Melodrama’ (2004) for flexible ensemble, in which the performers adopt character roles. Jenny has written for a variety of instrumental and vocal combinations.
Recent work includes ‘[S]urge’ for two horns & flexible string ensemble (2012). In this dramatic piece the two horn players are kept out of site from the audience while the string ensemble is clearly visible. In ‘Desire Lines’ (2011) for one piano, six hands, the close proximity of the three players gives rise to a theatricality of performance and an element of comedy which is a common theme in Jenny’s work. In 2010 Jenny devised an installation with the artist Keith Hayman which was shown at x-church in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. ‘City States’ was a union between a massive sculptural form which inhabited a disused church, and a partially improvised sound sculpture which was created by spatially positioning performers in the many different spaces within the building and around the sculpture. Jenny recently collaborated with the sculptor Gillian Brent and Platform 4 to create an installation of sculpture and live music which was premiered at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield, on 21st June 2012.