Jenny Jackson

I am a composer (yikes)

Leave a comment

Music in the Round commission: current status (rip it up and start again)

Music in the Round has commissioned me (whoop!) and the other three members of Platform 4 to write a new piece for their 2017 May Festival, inspired by famous Russian repertoire. Our new pieces will be performed alongside the works that inspired us at concerts throughout the festival.

My piece will be performed during the lunchtime concert on Monday 8th May at 12.45 at the Crucible Theatre Studio, Sheffield by members of Ensemble 360, the resident ensemble with Music in the Round. The other two pieces in the programme are HAYDN String Quartet Op.33 No.1 and TANEYEV String Trio in E flat Op.31.

As part of the process, and to engage our potential audience (!), we are aiming to document the writing process and offer some insight into the make-up of the pieces we compose. We were recently interviewed by Matt Hunt, the clarinetist with Ensemble 360, who wanted to hear our initial thoughts and to reveal a bit about our writing practices: apparently, people want to know where you work, so I have uploaded a photo of my workspace (below). It’s much nicer than I made it sound! You can listen to the first set of podcasts here by following the link on this page: Music in the Round website: Platform 4 commissions

Interestingly; we were asked to come up with a title for the brochure long before composing began, and I came up with Focus Pull. As I mention in the interview with Matt, my initial concept was the idea of pulling focus on ‘recognisable’ references from both quartets in my programme.

I decided straight away to write for string quartet (instead of trio, for instance), challenging myself to compose a contemporary piece for a traditional line-up. I started by looking through the Haydn and Taneyev pieces, extracting bits I liked the look of (for texture, dialogue, rhythm, melodic contour etc.) and put them on scrapbook pages (see below). One sheet shows a circled melodic fragment taken from the first violin part of the Haydn quartet (3rd movement). I decided to try working with this melodic fragment, treating it like a tone-row (using the pitches in the exact order they appear in the original melody, but with different durations so they are not easily traceable, aurally). So far, this is offering an interesting way of working, and I’m enjoying finding ways to combine this with typical Haydn-like textures (I’ve abandoned Taneyev). The Russian connection is a bit weak, however: Haydn merely dedicated the set of Op.33 quartets to Grand Duke Paul of Russia. They are sometimes referred to as the ‘Russian’ quartets…

I’m still working on the overall structure, however, and trying not to overwhelm a five-minute piece with too much material. I think this is the real challenge: for there to be a connection to a piece written by another composer, but for me to maintain my own compositional voice and write the piece I want to write. Currently, I’m fighting the urge to delete what I’ve done and start again (but how I really intended it to be…). Aargh!




Leave a comment

Performance news…

1. Platform 4 Lunchtime Recital

Friday 3rd February 1.15pm (45 mins)
Sheffield Cathedral
Tickets are FREE!

First performance of my revised piece Hooting, not Drinking for flute solo with blown bottles & flute ensemble… and other reflective works by Platform 4 composers for flute & piano with Rachel Shirley (flute) and members of the Sheffield Flute Choir.

2. Classical Sheffield Festival 17 – 19th March
Opera on Location
Friday 17th March 20.30 (45 mins)

Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield S1 2JD

First performance of my mini-opera Madam Adam by Opera on Location. Including premieres of other bizarre mini-operas by Platform 4 on a theme of palindrome, alongside Hindemith’s Hin und Zurück. In collaboration with Opera on Location.

Saturday 18th March 15.30 (45 mins)
Channing Hall, Surrey Street, Sheffield S1 2JD

Second performance of my revised piece Hooting, not Drinking for flute solo with blown bottles & flute ensemble… and other reflective works for flute & piano with Rachel Shirley (flute) and members of the Sheffield Flute Choir.

Sounds From Heaven
Sunday 19th March 14.30 (60 mins)
St Marie’s Cathedral, Norfolk Street, Sheffield S1 2JB

with Abbeydale Singers, Sheffield Chamber Choir. Sterndale Singers, Sheffield Chorale & Viva Voce

First performance of my new piece Kraal for massed choirs

Full details and ticket info on the website The last festival in 2015 was great; this one’s bigger and better! Weekend tickets available now (cheap!)… plenty of FREE events as well.

3. University of Sheffield Rush Hour Concert
Platform 4
Monday 20th March 17.45(45 mins)
Firth Hall, Western Bank, S10 2TN

FREE concert

Platform 4 present new pieces written by University of Sheffield music students alongside a selection of their own works

4. Music in the Round May Festival: Russia in the Round 5 – 13th May

Ensemble 360
Monday 8th May 12.45

Crucible Studio Theatre, Norfolk Street, S1 1DA

First performance of my string quartet Focus Pull. Commissioned by Music in the Round.

Full festival brochure:

Festival website:

Leave a comment

Hooting, not Drinking

This is a recording of one of two new pieces I wrote for the Platform 4 Drinking & Hooting event on Saturday 21st May. The solo flute is played by Rachel Shirley, and the blown bottles by the Platform 4 Ensemble. I’m quite pleased (shock, horror)…

Got to get my head down and start working (properly) on my dance piece now, for this event:

Saturday 24th September 2016
Drama Studio, Shearwood Rd, Sheffield S10 2TD, United Kingdom

Four composers, one choreographer, a dancer and a soprano… an adventurous performance of new work in which sound embodies movement and movement embodies sound.

A Platform 4 collaboration with dancer Hannah Wadsworth and soprano Andrea Tweedale.

Leave a comment

News Part 3: a new piece for viola ensemble

I was recently asked to write a piece for the British Viola Society for a ‘play day’ event on April 17th in Huddersfield. As a keen viola player and enthusiast, I couldn’t resist, and produced Leading Lines; a set of four short, contrasting pieces for viola ensemble or quartet.

The first piece is mostly in unison and introduces the idea behind the title of connecting ‘threads’ or ‘leading lines’ that pass between the parts. In art, ‘leading lines’ are lines that guide your eye through the painting or photograph and, in these pieces, the focus of attention is often passed between the four parts as suspended notes, parts of tunes or textural punctuation. In this respect, all parts are equally important although the majority of the more technically challenging melodic interest is given to Parts 1 & 2. The second piece is lively and rhythmic with constantly changing meter. The third piece capitalises on the wonderful sound a viola can make on the lower strings, with a slowly creeping and surging texture which evolves into beautiful solos with swelling accompaniment. The fourth piece demands bold, confident playing and is marked ‘Hack & slash – violent!’. This piece requires a good, strong sense of rhythm and an attacking playing style.

Parts 1 & 2 have occasional Solos (one player) where the parts divide. If performed by quartet, the Solos must be played. It may be necessary to limit the number of players per part during Solo passages if there is a large ensemble. Parts 3 & 4 are easier and demand less position shifting.

Duration: approximately 10 minutes

Difficulty: approximately ABRSM Grade 6 – 7

You can see a preview here: Leading Lines – Full Score (selected pages)

If you are interested in playing Leading Lines, it is available to buy via the BVS website, or you can contact me 

Cost: £10 for score & parts (digital download)


Leave a comment

News Part 2: a new ‘Composing for Beginners’ course

Composing for Beginners: a six week course for adult musicians*

Wednesdays 7 – 9pm  ***Starts 8th June***

Learn how to compose a short piece from scratch with step-by-step guidance and support and finish your first composition in six weeks! All work is done in the class (no homework!). 

Cost £90

Classes are held at Jenny’s home in S11.

*No previous composing experience necessary.

More details on website



Leave a comment

News Part 1: Platform 4 at MitR May festival 6 -14th May 2016

‘A Day with Platform 4‘ events:

Thursday 12th May

11am TalkHow We Make Our Music I will be presenting my piece [S]urge and will demonstrate how I often use drawing to generate ideas and how, in writing [S]urge I didn’t have to develop the notation much beyond that in order to get the result I wanted. I will also explain more about how I utilise stage placing in my work, the aural outcomes, and how musical performances can become more theatrical as a result.

2 – 5pm WorkshopCome and Compose Get creative and compose a new piece of music with support from Platform 4 composers Jenny Jackson, Tom Owen, Chris Noble and Tom James.

More details here: