Hailed as "prodigiously gifted" by Time Out New York, composer Jenny Olivia Johnson writes music that ranges from compressed 20-minute operas to epic pop songs to highly abstract religious masses. Her work is deeply influenced by minimalism, noise rock, and 80s pop songs and television, and she also draws a great deal of inspiration from her academic work on synaesthesia, acoustic memory, and childhood trauma. Her work has been lauded as "iridescent, shimmering, and evocative" by critic Steve Smith, and The Boston Globe recently described her chamber pop song "Dollar Beers (Redondo Beach '96)" as "hypnotically circl[cling] a slow, catchy pop-ballad progression, while soprano Lucy McVeigh intoned casually enigmatic lyrics…Johnson, who has studied music's role as a trigger for traumatic memories, conjured such echoes, acoustically and electronically layering the sound into a gorgeous and ominous haze."
Johnson has collaborated with such artists and ensembles as BMOP (Boston Modern Orchestra Project), Rhymes With Opera, ICE, 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, composer and singer Corey Dargel, organist Maxine Thevenot, flutist Janet McKay, soprano Megan Schubert, and New York City Opera, who performed two of her short operas at their VOX Contemporary Opera festivals in 2006 and 2007. Johnson is also a drummer, most recently active with Winter Company (a laptop/percussion duo with composer Paula Matthusen), and indie rock band RENMINBI.
Johnson's honors and awards include the NYU Dean's Dissertation Fellowship (2008-09), an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award (2006), 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), and was recently a finalist for the 2008 Gaudeamus Prize.
Upcoming projects include a multi-media commission from recorder player Terri Hron, a new work for soprano Lucy McVeigh and cellist David Russell, and collaborations with flutist Janet McKay, pianist Isabelle O'Connell, and cellist Peter Gregson.
In May 2009, Johnson completed her PhD in music composition and theory at New York University, and she also holds degrees from Manhattan School of Music and Barnard College at Columbia University. Since Fall 2009, Johnson has been an assistant professor of composition and theory at Wellesley College, where she also teaches courses related to her academic interests in music and philosophy, psychoanalysis, and psychology.