Q & A with composer Jack Sheen
23 January 2018

Introducing our Next Wave 2 composer: Jack Sheen

Jack SheenNext Wave is a partnership project between NMC Recordings, Sound and Music and Sage Gateshead, designed to support and promote composers in higher education as they transition into the professional music industry. The following Q&A is extracted from the British Music Collection website as part of their New Voices series.

Jack Sheen is a conductor and composer from Manchester. In 2017 at the age of 23 he became the RNCM's youngest ever Junior Fellow in Conducting appointed by Sir Mark Elder, through which he enjoys a close relationship with the BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Jack's music has been performed by orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Aurora Orchestra, and Manchester Camerata; ensembles including Apartment House, EXAUDI, Plus Minus Ensemble, and Psappha; and commissioned by organisations such as London Contemporary Music Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, and BBC Young Artists Day.


Jack's piece Found features on the Next Wave 2 album which is available to pre-order here.


His piece will be performed at the New Year New Artists concert at Sage Gateshead on 27 January 2018. For more information and tickets click here.




The ensemble for Next Wave 2 is an unusual grouping in terms of instrumentation. Your final score is for female voice, two violins, audio and ensemble (open instrumentation). What would be your ideal instrumentation for this work, if indeed there is one?

My ideal instrumentation would be about seven choirs and a string orchestra submerged underwater, accompanied by some clarinets and alto flutes -  all slightly detuned and played without vibrato - situated offstage. There’d be a chamber organ in there as well maybe. The audio would ideally come from as many Nokia 3310s I could find/afford suspended from cranes around various cities in the North of England, which would then transmit the sounds live into the performance space. The violin duet at the end would stay the same. The piece would also ideally last several hours.


Do you think the word composer adequately reflects you an artist? If not, what word does?

Yeah it’s fine. Or composer/conductor, conductor/composer, all that.

In general I think we could develop a more liberal idea about what a composer is and what their practice can involve. Nowadays there are a lot of composers who are using all sorts of other media and techniques in their work which extend so far beyond composing in the ‘sitting-at-a-desk-and-writing-down-notated-music-on-manuscript-paper’ sense of the word. I think it’s a shame that as soon as they reach outside of an obviously ‘musical sphere’ they become identified as something else. It’s not music anymore, it’s not our problem, we don’t have to engage with it, let alone take it seriously, or support it.


Read the full Q&A on the British Music Collection website.


Find out more about our Next Wave 2 project.


This work was created as part of Sound and Music’s Next Wave 2 programme. It was recorded and premiered in collaboration with Sage Gateshead and NMC Recordings. Next Wave 2 was funded by Arts Council England, PRS for Music Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust and The Angus Allnatt Charitable Foundation.


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