Juliana Hodkinson is a composer and sound artist, educated formally in Cambridge and Copenhagen, informally in Aarhus, and based in Berlin. In her music, Hodkinson critically explores social relations within and outside of art, for example by including everyday objects in her works and, most recently, drawing on the audience as active participants in the performance situation, with the objective of questioning social, cultural and political relations in musical practice. In her latest work, GROUND VIEW from 2022, asymmetry and inequality are at the center of the aural experience, and the audience is here quite literally invited to enter into dialogue with a musical process in which changing relationships between social, personal and artistic action spaces are examined.
She works with instruments, objects and materials, situation-specific electronics and amplification. Her practice moves within experimental music and sound art genres. Her works range from intimate chamber works to multimedia pieces with film, text, speech and elements of live hörspiel, to larger electroacoustic productions.
Lightness (2015) is a study in total darkness, with crisp sounds from amplified matches and matchboxes. Three performers light, strike, extinguish, and shake matches and matchboxes in a tightly composed sequence. The sound elements create a varied instrumentation that sounds by turns raw, military and expressive. Each strike of a match, followed by a small flame, illuminates the performance space just enough to connect the visual and aural expressions in an artistic chain of cause and effect. Everyday objects are transformed into a kind of artistic expression with something as mundane as striking a match followed by something as magnificent as dispelling darkness with sound and light.
In Jounce (2014), Hodkinson goes in the opposite direction. Here she rethinks the traditional sound-generating function of the cello into a field of action, by muting the strings and striking them with two inverted bows in the cellist’s left and right hands. By examining various col legno battuto playing techniques, Hodkinson coaxes a resonant universe out of the cello that sounds far from the repertoire traditionally associated with it.
In (something in capitals) (2017) Juliana Hodkinson, with great humor and insight, sums up our time through excerpts of sentences, words, and sounds from gadgets and analog mini-synthesizers, shifting and turning the relationship between social constructions in art through the prism of experimental composition. Strong political buzzwords rhyme with words that are full-blown kitsch and pop, all poured into the same melting pot. The words are both loaded with meaning and at the same time they vibrate with senselessness, like pure sound rhymes that expose the words’ duality.
In Hodkinson’s work series Nothing Breaking the Losing (2016 – ongoing), the audience is invited into the performance situation itself and is thereby assigned a collective responsibility for realising the work. The string instruments have cotton threads attached, which the musicians pull on with their fingers so that they vibrate, returning sound to the instruments. Some audience members are required to hold threads that are strung across the performance area. Buttons, keys, and other small tinkling objects dangle from the threads, which float above a small installation of delicate porcelain and glassware on the floor. The threads are like lifelines which, like umbilical cords, provide direct nourishment and content to the piece through a joint effort. A text is recited; it is a plea to connect tiny human actions with larger social and complex interpersonal contexts that are rooted in gender, race, national sentiments, class, and family relationships. So far, the series contains a number of versions – Nothing Breaking the Losing (2016), Nothing Breaking/Occasion (2018), Nothing Breaking/Necessary Places (2022), Nothing Breaking/No Care (2022), all of which work with precisely these social mechanics, each time with different instrumentation, degree of amplification, audience interaction, and installation of threads and objects.
Juliana Hodkinson studied musicology and philosophy at King’s College Cambridge, Japanese at Sheffield University, and has written a PhD thesis at the University of Copenhagen on silence in music and sound art. She has received composition lessons from Hans Abrahamsen, Per Nørgård, Tristan Murail, and Dieter Schnebel. She is the spokesperson for the Danish Composers’ Society and has, among other things, been part of the jury for The Danish Arts Council. In 2015 she received the Carl Nielsen and Anne-Marie Carl-Nielsen honorary grant and in 2017 won the Stuttgart Composition Prize.
She has taught composition and music/media aesthetics at the University of Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Academy of Music, Technische Universität Berlin, The Academy of Music and Drama in Gothenburg, Grieg Academy in Bergen, and is a lecturer in classical and electronic composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus. She has been a guest lecturer at e.g. Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Field Kitchen Academy, and Danish New Music Academy, and has given keynotes at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, ZKM Karlsruhe and Kunstuniversität Graz.
Her works have been commissioned by the BBC, Ensemble Mosaik, Neue Vocalsolisten, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Chamber Made Opera, and Phønix16, amongst others. Her essays and articles have been published in MusikTexte, Musicology Research, Seismograf, and Bogazici Chronicles.