Jonty Harrison studied with Bernard Rands, Elisabeth Lutyens, and David Blake at the University of York (UK), graduating with a DPhil in Composition in 1980. Between 1976 and 1980 he lived in London (UK), where he worked with Harrison Birtwistle and Dominic Muldowney at the National Theatre, producing the electroacoustic components for many productions, including Tamburlaine the Great, Julius Caesar, Brand, and Amadeus, and also taught electroacoustic composition at City University.
In 1980 he joined the Music Department of the University of Birmingham (UK), where he was Professor of Composition and Electroacoustic Music, as well as Director of the Electroacoustic Music Studios and Director of BEAST (Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre); he is now Emeritus Professor. At the University of Birmingham he taught a number of postgraduate composers from the UK and overseas; many are now themselves leading figures in the composition and teaching of electroacoustic music around the world. For ten years he was Artistic Director of the Barber Festival of Contemporary Music and he has made conducting appearances with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (including in Stockhausen’s Momente in Birmingham, Huddersfield, and London), the University New Music Ensemble, and the University Symphony Orchestra.
He was a Board member of Sonic Arts Network (SAN) for many years (Chair, 1993-96). He has also been on the Council and Executive Committee of the Society for the Promotion of New Music and was a member of the Music Advisory Panel of The Arts Council of Great Britain.
As a composer he has received several Prizes and Mentions in the Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Awards (including a Euphonie d’or for Klang), two Distinctions and two Mentions in the Prix Ars Electronica (Linz, Austria), First Prize in the Musica Nova competition (Prague, Czech Republic), Second Prize in the Destellos Electroacoustic Composition Competition (Mar del Plata, Argentina), a Lloyds Bank National Composers’ Award, a PRS Prize for Electroacoustic Composition, an Arts Council Composition Bursary and research grants from the Leverhulme Trust and from the Arts and Humanities Research Board/Council.
Commissions have come from many leading performers, studios, and presenters: two each from the Groupe de recherches musicales (Ina-GRM) and the Institut international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (IMEB — formerly the Groupe de musique expérimentale de Bourges), the International Computer Music Association (ICMA), MAFILM/Magyar Rádió, Electroacoustic Wales/Bangor University, IRCAM/Ensemble intercontemporain, Maison des arts sonores, BBC, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Fine Arts Brass Ensemble, Nash Ensemble, Singcircle, Thürmchen Ensemble, Compagnie Pierre Deloche Danse, Darragh Morgan, John Harle, Beverly Davison, Harry Sparnaay, and Jos Zwaanenburg. Despite renouncing instrumental composition in 1992, he has written Abstracts (1998) for large orchestra and fixed sounds, Force Fields (2006) for 8 instrumentalists and fixed sounds for the Thürmchen Ensemble, and Some of its Parts (2012-14) for violin and fixed sounds for Darragh Morgan.
He has undertaken a number of composition residencies, most recently in Basel (Switzerland), Ohain (Belgium), Bangor (Wales, UK), and Bowling Green (Ohio, USA), and has been guest composer at numerous international festivals. In 2010 he was Guest Professor of Computer Music at the Technische Universität (Berlin, Germany). In 2014 he was Master Artist-in-Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (Florida, USA), in 2015 he was recipient of the Klingler ElectroAcoustic Residency (KEAR) at Bowling Green State University (Ohio, USA), and in 2014-15 he was a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow (UK).
His music is performed and broadcast worldwide and appears on four solo albums on empreintes DIGITALes, as well on compilations on SAN/NMC, Cultures électroniques/Mnémosyne Musique Média, CDCM/Centaur, Asphodel, Clarinet Classics, FMR, Edition RZ, and EMF.