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Jonathan David Little

Jonathan Little
B.Mus.(Hons.)(Melb.), Th.A.(Aust.Coll.Theol.), Ph.D.(Monash), F.I.S.M., F.R.S.A.
Former John Clementi Collard Fellow in Music of the Worshipful Company of Musicians



The atmospheric and evocative music of Jonathan David Little is notable for its mystical beauty, intensity and richness of material. His historically-informed compositional style has been variously described as "Ecstatic Minimalism" or "Archaic Futurism" – blending art music, folk/Celtic, and other sacred and secular musical influences, from as far back as the fourteenth century, with new and innovative textures and orchestration (sometimes also including spatial effects).

Jonathan studied music at the University of Melbourne – winning the Lady Turner Exhibition for overall excellence – then undertook a PhD studying the development of "exotic" orchestration in 19th- and 20th-century music at Monash University. A former Prefect of the Australian National Boys’ Choir and member of the Australian Youth Orchestra (participating in the 1988 Grand Bicentennial European Tour), Jonathan performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and for new music workshops of the Australian Opera.

Jonathan’s compositions have won multiple ASCAP and critics’ choice awards in the USA, as well as PRS, Bliss and Leighton Trust Awards in the UK. His first major album was one of Fanfare magazine’s top recommended recordings for 2008 – acclaiming “a major new, original and quite brilliant classical voice” – while his 2012 album, Polyhymnia, featuring three European orchestras, was nominated in Spain for “Best Album of the Year”. US Fanfare called his third album of 2017, Woefully Arrayed – featuring three US and UK choirs – “a masterpiece … radiant … A superb disc”.

In 2009, Jonathan became the first composer to receive a Professional Development Award from the UK music business’s own charity, the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, and, in 2011, he became the first Australian-born composer to hold the Collard Fellowship of The Worshipful Company of Musicians (est.1500). He was subsequently awarded a PRSF/Bliss Trust Composer Bursary in 2012. In 2015, Jonathan received a major Australian Government / Australia Council “Individual International Arts Project Award”, to help fund the creation and recording of an album of multi-part, a cappella polychoral music (Woefully Arrayed), and he was invited to be “Featured Composer” at the CNU Contemporary Music Festival (USA) in March 2016 – including a showcase concert of his works in the Music and Theatre Hall, Ferguson Center for the Arts, in Virginia. He was also one of only seven living composers whose “outstanding works” were selected for the Royal Philharmonic Society’s “ENCORE Choral” Programme (UK) – for performance and live broadcast on BBC Radio 3 during 2016-18 - and was subsequently invited to participate in a BBC Singers choral composition workshop at BBC Maida Vale studios, led by Judith Weir, Master of the Queen's Music. In early 2017, he was awarded Special Distinction in the ASCAP Rudolf Nissim Prize (USA), becoming the first Australian composer to receive one of the concert music world’s most esteemed awards (for large-scale orchestral composition).

From 2001 to 2005, Jonathan was Principal of the UK’s Academy of Contemporary Music, which was, at that time, Europe’s leading institution for students of contemporary music and the first music education institution to win the Queen’s Award for Enterprise (Innovation Category). He was later appointed to the unique dual title of Reader in Music Composition and Music History at the University of Chichester, and subsequently, in 2017, became the Music Department’s inaugural Professor.

Jonathan was formerly Consultant Editor of the Musicians’ and Songwriters’ Yearbook, and chief amongst his published theoretical writings is a “vast” and “erudite” two-volume study of musical and literary orientalism (winner of an Authors’ Foundation / Royal Literary Fund Award in 2010). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Fellow of the Incorporated Society of Musicians.


- “a major new, original and quite brilliant classical voice” – Lynn René Bayley, citation in “The Want List 2008”, Fanfare Magazine (Nov-Dec 2008) (USA)

- “Now that we have reached the 21st century, it has become even more unusual to find contemporary music that will repay repeated attention and that people would actually want to hear more than once. That makes the works of Jonathan Little (born 1965) very rare indeed. … pieces that are as often lush and poetic as they are pointed and intense. … Polyhymnia … is as warm and fervent as religious poetry … while Terpsichore … is a sonic tour de force. Little is an expert orchestrator … clearly comfortable writing in multiple forms for many different instrumental and vocal combinations.” – Dr. Mark J. Estren, “Modern but Accessible”, in Infodad (1st March, 2012) (USA)

- “a richness of coloration, dynamic shading and melodic inventiveness all his own. Small wonder that this Australian composer has gained several awards on both sides of the Atlantic.” – Phillip Sommerich, in Classical Music (25th February, 2012) (UK)

- “In composer Jonathan Little we have a voice. His music is tonal and filled with color … there is a forward momentum that at times combines with mystical suspensions that remind a little of Arvo Part and John Tavener … the music puts one in a place worth being.” – Grego Applegate Edwards, “Jonathan Little, Polyhymnia: String, Orchestral and Choral Works”, in Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review (12th April, 2012) (USA)

- “Gorgeous, exciting, chilling and surprising … an elegant gift to the ears. There are no words to describe this work … superlative … spine-tingling … There is just no classification for this work … Polyhymnia might be said to be the best to date in the extensive catalogue of Parma Recordings. Jonathan Little has rightly earned the recognition he is now receiving, and this album is a clear example of his talent. The versatility of the harmony, the complexity, the beauty, the elegance, the intensity … A host of adjectives are insufficient to categorise this otherworldly recording, which astonishes the listener from start to finish. There are no words … ” – Alejandro Clavijo, in Reviews New Age [5/5 STARS: ALBUM OF THE MONTH; NOMINATED FOR BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR] (February, 2012) (Spain)

- “Polyhymnia conjures up a heart-rending panorama: it is immensely poetic, almost otherworldly, and employs an exceptionally hypnotic array of musical colour.” – John Wheatley, in Tempo (Cambridge University Press, January 2012) (UK)

- “Little demonstrates real excellence in composition, an inventive and accessible musical mind … vivid and colourful writing … unusual and finely wrought” – Bob Lord, CEO, PARMA Recordings (November, 2011) (USA)

- “Little composes with a great array of technical skills and his works are both harmonically and contrapuntally pleasing. He knows how to bring out all the colors of the choral palette …” – Maria Nockin, “Polyhymnia …”, in Fanfare, Vol.36, No.1 (Sept/Oct 2012) (USA)

- “very well crafted ... very effective” – Stephen Layton, Choral Conductor and Director of Music, Trinity College, Cambridge (October 2009) (UK)

- “most impressed” – The Hon. Richard Lyttelton, former President, EMI Classics and Jazz (February, 2012) (UK)

- “mightily impressed” – Martin Anderson, Founder and Managing Director, Toccata Classics (January, 2009) (UK)

- “Here, Little demonstrates his command of orchestration ... lush and at ease with the tropes of modernist tonal music … the crafting of orchestration is finely honed” – Helen O’Brien, Music Forum (May-July 2009) (Australia)

- “An inspired creation ... beautifully expansive ... voluptuous sonorities” – Patric Standford, Music & Vision (May 2009) (UK)

- “This is music that brings to mind so much else but at the same time isn't quite like anything you've heard before. …  [a] whirling kaleidoscope of sounds. …  An extraordinary range of sensations. ... This is certainly novel stuff and I suspect time will prove it to be a good deal more than that.” – Simon Thomas, Music OMH (November 2008) (UK)

- “Little’s music sounds like no one else’s. Not anyone’s. ... to put it into words degrades the astonishing range of colors and moods he creates. … Trust me, once you’re about halfway through the title work, you won’t be able to take it off. … Mr. Little is quite a talent indeed.” – Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare (May-June 2008) (USA)

- ‘The notes quote one unnamed commentator as stating that the music is “completely novel, yet hauntingly familiar.” This seems a fair assessment, in that no other composer among the thousands whose music I’ve heard immediately comes to mind …’ – David DeBoor Canfield, “Polyhymnia …”, in Fanfare, Vol.36, No.1 (Sept/Oct 2012) (USA)

-“We might classify this … [as] ‘Futuro Antico’ (‘Ancient Future’). … you can hear the influence of ancient music … Yet, the final product sounds modern too, as Little adds his own personal elements to these sonic foundations: bursting through the panorama he paints with sudden flashes of light or menacing thunderbolts, and so projects the past into the future” – Filippo Focosi, “Jonathan Little ‘Polyhymnia’ ”, in Kathodik (16th April, 2012) (ITALY)

- “innovative music … incandescent … a positively dynamic musical palette … moving the listener irrevocably onward to a brightly illuminated plain of poetic splendour, rhythm and ecstasy” – John Wheatley, in Tempo (Cambridge University Press, January 2008) (UK)

- “immense creativity and innovation while remaining accessible to new listeners” – ASCAP Playback Magazine (Summer, 2006) (New York, USA)

Artists who have performed or recorded the works of Jonathan David Little include:  Czech Philharmonic Orchestra;  Kiev Philharmonic Orchestra;  Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra;  Soloists of the Sofia Opera;  Vox Moderne (Bulgaria);  Vox Futura (USA);  Bath Camerata (UK);  Thomas Tallis Chamber Choir (UK).

Jonathan Little's Performing Rights are assigned to ASCAP (for clearance see: www.ascap.com – “ACE Title Search” – “Search the Database” – Writers / Find “Jonathan Little”)

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