Jobina Tinnemans, composer of the Prize Papers Opera

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Credit: Whitesands, photo by Jobina Tinnemans.

Credit: Letter from the Prize Papers at The National Archives, Kew, photo by Jobina Tinnemans

Prize Papers Opera

The Prize Papers Project archive is the home of a cacophony of voices in silent ink on paper. Composer and transcriber Jobina Tinnemans is bringing these first-hand accounts back to life in our exciting new Prize Paper Opera production.

Tinnemans' opera will be set in 17th century New Netherland and at sea, with a libretto in English created from personal letters sourced from the Prize Papers Project and planned to be staged in 2026. 

For the development of the Prize Paper Opera, Jobina Tinnemans is transcribing and translating 17th century Dutch letters from our archive, as well as researching the environment and soundscape when the very first Dutch settlers set foot on the shore, to create a historical world that will resonate with us today. 

Jobina Tinnemans is a composer working at the nexus of classical music and contemporary art. She was born in Limburg, the Netherlands, in 1975 and has been fascinated by both music and the visual arts from an early age, training as a classical pianist before deciding to study composition at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. On graduating Cum Laude she was commissioned to create a sound art installation for the Dutch Rietveld Pavilion at the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 2007, after a number of years living and working in Eindhoven, Amsterdam and London, she moved to a remote headland in Pembrokeshire, Wales, in order to concentrate on making music. This encounter with a landscape dominated by the rhythms of the weather, the seasons and the sea has been the inspiration for all her subsequent work.

Also in 2007, she created Shakespeare Und Heckenschere, combining table tennis, hedge-clipping and excerpts from Shakespeare plays, for the extreme sonic environment of a gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany. The work was selected for the 2014 ISCM World Music Days in Wroclaw, Poland, making this a second appearance on the ISCM World Music Days after her radiophonic work Dr. NAUT (2008) was broadcast on ABC Radio during the festival in Sydney, Australia, in 2010. Similar bold combinations of elements we can find in Étude (2012) created for the Cultural Olympiad UK, bringing together sports exercises, a soprano, viola and electronics, as well as her landscape-sized panoramic scores Rivulet (2016) and the 23 metres long Landmannalaugar (2017) commissioned by the Lithuanian ensemble Synaesthesis and Hraun (2020) for the Icelandic ensemble Nordic Affect. A series of works such as Metro and Turner Piece (2015), commissioned by the Apartment House ensemble; and Page Turner Études Nº 1-3 (2017), commissioned by pianist Eleonor Sandresky, use Tinnemans’ page turning technique which explores a sound world from within the deconstructed medium of sheet music itself.

Tinnemans’ work reached an international audience in 2013 when she was commissioned by the prestigious MATA festival in New York. Tinnemans created Killing Time (2013) for ensemble and additional performers on virtual instruments with sounds from the natural world, coined field instruments, in which custom-designed stringed interfaces are using their strings to determine time rather than pitch. A version of the work featured in Vogue New York 2016 gala fashion show. 

For the royal re-opening of Llwyn Celyn, a historic house in the Brecon Beacons, the Landmark Trust commissioned Jobina for the choral diptych Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars(2018), referencing musical styles present during the opening in 1250 and the re-opening in our contemporary times. She researched in the archives of the National Library of Wales for materials to create the lyrics in the now extinct Gwenhywseg dialect to resonate its distinct sound once more through the valley as it did at the initial medieval opening. Taking vocalisations back through time even further, in the song cycle Verisimilitude (2016), composed for the Icelandic Kammerkór Sudurlands, Jobina explored the language of our natural world and this was the first time she set a composition in the outdoors, to enable the natural soundscape to play their part, here in the majestic Snaefellsnes peninsula and on its glacier.

The piano piece Salomé (2019) composed for Vicky Chow for her residency at John Zorn’s The Stone, NYC, brings Tinnemans’ work back to its initial core, followed by Seven Sisters (2020) for piano. These works are themed around the identities of the female legends mentioned in the titles. In 2020 her first album, Five Thoughts On Everything, was released on the New York-based label Bright Shiny Things and was widely reviewed and broadcast.

The British National Museum for Science And Media commissioned Gramophony (2020-21), comprising of an ensemble of four manipulable sound sources and variable tempi, for their first dedicated sound exhibition Sonic Boom. This infinite man-made soundscape composition was based on the natural soundscape on Pen Caer, Wales, the setting for At The Next Port Of Call(2021) for trumpet, tuba, seascape in which the Strumble Head lighthouse is utilised as a giant metronome.

In her music for media, Tinnemans wrote a 1930-50s Golden Age of Cinema-style soundtrack for big band for the radio series Dingus (2022), created by the playwright Mike Cooter; it was nominated for an ARIAS award a few months later. She recently completed Sub Strata (2023), performed by the Riot Ensemble, for Berlin and LA-based Pusher Music, commissioned by the PRS for Music.

The Hinrichsen Foundation and Vaughan Williams Foundation are currently supporting Tinnemans in creating Vanitas (2024) for string quartet, recorded by the Frankland Quartet, inspired by the 17th century Dutch painting genre that gave the work its name.