Harriet Grainger is a young British contemporary classical composer with a background in dance and as a cellist and pianist. Her music suggests something unquiet with its stillness, “bringing landscapes to life, creating a quiet moment of observation for the listener which stirs the soul” (Royal College of Music, London). 

Harriet composes music for the concert hall, theatre, dance, film, documentaries and other media, occasionally using field-recordings from her own travels across the world.

Harriet’s music often concentrates on achieving an equilibrium between power and fragility. Delicate, weightless passages are often juxtaposed with darker, angular sounds. This focus upon opposites, and of discovering ‘balance’, has arisen from how the composer reflects upon the nature of daily life. Harriet is also heavily influenced by desolate natural landscapes and geological landforms such as glaciers, tundra, deserts, caverns and the deep ocean. The use of wide and resonant spaces plays an fundamental architectural role in her creative process.

After completing her undergraduate studies in music composition at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama with a term spent studying abroad at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Harriet attended the Royal College of Music in London as a RCM Award Holder supported by a Douglas and Hilda Simmonds scholarship, as a Clifton Parker Award Holder, and also generously received a Vaughan Williams Bursary from the RVW Trust. 

Her primary composition professors have included Kenneth Hesketh, Helena Tulve and Lynne Plowman, and she has taken masterclasses with Oscar Bianchi and Kaija Saariaho.

Harriet’s work has been performed and commissioned internationally, most recently in the United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, Ireland and China. Her music has been performed at the Royal Albert Hall’s Festival of Science: Space, the Vienna Summer Music Festival, at BBC Hoddinott Hall, the National Portrait Gallery London, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, the highSCORE festival in Italy, the ICEBERG New Music Festival in Vienna, the Leeds Lieder Festival, and at the Presteigne Festival of the Arts. 

She was the recipient of the 2015 Philip Bates Trust Composition Prize and Audience Award at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and has worked with artists and organisations such as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales & conductor Jac van Steen, Music Theatre Wales, the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, the Guiyang Symphony Orchestra and Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra in China, and Ensemble PHACE and Trio Immersio in Vienna.

In addition to composing, Harriet is currently in the process of developing MarineSound Lab., a music studio & media production company dedicated to supporting global marine conservation efforts. 

She has also undertaken ethnomusicological research projects in Indonesia, northern Scandinavia and most recently in the Gansu Province in northwestern China — a trip that was generously funded by the Shanghai Conservatory and the Royal College of Music, which led to the commission, world premiere and subsequent performances across China of ‘The Mountain Voices Echo’ for string orchestra and percussion, based upon the traditional songs of the Yugur women of the foothills of the Qilian Mountains.

Harriet now lives in Exmoor National Park. She is currently working on her first concerto for cello and orchestra — in addition to a suite of contemporary piano and harp works, a new piece for countertenor and ensemble, a commission for accordion and pipa, and an exciting scientific multimedia project.


Harriet Grainger