Jonathan Harvey was born to Noel and Gerald Harvey on 3 May 1939 in Sutton Coldfield. Gerald, his father, was a keen amateur musician and composer which gave both Jonathan and his brother Brian a taste for music from an early age. At the young age of six he already knew that he wanted to be a composer.
Jonathan was a chorister at St. Michaels Tenbury and from there went to Repton School where he continued his musical education. At Repton he won a scholarship to St. Johns Cambridge to study music, and then subsequently moved to Glasgow with his wife Rosaleen to complete his PHD, where they lived in a caravan through the winter of 1963. Following the advice of Benjamin Britten he was tutored by Erwin Stein and then Hans Keller.
Their daughter Anna was born in 1964 and Jonathan took up the post of lecturer at Southampton University. In 1969, two years after the birth of his son, Dominic, he won a Harkness fellowship to study at Princeton University where he composed his first electronic piece “Time Points”, subsequently travelling around twenty four states in one year with his young family.
They spent more time abroad in 1972 when Jonathan took a sabbatical in Menorca, staying in a beautiful whitewashed farmhouse belonging to some friends, and it was here that Jonathan wrote “Inner Light”.
In 1975 his son Dominic became a chorister at Winchester Cathedral, and Jonathan composed several choral works encouraged by his friends Martin Neary the Cathedral Organist and the Reverend John Taylor the Bishop. One of these pieces was “I Love The Lord” which was written in memory of his mother, as it was a psalm that she often asked Jonathan to read to her towards the end of her life. Jonathan’s choir music is very much rooted in the Church of England tradition, which is in sharp contrast to most of his instrumental works which have mainly been played in Europe.
In the early eighties Jonathan started working at Ircam in Paris where he could fully explore his passion for electronic music. This fruitful relationship lasted for many years and resulted in some of his best works. By this time he had moved to Lewes in East Sussex, and held the post of Professor of Music at Sussex University. He took up Transcendental Meditation and became more and more interested in Buddhism and eastern religion.
Ten years later he accepted the post of Professor of Music at Stanford University and it was here that he first imagined a composition using the bird song that he heard in the Californian hills which would later become his Bird Concerto.
After Stanford, Jonathan travelled more and more promoting his music and explaining the complex philosophies behind it, which helped to achieve the success that he enjoyed in the latter part of his life.
Harvey's innovative works, which included chamber, orchestral, and many choral pieces, have a meditative, spiritual, and ecstatic character (he has found the writing of Rudolf Steiner particularly inspirational) and have been widely recorded and performed across Europe. He is especially successful at combining conventional instruments with electronic or electronically modified sounds. Harvey has received honors in both UK and US, and continues to fulfil constant new commissions, including some from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.