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Red Contributor

James Gardner


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Born: 1962


James Gardner was born in Liverpool, England in 1962, and during the 1980s played keyboards for his group The Umbrella and thereafter for a variety of well-known artists, both live and in the studio, as well as writing and arranging music in many groups, including Pete Shelley’s band and Howard Devoto’s band Luxuria. In 1990 he co-founded the band and remix team Apollo 440, reworking tracks by artists such as U2 and Scritti Politti.

From his mid-teens, writing notated music had formed a parallel stream to these activities, and in 1991 his solo piano piece Shattered Blue Ground, played by Joanna MacGregor, was runner-up in the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Composers’ Competition. Following encouragement from Michael Finnissy, James left Apollo 440 in 1993 in order to concentrate on composition, and in the same year attended Brian Ferneyhough’s classes at the Viitasaari Summer Academy in Finland.

James moved to New Zealand in 1994, and became a New Zealand Citizen in February 2001. In 1996 he set up the contemporary music ensemble 175 East, which he directed until April 2010. During that time the group gained an international reputation and gave many acclaimed world premiere performances of music by New Zealand and overseas composers.

James was the recipient of the 2003 CANZ Trust Fund Award, awarded annually for compositional achievement by the Composers’ Association of New Zealand. He was the inaugural Creative New Zealand-Victoria University composer-in-residence from 2004-2005 and was holder of the Trans-Tasman Composer Exchange residency for 2005/2006, during which he worked with Australia’s premier new music ensemble ELISION.

In addition to his compositional work, James is an active broadcaster on music, having written, compiled and presented well-received series on Electronic Music, Frank Zappa, Morton Feldman, Iannis Xenakis, the Moog Synthesizer, and the James Bond soundtracks of John Barry – all for the wonderfully eclectic Radio New Zealand Concert.

As a teacher, Gardner has lectured on music at the University of Auckland, Unitec Institute of Technology and the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, where he is currently an Adjunct Senior Fellow.

James is also an irregular performer in the Vitamin-S evenings of improvised music in Auckland.

Composed (39)

a study for voicing doubts

for clarinet and ensemble, 14m

blessed unrest

for piano trio

brighter glimmer

for flute, clarinet in A and trombone, 1m


for bass clarinet and viola, 11m


for any member of the clarinet family, 1m


for solo violin, 1m


for solo viola, 1m


for any member of the oboe family, 1m


for solo bassoon, 2m


for solo saxophone, 2m


for solo guitar


for solo cello, 1m 30s


for solo trumpet

Displacement Activities

for speaking pianist and electronics


for chamber quintet, 16m

ever not quite

for piano and string quartet, 8m

Fetish Effigies

for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass, 9m

Given what we gather takes place

for clarinet and percussion, 7m


microscore for bass flute, bass clarinet and bass trombone, 1m


for clarinet in A and string quartet, 7m

I like a bit of a cavort

for chamber ensemble, 1m


for bass clarinet and cello, 1m


microscore for percussion, double bass, bass trombone and bass clarinet, 30s

Kvetch 2

for bass clarinet, bass trombone, vibraphone and double bass, 1m

Local Economy

for 19-division trumpet and percussion

More than one attempt

for piano, horn and ensemble, 8m

Queer Studies

for solo violin


for bass clarinet, 15m


for bass clarinet and percussion, 1m

Shattered/Blue Ground

for piano, 9m

some other plots for Babel

violin concerto for ensemble, 17m

Ten Bells for Turning Forty

for clarinet (any transposition) and percussion, 10m

Throat Clearing

for E flat clarinet, A clarinet and bass clarinet, 1m

Umbra Mortis

for a cappella choir (13 or 14 parts), 4m

Unlearned Lines

for solo bass clarinet and orchestra, 11m