James Gardner


James Gardner is an Auckland-based freelance composer, performer and broadcaster.


James Gardner was born in Liverpool, England 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 Gardner's virtuosic 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, Gardner 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.


He moved to New Zealand in 1994 and established the contemporary music ensemble 175 East. The group has since gained an international reputation and given many acclaimed world premiere performances of music by New Zealand and overseas composers and their concerts are frequently broadcast by Radio New Zealand Concert. Gardner's compositions have been played and broadcast throughout New Zealand as well as in the UK, mainland Europe, Asia and North and South America.

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 in 2005/2006, during which he worked with Australia's premier new music ensemble ELISION.

James is also an active broadcaster for Radio NZ Concert, for whom he has made substantial programmes on composers such as Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell Davies, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Brian Ferneyhough, Conlon Nancarrow, Kaija Saariaho and Iannis Xenakis as well as on the Moog synthesizer, the James Bond soundtracks of John Barry, and a 5-hour series on Frank Zappa, which was recently rebroadcast on Radio NZ National.

James teaches at Unitec and the University of Auckland and is also a regular performer on laptop and piano at the Vitamin-S evenings of improvised music at The Wine Cellar in Auckland.

At present he is writing ‘Rank and File Movements’, a clarinet concerto for Gretchen Dunsmore due for completion in February 2010.


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