James Weeks (*1978) is a composer, conductor and artistic director, based in the North of England.
His music typically explores pared-down musical syntaxes and systems, with particular interests in microtonality and Just Intonation, openness, haptic dimensions of sound and sound-making, and plain-speaking. He also often works with text and with found materials, particularly early music, including an ongoing preoccupation with the music and aesthetics of the Italian Renaissance. His most recent work has focused increasingly on a deeply embodied, phenomenological relationship with the natural world.
His music has been performed and broadcast worldwide, and six portrait discs have been released to date: Summer (another timbre 2021), windfell (another timbre 2019), Mala punica (Winter&Winter, 2017), Signs of Occupation (Métier 2016), mural (confront 2015) and TIDE (Métier 2013). His work also appears on the Wandelweiser, HCR and NMC labels.
Collaborators and other performers of his work have included Quatuor Bozzini, Explore Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, Royal Northern Sinfonia, BBC SSO, Ives Ensemble, Plus-Minus, An Assembly, Talea, EXAUDI, Ekmeles, CoMA, Mira Benjamin, Saviet/Houston, Apartment House and Anton Lukoszevieze.
Awards include a British Composer Award (2018) for Libro di fiammelle e ombre, written for EXAUDI, and an Ivors Academy Composer Award (2019) for Leafleoht, written for Quatuor Bozzini.
In 2002 he founded EXAUDI (www.exaudi.org.uk) with soprano Juliet Fraser, now regarded as one of the world’s leading vocal ensembles for new music. As well as maintaining a busy international touring and recording schedule with EXAUDI, he works regularly as a guest conductor, working regularly with instrumental ensembles and orchestras such as Royal Northern Sinfonia, BBC Singers, London Sinfonietta, musikFabrik, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and L’Instant Donné. He has also worked extensively with amateur musicians, both for CoMA (Contemporary Music for All) and in early music fora and summer schools around the UK. He was Musical Director of both New London Chamber Choir and Orlando Chamber Choir (London) from 2007-2011.
He is also active as a writer on new music, with published articles on Cassandra Miller and Christopher Fox, and a pair of chapters on Michael Finnissy in the Routledge Critical Perspectives volume (2019). He compiled and edited the CoMA Partsongs Book, a volume of new experimental music for small vocal groups, published in March 2018.
Previously an Organ Scholar at Queens’ College Cambridge (1997-2000), he studied composition with Michael Finnissy privately and then at the University of Southampton, from where he was awarded a PhD in Composition in 2005.
He was Associate Head of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London from 2012-17, and took up his present position as Assistant Professor of Composition at Durham University in October 2017.