• James Maunders







    "...mere words cannot describe the vibrant orchestration [or] the inventive choral writing..." - Fiona Bennett (on Yaldo)


  • Background

    James started to compose music when he was a teenager, and his early tape-based pieces from this time reveal an early fascination with the unusual juxtapositions of sounds and collisions of styles which have been a hallmark of his music-making ever since. This is perhaps a reflection of the music which interested and excited him from a very young age – medieval dance music, prog-rock, electronic minimalism, bebop jazz, Eastern folk music, the music of Stravinsky & Messiaen, and the grand orchestral tradition of the European concert hall. James started out as a chorister, clarinetist and saxophone player, but following an undergraduate degree at the Royal Northern College of Music, where he studied with Anthony Gilbert, Adam Gorb, Simon Holt & Clark Rundell, he's enjoyed a mixed and international career as a jazz pianist, orchestral percussionist, vocalist, composer and teacher, and continues to be enormously busy in his fortieth year, although composition is taking up more and more of his time. One of his main aims as a composer has always been to write music which excites and moves an audience – not to say that he has embraced populism, but that his music often pulsates and dances, or allows the luxury of melody to dominate. His music often draws together a number of different stylistic currents to make something totally new and original, for instance his recent (and extensive) cantata “Yaldo” draws upon Syrian folk music, the music of the Byzantine Church in the middle ages, free jazz, Hebrew cantillation & complex Stravinskian rhythms to create a compulsive and explosive sound world. With a background in electronic music production, it's not surprising to hear the influence of dance culture in his compositions often to the fore – as an example take the piece “Badder Gyrations”, an “urban orchestral riot” which grows into a growling dubsteb-flavoured groove, before fragmenting into a kaleidoscopic melee of broken and recycled funk and soul fragments, coming together into a pulsating trance beat. James has been recently working on a number of exciting projects: a concerto for the clarinetist Thomas Carr, commissioned by Newbury Symphony Orchestra, which was performed this summer; an a capella vocal piece for the Cecilia Consort, and a solo piano piece commissioned by the Piano Teachers Congress of New York, which will be performed next year in Carnegie Hall, and also has planned premières of his music this season in London, New York, Newbury & across the UK.

  • Awards

    Selection of recent awards

    International Isolda Composition Foundation London (2019)

    Shortlisted & Finalist

    FASO International Composition Competition (2019)

    2nd prizewinner

    Piano Teachers Congress of New York (PTCNY) Commissioning Award (2018)

    Commissioning award for a new piece to be performed in Carnegie Hall (NYC) in Fall 2020

    Royal Northern Symphonia Young Composers' Competition (2018)

    Finalist & 2nd prizewinner

    ARmusic Publishing House Award (2018)

    "Khosk Im Vordum" (Words From My Mother) - a piece for solo (spoken) soprano & double-reed quartet to be published by ARMusic

    2018 AGBU Sayat Nova International Composition Competition

    3rd prize for Khosk Im Vordun (Words from My Mother) - a piece for solo (spoken) soprano & double-reed quartet

    Bromley Symphony Orchestra Centenary Prize (2018)

    Orchestra's choice prizewinner

    Vienna "Sounds of Matter" (2018)

    2nd prizewinner

    International Composition Competition Harelbeke (2018)

    Honorable Mention

  • Compositions

    A selection of recent & historical projects & performances - a more complete selection is on YouTube (click link)

    "Badder Gyrations"

    Live premiere performance of this "urban riot" with Jessica Cottis & the Royal Northern Sinfonia at the Sage, Gateshead.

    "Fleeting Images"

    Wind Quintet performed by members of the Moonlight Symphony Orchestra at St James's Church, Paddington, London

    "B'thulto Yeldath Dumoro"

    From "Yaldo" - a multi-movement nativity cantata which tells the familiar Christmas story using the languages of Biblical times - Hebrew, Koine Greek, and, in this movement, Aramaic

    "A Century Passed"

    short piece for wind quartet, composed for Armistice Day 2018 & performed by 4 outstanding young members of the SBSO

    "Chain Growth"

    composed for and performed by Trio Immersio (with added electronics) - this piece won 2nd prize in the 2018 "Sounds of Matter" competition in Vienna

    "Peeping Out"

    Composed for, and performed by, the amazingly talented Benjamin Copeman, with live electronic manipulation by the composer.

    "Kraken II"

    Composed for, and performed by, Clifton Band - recorded live at the Anvil, Basingstoke with conductor Benjamin Copeman and speaker Neil Streeter.

    "Breathelated Spirits"

    From the album 'Jazzsteppin' available to download from Bandcamp (click link)

  • Monthly Music Blog

    Updates, performances, commissions & news

    September 23, 2019
    I've been working on completing a number of pieces this month, trying to get up to speed after a (well deserved?) summer break - in particular two related pieces - a new piano solo piece for the Piano Teachers Consortium of New York and a piece for solo percussion for Matt Farthing. The other...
    July 31, 2019
    I have to admit to a great love of the "classic Hollywood sound" - Korngold to Williams via Hermann - but it's not a style I normally would think to compose in myself. I gave it a shot recently, with a couple of pieces, and one was successful enough for the Filipino American Symphony Orchestra to...
    June 30, 2019
    It's always a pleasure to work with great performers, and Thomas Carr is certainly one of those! It was wonderful to hear him as the soloist in the premiere of my new concerto for clarinet & orchestra: Io with Newbury Symphony Orchestra this month on the 8th June. Thomas is an ex-student of St...
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  • Education 

    Royal Northern College of Music

    Bachelor of Music (hons) 1997-2001


    Reading University

    PGCE (Secondary Music) 2004-2005

    Music Education

    Birmingham City University

    Masters (MTL/MEL) 2018-2020

    Music Education/Educational Leadership

  • Contact

    Drop me a line so we can collaborate!

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