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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 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.

Gardner 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, of which he is currently director and occasional conductor. 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 United Kingdom, mainland Europe, Asia and North and South America. In addition to his compositional work, Gardner is an active broadcaster on music, having written, compiled and presented well-received programmes on the music of John Cage, Brian Ferneyhough, Conlon Nancarrow, Iannis Xenakis, Frank Zappa and the James Bond soundtracks of John Barry, all for the wonderfully eclectic Radio New Zealand Concert. He is also a regular performer in the Vitamin-S evenings of improvised music in Auckland. Gardner 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.

Source: James Gardner, June 2007


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