James May (b. 1994, Pittsburgh) is a composer, improviser, conductor, and writer. As a composer and improviser, he’s interested in creating music focused on texture, space, and agency, and particularly likes exploring extended vocal technique, how notation dictates power dynamics, and literature. He regularly writes album reviews and articles for various news publications including icareifyoulisten and Sound American. As a conductor and performer, he’s a champion of contemporary and experimental music.
Recent projects and collaborations include anthrophony for Western Carolina University’s percussion studio, sculpture vii for Dutch trio Trompo, sound design for University College Cork’s final year production Goblin Market and Southeastern Louisiana University’s What Lies Inside, and various free improvisation performances with and without electronics.
James’ work has been performed and recorded by Chamber Choir Ireland and Paul Hillier, JACK Quartet, Echéa Quartet, the San Francisco Choral Artists, Longleash, and the University of Louisville Orchestra and Collegiate Chorale. He was the winner of the 2019 Seán Ó Riada Composition Contest for street after street alike, the 2019 West Cork Chamber Music Festival Contest for Sculpture VI, the San Francisco Choral Artists’ 2017 New Voices Project for The Garden (“arresting… intricate and intense” – San Francisco Classical Voice), and composed Zaira and Irene for the 2018 Huang Orchestra Commission from the University of Louisville.
James was one of 12 recipients of the 2018-19 George J. Mitchell Scholarship, funding an MA in Experimental Sound Practice at University College Cork where he studied with John Godfrey, Jeff Weeter, and Karen Power. He previously studied with Steve Rouse and Kimcherie Lloyd as a Bomhard Fellow at the University of Louisville, and Jack Gallagher and Lisa Wong at The College of Wooster.