James May (b. 1994, Pittsburgh) is a composer, improviser, teacher, and writer based in New Orleans. His work explores unfurling, fragile spaces through notated scores, improvisation environments, live electronics, field recordings, extended vocal technique, and text. He’s especially interested in combining techniques to encourage exploration of new sound or generate unpredictable systems in which performers can dwell. He’s a member of Versipel New Music, has published writing in Sound American and RTE Culture, and teaches courses on music production techniques and field recording at Tulane University.
James has collaborated on performances and recordings with Hypercube, Chamber Choir Ireland and Paul Hillier, Stephanie Lamprea, Will Yager, Jamie Monck, 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, the 2019 West Cork Chamber Music Festival Contest, and the San Francisco Choral Artists’ 2017 New Voices Project. His work has also been programmed and recognized by Birdfoot Festival, BRACE New Music Choir, New Music on the Bayou, and the Institute for Choral Creativity. He’s an active member of the New Orleans free improvisation community, collaborating with Justin Peake, Alexandria Smith, Byron Asher, Chris Alford, and others, and has collaborated on interdisciplinary projects with studio artist Cat Gambel.
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.