A British composer born October 29, 1950.
James Dillon studied art and design in Glasgow in addition to linguistics, acoustics and mathematics in London. A player of the bagpipes, the Indian zither and the piano, he is a member of traditional Scottish bagpipes ensembles as well as of rock groups. An autodidact in composition, he studied the rhythms of Indian music with the sitar player Punita Gupta in the UK (1972) and took part in the summer classes in Darmstadt (1982) as well as Ircam’s summer courses (1984-1985).
Interested in jazz, the blues and oriental traditions, yet also in tone-colour, space, the sciences, history and civilisations, Dillon distances himself from the notion of ‘school’ and has forged an individual style rooted in the classical European tradition. His works, in which a largely contrapuntal approach is manifest, cover all repertories, from solo instrumental music to the orchestra, from vocal music to opera. His works include Sgothan for flute, commissioned by the French State, first performed by Pierre-Yves Artaud at the Festival de la Rochelle (1984); Eos for cello, commissioned by the Philharmonic Society of Cologne and first performed at the International Bach Festival in Cologne by Rohan de Saram (1999); Philomela, an opera with a libretto by the composer, first performed by the vocal artistes Anu Komsi, Susan Narucki and Lionel Peintre with the Remix Ensemble (2004); Andromeda, concerto for piano, commissioned by the BBC, first performed by Noriko Kawai with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra during the BBC Proms (2006); The New York Triptych for instrumental ensemble and electronics, commissioned and first performed by the Ensemble Talea in Darmstadt (2012); Stabat mater dolorosa, a mixed work for vocal and instrumental ensemble, co-commissioned by BBC Radio 3, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival and the Casa da Musica Porto, first performed by the BBC Singers and the London Sinfonietta (2014); The Gates for string quartet and orchestra, commissioned by the Südwestrundfunk, first performed by the Arditti Quartet and the SWR Symphonieorchester, during the Donaueschinger Musiktage (2016).
Attracted to large-scale constructions, James Dillon has conceived many cycles of works, including Nine Rivers (1982-2000); The Book of elements for piano (1997-2002); Traumwerk Book (1995-2002).
In parallel with composition, Dillon has staught at Darmstadt (1982-1992), at the University of Central England in Birmingham (1993-1996), in Royaumont (1996) as well as at the Music School of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis (2007-2014).