James Moore is a versatile composer, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and bandleader. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, he has been active on the East Coast since 2004, earning the titles of “local electric guitar hero” by Time Out New York and “model new music citizen” by the New York Times. Performing on a wide variety of guitars, banjos, mandolins and home-made instruments, James’s music draws on an eclectic array of influences in folk, jazz, contemporary classical music and experimental theater.
You may have encountered James in a variety of performance situations: at The Stone playing John Zorn’s game pieces with guitarist Marc Ribot; at BAM playing the music of George Crumb on mandolin and singing saw with soprano Dawn Upshaw; At the Barbican Center leading a live rendition of Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint; At Lincoln Center performing songs and improvisations with Lee Ranaldo and Yo La Tengo; At Carnegie Hall playing music written by prison inmates with Toshi Reagon and Rhiannon Giddens.
James is a founding member and director of Dither, an electric guitar quartet which has gained international recognition for precision playing and creative programming. He also leads The Hands Free, a folk-inspired acoustic quartet with fellow performer/composers Caroline Shaw, Nathan Koci, and Eleonore Oppenheim. As a chamber and orchestral musician, James has appeared with Alarm Will Sound, Bang on a Can, Roomful of Teeth, The Crossing Choir, The LA Phil New Music Group, Santa Fe Opera, and Clogs. He can also be found performing in duo with violinist compatriot Andie Springer, and with the avant-grunge/sloppy-math rock band Forever House.
As a composer, James enjoys bringing together unique ensembles of artists, utilizing their individual voices through collaboration and improvisation. Recent projects include Desolation Pops for pianist Kathleen Supové with The Rhythm Method, and The Untroubled Mind: a song cycle for vocalist/fiddler Anna Roberts-Gevalt, cellist Theresa Wong, and Ellen Fullman performing on her 50-foot justly-tuned “long string instrument.”
James works frequently as a collaborator in theater, dance and multimedia projects, and has performed extensively with playwright Richard Maxwell’s New York City Players. As an onstage musician, singer, and actor he has taken part in several NYCP productions including the international tours of Neutral Hero and The Evening. Other notable projects include David Lang and Susan Marshall’s electrified dance piece PLAY/PAUSE; and Object Collection’s It’s All True, a maximalist opera constructed from the live archives of Fugazi.
James’s first solo recording, a new interpretation of John Zorn’s notorious guitar etudes The Book of Heads, was released on Tzadik in 2015, accompanied with a performance documentary by director Stephen Taylor. James has recorded several of Zorn’s improvisational game pieces on Dither plays Zorn, which was dubbed a “top avant album” of the year by Rolling Stone. Other recording highlights include Ted Hearne’s Sound From the Bench, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in music; and Mason Bates’s Grammy-winning opera recording The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, for which James is a steel-string guitar soloist.
James received his BA from The University of California, Santa Cruz, his MM from Yale University, and is currently pursuing his PhD in music composition at Princeton University. He has served on the faculty of Princeton’s Atelier program, and has been a guest lecturer at universities across the country and abroad.
Articles by James Moore:
How are albums adapting and changing in the digital world? James Moore is looking for clues as to where the art form might be headed.