James Layton is a composer, musician, and visual artist currently based in Oslo, Norway. His work often explores non-climactic forms, which slowly unfold and focus on the juxtaposition of progression and stasis. His use of patterns, permutations, and repetition aims to draw listeners into the music while exploring ideas of time and memory. This work is often informed by his interest in visual art, particularly the works of Agnes Martin, Sol Lewitt, and Bridget Riley.
In the summer of 2022 his opera Saudade, which was commissioned by Petr Kotík and created with writer Jack Burnham, received its premiere at the NODO festival in Ostrava, Czech Republic, performed by Markéta Schaffartzik, Vojtěch Šembera, Patryk Zamojski and the Ostravská banda under the baton of Bruno Ferrandis. His orchestral piece Focal received its premiere in London, performed by the Trinity Laban Shapeshifter Orchestra, conducted by Kwamé Ryan in February 2019. While a resident at the Ostrava New Music Days in 2019, Focal was once again performed at the opening concert of the festival by the Ostrava New Orchestra, conducted by Petr Kotík, alongside works by Marc Sabat, Chaya Czernowin and Bernhard Lang.
James is the founder and curator of the Into the Ocean Series, an integrated recording and concert series showcasing experimental new music, primarily by emerging composers. The first project focused on music for solo viola in collaboration with violist Stephen Upshaw, with the debut online concert premiering in June 2020, featuring works by Jonathan Harvey, Marc Yeats, and Benjamin Graves, and debut album Into the Ocean: The Viola released in October 2020, which includes a recording of his piece Wandering. This work was supported by the Trinity Laban Innovation Award, which he was awarded in 2019.
He is part of RGMS: a curated collective of artists focusing on experimental release, whose albums are all released under the name ‘RGMS’. ‘Members produce a wide array of exploratory musics, ranging from lush soundscapes to near barren field recordings, and controlled chaos to meditative canopies.’ His work features on both instalments of the collaborative meditation album project MOSS, as well as his own album the memories are not my own, they’re borrowed from my past which was released in January 2021.
James is currently undertaking his postgraduate studies in composition at Norges Musikkhøgskole in Olso with Henrik Hellstenius and Rolf Wallin. He previously studied his undergraduate degree in composition at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance under Sam Hayden, Paul Newland, Stephen Montague, and Gwyn Pritchard, and Viola with Richard Crabtree. In 2019 he was a resident at the Ostrava New Music Days, attending lessons and seminars with Petr Kotík, Chaya Czernowin, Marc Sabat, Fredrick Rzewski, Klaas de Vries, and Christian Wolff. His works are published by BabelScores.