The British composer James Erber was born in 1951 in London.  He gained degrees in music at the universities of Sussex and Nottingham and, from 1976-79, worked as editor for a major British music publisher. Still largely self-taught as a composer, it was at this stage that he produced his first acknowledged works, beginning with Seguente for oboe and piano (1976, revised 1980). The guidance and encouragement he received from Brian Ferneyhough prompted him to a serious study of composition, firstly with Jonathan Harvey at the University of Sussex (MPhil in Composition, 1983), then from 1981-82 with Ferneyhough himself at the Musikhochschule, Freiburg-im-Breisgau.

Since his return to England, he has combined composition with teaching and lecturing, including three years in the Music Department at Goldsmith's College, University of London from 1991-94. He has written articles and lectured widely on his own work and he was invited as guest lecturer to the Darmstadt Ferienkurse in 1988 and 1990, having won a Stipendienpreis there in 1986.  In 1994 and 1996 he was shortlisted for the prestigious Hinrichsen Foundation bursary and in 1994 received a Holst Foundation Award, enabling him to write.  His music, which includes Music for 25 Solo Strings (Epitomaria-Glosaria-Commentaria) (1981-84), Abiya for solo piano (1994), the monumental string quartet An Allegory of Exile (1992-95) and the Traces cycle (begun 1991) for solo flute, has been played in concerts and major music festivals throughout Europe, in Australia and in the USA, and broadcast widely.