Conductor, composer, instrument designer, musicologist and formerly virtuoso percussionist, organist and cellist, James Wood's multi-faceted career has led him into an extraordinarily broad spectrum of musical activities. Born in 1953, he studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris before going to Cambridge as an organ scholar, and to the Royal Academy of Music in London to study conducting and percussion. For the next twenty years he pursued a triple career as composer, conductor and solo percussionist.
After four years as conductor of Schola Cantorum of Oxford he founded the New London Chamber Choir (1981), which was soon to become celebrated throughout Europe for its ground-breaking performances and recordings of contemporary music, and which he directed for 26 years until leaving England and settling in Germany in 2007. During this period he was also professor of percussion at Darmstadt (1982 - 1994), founder and director of the Centre for Microtonal Music in London and it's ensemble, Critical Band (1990-1994), whilst remaining prolific as a composer.
Since the mid-1990s he has focussed more on composition and conducting, working with ensembles such as musikFabrik, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble InterContemporain and Champ d'Action. As a choral conductor he works regularly with most of Europe's leading chamber choirs, such as RIAS Kammerchor, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Cappella Amsterdam and Latvian Radio Choir, in repertoire from 15th century to the present day. He has worked closely with composers such as Kurtág, Xenakis, Ligeti, Kagel, Harvey and Reich, and in 2002 he prepared and conducted the Dutch Radio Choir in the world premiere of Stockhausen's Engel-Prozessionen at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
As a composer he has written for almost every conceivable genre, and is especially known for his percussion music, his designing and building of new instruments, and for his work in electronics. He has twice been commissioned by the BBC Proms in London, first in 1989 for his orchestral work Oreion, later in 1995 for his Two men meet, each presuming the other to be from a distant planet. His first opera, Hildegard, was performed with huge success throughout England and Belgium in 2005-6, and he is currently working on a chamber opera based on Gulliver's Travels, commissioned for the City of Utrecht's celebrations of the 300th Anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht in 2013.