Symphony commission is ‘doubly lucky’ for UC lecturer

13 September 2019

Being commissioned to compose a new work for the visiting Los Angeles Percussion Quartet (LAPQ) and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (CSO) was a “huge honour” for composer, broadcaster, musician and lecturer, Adjunct Senior Fellow at University of Canterbury (UC), James Gardner.

  • James_Gardner_NWS

    Adjunct Senior Fellow at University of Canterbury (UC), James Gardner's new composition for the LA Percussion Quartet and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra makes its world premiere on 21 September at the Christchurch Town Hall.

The world premiere of Gardner’s Gyre (Ghosts with Accents) is on 21 September at the Christchurch Town Hall.

“I feel doubly lucky to have been offered this commission,” Gardner says. “For one thing, being asked to write for the LAPQ is an honour, as well as a technical challenge. I was keen to draw on the players' expertise and finesse on many instruments, as well as their enthusiasm and, here and there, their improvisational skills.

“The second aspect is to write for the CSO, whose programmes over the last few years have been consistently innovative and have featured New Zealand composers.”

Gardner made the “slightly unusual decision” to focus on ‘unpitched’ percussion in his writing for solo quartet. He says this was “partly because I didn't want to rely on pitch or harmony for the quartet writing, as the orchestra is large enough to provide harmony, and partly because I wanted to showcase the subtleties and richness that can be drawn from such a variety of objects in the hands of such fabulous performers”.

Gyre (Ghosts with Accents) is Gardner’s latest composition in a long career that began in England in the 1980s with playing keyboards for groups including Pete Shelley’s band and Howard Devoto’s band Luxuria, followed by work with the group Apollo 440 remixing tracks by artists such as U2 and Scritti Politti.

Moving to New Zealand in 1994, Gardner continued to create music, setting up contemporary music ensemble 175 East, which gained an international reputation by performing many acclaimed world premiere performances by local and overseas composers.

While consistently composing music, Gardner also wrote and presented a series for Radio New Zealand Concert on Electronic Music, Frank Zappa, Morton Feldman, Iannis Xenakis, the Moog Synthesizer and the James Bond soundtracks of John Barry.

Gardner’s Gyre (Ghosts with Accents) world premiere shares the CSO programme with Frank Zappa’s Night School and The Planets by Gustav Holst.


The Planets by the CSO is on Saturday 21st September, 7.30pm, Douglas Lilburn Auditorium, Christchurch Town Hall. Tickets from $33.83 ($18.45 students) are available here.

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