James Lowrie’s music looks to make the serious things funny and the funny things serious. His music is concerned with pacing. What does it mean to go on for too long? What does it mean to not go on long enough? Often, he takes harmony from pop’s past and present as a starting point, and tries to infuse specificity into every moment of music. James is interested in what is expected of a composer when asked to write a piece, and of a piece when it is asked to be written by a composer. Can the composer, performer, audience, and music all find new ways of getting along?
The Bozzini Quartet, The FAWN Collective, The Array Ensemble, The Toy Piano Composers and the Caution Tape Sound Collective have all performed his works in concert. In 2019, he participated in the Soundstreams Emerging Composer Workshop writing for the Rolston String Quartet.
James graduated from the University of Toronto’s composition program in 2013. While teaching English in France in 2014/15 studied informally with composer Jean-Philippe Bec at the Conservatoire de Rouen, lessons paid for with genuine Prince Edward County Maple Syrup. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Composition at the University of Western Ontario with Omar Daniel.
James’s instrument is the classical guitar. A student of the great Eli Kassner for over a decade, James has performed at numerous events in Toronto including the Guitar Society of Toronto and solo recital tours in South Eastern Ontario. Though he is loath to admit it, the guitar is central to how he thinks about harmony and texture.
James has also worked as a stand up comedian. Careful sleuthing around Youtube might even unearth a few of his performances in this capacity.
Q: Now that you've lived in France does that mean you talk about how the food is better over there all the time in an annoying way?
A: Mais oui, bien sûr!
Q: Did you write a piece for guitar and paper shredder?
A: Yes. Furthermore, I am proud of it.
Q: When you say you only have ‘half of one kidney’ does this mean that the other one and a half kidneys have been removed?
A: No, they are still there, they just don't work. Why does everyone ask me this?
Q: So you do stand up? Tell me a joke!
A: Don’t ask me this question. First of all, it feels weird like you’re trying to get me to prove my profession to you. Secondly, stand up comedy is 90% context, coming out on stage, speaking into a microphone, having an audience. I promise you, if you ask me to tell you a joke it’s not going to come across as that funny because it wasn’t made for me to tell to someone who is randomly quizzing me on my ability to do my job.
Q: That was kind of a long rant. Any ways wasn’t this website supposed to be about composition and guitar?
A: I suppose. But it IS a frequently asked question.
Q: Okay, but are these all actually frequently asked questions or are you just using this as a format to say whatever you want?
A: I suppose that is the real question now isn’t it?
Q: Yes, that’s why I asked it.
A: That’s not a question.
Q: Okay fine, but didn’t you just ask a question three lines back? Aren’t you being a bit hypocritical?
A: Ooh, look at you getting meta.
Q: So I hear you are doing covers of late 1990s & early 2000s pop songs. What’s up with that? Are you getting prematurely nostalgic?
A: Well there’s no way to rule that possibility out (though I’m not sure I like your tone)
Q: Oh look at you judging my tone. Why don’t you go get a spectral analysis done if you’re so interested? I know a lot of you composers are into that stuff.
Let me answer the question. I find stuff from around 10-20 years ago so interesting because it neither seems to be from a past or the present. It has this strange out-of-time quality. Furthermore, I think a lot of what was popular at the time has not been elevated to “art” status, maybe because millennials aren’t so self-celebratory as previous generations, This also gives the concept of putting them into a contemporary classical music context a certain odd feeling that I enjoy. This is all to say, if you want to reach out to me to write a contemporary music cover of a pop song of your choice, please do!
Q: Okay, sounds like we’re getting back on track. Commissions. How would someone approach you about writing something for them?
The best way is just to send me an email, then we can take it from there! I have a contact page up at the top of this website, or just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My music can be very different from piece to piece, so let me know which pieces lead you to ask me for a new work, and I can produce something generally in the same vein. I am currently working about one year in advance.