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James Aikman

Indianapolis, IN/Ann Arbor, MI      

James Aikman

James Aikman’s music has earned prestigious honors for decades and has variously been described as “richly sonorous,” “fascinating,” “exciting, inventive and fresh,” “plaintively beautiful,” “a brilliant piece of work, a virtuoso exercise in orchestration,”and “that was intense!”   Notable festivals and audiences in North America and Europe have embraced his music performed by many extraordinary ensembles and musicians. Recordings include those released by Naxos American Classics, Centaur, Cathedral Arts, Indiana University Trustees, Partial Music, and Cultures Electroniques (Harmonia Mundi/Le Chant du Monde). Recently appointed as Composer-in-Residence for the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, Aikman attended Butler University, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and the Royal Conservatory, The Hague where his principal teachers were Michael Schelle, Frederick Fox, Earle Brown, Donald Erb, Harvey Sollberger, and Louis Andriessen. Summer fellowships included The Aspen Music Festival and School, The Schweitzer Institute of Music, and SUNY@Buffalo working with William Bolcom, Earl Kim, Jacob Druckman, Gunther Schuller, Paul Lansky, David Felder, Bryan Ferneyhough, and Bernard Rands.

from Reviews 

“The Fantasy eschews the piano in favor of an electronic accompaniment, definitively performed by the composer himself. While the violin part is not dissimilar to that in the other works here, the electronic score is more complex and dissonant than the accompaniment of the piano parts, demonstrating Aikman’s ability to write significant music in disparate styles.”

“The piece is at once inventive, it shimmers throughout, with vibrant orchestration of an almost spectral nature.  It is multi-dimensional, and picturesque in a way I rarely hear from composers today.  The writing deftly oscillates between moments of soaring beauty, humor, brooding darkness, and throughout, demonstrates Aikman’s affinity for non-classical styles.  This is presented in an incredibly organic and personal manner, never ostentatious but always very artful and compelling.”

“Aikman’s violin concerto was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Subtitled “Lines in Motion,” it opens with a series of block chords that impart a sense of mystery in the walking tempo to which they are set. There is simply no other opening like this in any concerto that I can think of.   Unquestionably, this is a major addition to the 20th-century violin concerto repertoire, and soloist Charles Weatherbee is simply fantastic.”

“James Aikman’s latest CD, for Naxos, is attracting brilliant reviews in the likes of “Fanfare” and “Gramophone,” which recently declared, “This could easily be a best-seller in the USA if there were some mechanism to make innovative American composers the talk of the town.””


Peacemakers IV. Interlude/RFK’s eulogy for Martin Luther King (given in Indianapolis)

Opening with interplay of strings, percussion, piano and soprano saxophone within an instrumental intelude, this leads to the central section which features Bobby Kennedy’s extraordinary impromptu speech to an inner-city Indianapolis audience upon his hearing of MLK’s assassination during his campaign for President. At the outset, he asks that his signs be taken down. One of the great speeches of history.
His extraordinary words sure don’t need my music, but if through the music his ideas can reach the current world, then so be it!

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Prelude to Peacemakers

This Prelude to Peacemakers, a work in progress, involves a drone in the lower strings which emulates the Tambura of classical music of India. Kaleidoscopic wisps of melody float to the surface, make an appearance, before giving way to the next instrument. The middle section begins dramatically in the lower register with a dialogue between strings and timpani. The register gradually shifts from the depths to the highest regions. The final section involves a hint of the drone introducing an actively static interplay of harp/mallet percussion

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Sanctus (Latin and English, echoing across the millenia)

a simple, direct example of lyric vocal writing.

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