Faculty Directory

James PhelpsJames Phelps

Associate Professor
D.M.A., University of North Texas

Office: 815-753-0141

James Phelps (b. 1954, Paris, Tennessee) is Associate Professor of Music at Northern Illinois University and Director of NIUCMS (NIU Computer Music Studios) and of the experimental/computer-music ensemble Annex Group in DeKalb.  He has renovated and updated the existing program there to offer students opportunities with some of the most prevalent as well as newest technologies, including software synthesis and real time audio processing in a Macintosh/Protools/MAX-MSP computer music network, CD-ROM/DVD authoring and interactive and real time video/audio in network forums.

He initiated a guest artist series at NIU which has featured world-class composers/performers such as Larry Austin, Paul Lansky, Phil Winsor, Stephen Montague, Philip Mead, Cort Lippe, and Zack Settel, among others, as well as composers-in-residence Vladimir Volkov from Ekaterinburg, Russia, and Hu Xiao from Sichuan Conservatory of Music in Chengdu, Sichuan, China.  Phelps designed and installed two degree plans in Computer Music and New Media Technology: a Bachelors degree in a contract major track and a Masters degree under the Individualized Area of Study.

Dr. Phelps' music is performed frequently in the US and abroad at various venues, including SEAMUS and ICMA conferences, and is distributed on the BELLA, SEAMUS, CENTAUR and THIRTEENTH labels.  He composes primarily with/for computer-music systems, such systems often being integrated with other performance resources.  Three such works are "OperaEffects," a computer-music opera for 8 singers, video and NeXT computer, "about Myron: a monodrama," for bass Myron Myers and tape and "Sax Houses," for soprano saxophone, tape and NeXT computer, the first two premiering in Chicago and "Sax Houses" in Aarhus, Denmark.  Chordlines," a computer music work on CD, was choreographed by South Indian classical dancer/choreographer Siri Rama and performed at the International Computer Music Conference in Hong Kong in August, 1996. 

Currently, he has renewed his electric guitar "chops" and enjoys blending various styles of music while re-exploring the sonic world of rock, pop and other club musics.  For several years he has worked with two digital video artists, Bart Woodstrup and Kurt Schultz, producing both fixed-media and real time-interactive works for various venues representing both club and concert settings.

Recent pieces include "RickLicks," for Rickenbacker "Hamburg" electric guitar, guitar processor and computer music on CD (also exists with real time-processed digital video by Bart Woodstrup) and "Twenty Down," for the Hamburg guitar, classical guitar and computer music on CD.

Phelps studied with composer Dwight Gatwood at the University of Tennessee in Martin while an undergraduate student.  Specialties included composition, theory studies, piano and harpsichord performance.  While completing an M.M. degree in music theory at the University of North Texas he studied with Robert Ottman, Thomas Clark, Gene Cho and Graham Phipps, among other theorists, and with pianist Stefan Bardas.  His Master's thesis was a linguistic-based analysis of late nineteenth-century harmonic practices and was directed by Paul Dworak.

Dr. Phelps began teaching professionally in 1980 at Brookhaven College in Dallas where he helped design and implement one of the country's first entirely self-paced music theory/skills programs.  During this time he performed many concerts as pianist of a guitar/piano duo with internationally known, award-winning guitarist, Carlo Pezzimenti.  After their debut at Carnegie Hall in 1982 the duo recorded an album together entitled "Pezzimenti Plays Tedesco" on the ELBA label.  The relationship continues into the 21st century with the duo performing original works by Phelps.

In 1985 Phelps began work toward the D.M.A. degree in composition at UNT where he studied with Larry Austin, Phil Winsor, Thomas Clark and Cindy McTee, and was awarded a four-year teaching fellowship.  His emphases were computer music and various styles of theoretical analysis.  There he produced many concerts of his music in the Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theatre of CEMI.   His dissertation was "Computer Simulacra" for instrumental ensemble and computer music on tape.

Phelps is a member of ICMA, SEAMUS and Sonic Arts Network. While serving on the Board of SEAMUS he designed, installed and maintained SEAMUS's first FTP and Web Site.

He has also held an Advanced Class Amateur Radio Operators license since the age of 15, is a Beatles aficionado and spends as much time as possible in the flavorful, colorful Indian/Pakistani neighborhoods of Chicago.