James Reynolds

© Rosa-Frank.com


Born in California, James Reynolds currently lives in Berlin. He studied contemporary music with John Adams, as well as percussion at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and composition in Cologne under Michael von Biel. Reynolds was Composer in Residence at the Laurenz-Haus Foundation Basel (2004) and Visiting Artist at the University of California, Santa Barbara (2009).

After teaching Master classes at the Folkwang University for the Arts in Essen and playing percussion on and off-Broadway (and as band member of The Units) in the 80s in New York, Reynolds took up his long-term working relationship with the Cologne based broadcasting institution WDR. For over two decades, he has written music for literary productions, thrillers, fairytales, and children’s radio plays for the broadcaster. 

Reynolds’ compositions explore the combination of words, sounds, and images – in film music as well as in his work for theatre. In 2002 he composed the music for the melodrama Vergeltung, a commissioned work from the WDR in partnership with the author Christoph Klimke, with whom Reynolds later worked on the Johann Kresnik directed plays Felix Nussbaum (Theater Osnabrück, 2010) and Fürst Pücklers Utopia (Staatstheater Cottbus, 2010). His collaboration with Johann Kresnik began in 2007 when the director adapted Kafka’s Amerika for the stage, followed by Maestro, based on the life of Herbert von Karajan (Landestheater Salzburg).

His work for stage also includes the highly praised piece The Mousewedding, which was played in repertory at the Children’s Opera of Cologne and in the Cologne Philharmonic Hall as well as his compositions for Pavel Mikulastik and his Choreographic Theatre. Reynolds wrote the music for Mikulastik’s dance theatre productions Tanz-Marathon (2001) and Gilgamesch (2002) and for his musical Rats (2003). Further compositions for dance include a ballet by the Cathy Sharp Dance Ensemble, commissioned by the Käthe Kollwitz Museum Cologne with a premiere at the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn and a work by Lutz Gregor performed at Tanzhaus NRW.

In the field of film music, Reynolds has set Lutz Gregor’s ARTE-productions Verborgenes Venedig (2012), Das Land der Dogon (2011) and Akte Theo: Ungelöst (2010) to music. Moreover, he has written the scores to several episodes of the ARTE documentary series Auf Expeditionsreise as well as for numerous films of Christel Fomm, of which the most recent one The Vietnam War – Faces of a Tragedy was awarded with the Gold World Medal at the New York Festivals 2016.

Reynolds’ latest works for the stage include the piece Tucholskys Spiegel (world premiere in summer 2017 at Schlosstheater Rheinsberg) as well as the highly praised opera Ghost Knight (Geisterritter), based on the novel by Cornelia Funke. After successful film and theatre adaptions, Ghost Knight is the first book of the internationally known writer to be adapted for an opera. The world premiere took place in December 2017 at the Opera Bonn with a resumption in autumn 2019 at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg. In the fall of 2019, James Reynold’s melodrama POE! – Dreamworlds was premiered to critical acclaim at Stadttheater Bremerhaven with the Philharmonic Orchestra Bremerhaven and Christian Brückner - Robert de Niro’s German voice - as speaker.


Der Schatz von Timbuktu - eine Rettungsgeschichte, 2016
Directed by Lutz Gregor

Der Vietnamkrieg: Gesichter einer Tragödie, 2015
Directed by Christel Fomm
Gold World Medal, New York Festivals 2016

Frauen und Ozeane (music for 4 films of the ARTE series), 2015
Directed by Aexandra Sorgenicht

Leschs Kosmos: Machtfaktor Erdgas, 2014
Directed by Eva Schöttendrier

Geliebte Feinde (Folge 3) - Macht und Glaube, 2013
Directed by Martin Caradzo Mendez

Geliebte Feinde (Folge 5) - Auf die Barrikaden, 2013
Directed by Christel Fomm

Geliebte Feinde (Folge 8) - Krieg und Frieden, 2013
Directed by Christel Fomm

Geliebte Feinde (Folge 9) - Welt in Flammen, 2013
Directed by Christel Fomm

Auf Expeditionsreise nach Madagaskar, 2013
Directed by Corinna Wirth

Auf Expeditionsreise durch Australien, 2013

Directed by Claudia Ruby

Auf Expeditionsreise durch Tansania, 2013
Directed by Corinna Wirth

Auf Expeditionsreise an die Küste Costa Ricas, 2013
Directed by Claudia Ruby

Verborgenes Venedig (Teil I - III), 2012
Directed by Lutz Gregor

Maps of Emotion 2, 2012
Directed by Lutz Gregor

Das Land der Dogon, 2011
Directed by Lutz Gregor

Opfer und Verführer, 2011
Directed by Stephan Schneider

Wohin treibt der Islam (Teil I - II), 2010
Directed by Friedel Klutsch

Akte Theo: Ungelöst - Eine Baseler Spurensuche, 2010
Directed by Lutz Gregor

Chaim, 2005
Directed by Jonathan Greenfield

Federalist / Anti-Federalist, 2005
Directed by Jennifer Nelson



Director: Lutz Gregor
Music: James Reynolds

When jihadists conquered the North of Mali in March 2012, they destroyed 14 mausoleums of holy Marabous and burnt more than 4.000 valuable historic manuscripts of the former University City, Timbuktu.

Whether it's Buddha statues in Afghanistan, Assyrian sculptures in the Museum of Mosul, the Ruins of Nimrod, the Temple of Palmyra – when Islamist take over a territory they tend to destroy anything that does not match their religious-fundamentalist image of the world. These artifacts, which are destroyed, are the treasures of UNESCO's World Heritage.

It is only because of the courageous acts of bravery by Abdel Kader Haidara that most of the around 300.000 handwritings still exists. The ones he has managed to save are brought to secure places via extremely dangerous undercover transports.

Lutz Gregor's documentary tells the story of the daring rescue of a unique World Cultural Heritage. First broadcast: February 22, 2017, 22:20 (ARTE)

© Thomas Billhardt/ Camera Work, Berlin



Director: Christel Fomm
Music: James Reynolds

It was the longest conflict of the 20th century: The Vietnam War. Media delivered war into the living rooms of the world for the first time. With consequences: The pictures of the conflict were burnt into people’s memories. The extensive dropping of Napalm bombs, the naked girl fleeing a fire cloud. 40 years ago, on May 1, 1975, this war came to an end.

Christel Fomm’s haunting documentary was set to music by James Reynolds and premiered on ARTE in spring 2015. It was awarded the Gold World Medal at the New York Festivals 2016.