James Kirtland Randall (1929 - ) was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music from 1934 to 1947, and subsequently attended Columbia University (B.A., 1955), Harvard (M.A., 1956) and Princeton (M.F.A., 1958). He studied piano with Leonard Shure and composition with Herbert Elwell, Thad Jones, Roger Sessions and Milton Babbitt. From 1958 to 1991 he taught at Princeton, where he was professor of music. He was a founding member of the American Society of University Composers and has written articles on composing and music theory for several journals, notably Perspectives of New Music (some of these were collected in the monograph Compose Yourself: A Manual for the Young (Open Space, 1995)). He also collaborated with Benjamin Boretz on the book Being About Music: Textworks 1960-2003 (Open Space, 2003).
From the early 1960s into the 1970s, Randall engaged principally in computer synthesis of sound and, with Godfrey Winham, developed facilities for this at Princeton University. His tape compositions were generated by the MUSIC IV B program, a version of MUSIC IV introduced at Princeton. He designed his own software "instruments," which enabled him to specify every aspect of every sound and structure developments within single notes in ways that reflect principles of development used in whole compositions as, for example in Lyric Variations for Violin and Computer (1966-1968).
In 1980 he turned his attention to improvised musical performance and began a series of explorations of spontaneous group performance, or "real-time co-creation," involving many kinds of musicians and other artists (painters, dancers) as well. The ongoing efforts, preserved on hundreds of sound recordings and videotapes (under the project name Inter/Play), document the emergence of idiosyncratic group styles and performing conventions. Randall is himself a regular participant in these performances. In 1990, Randall, along with Elaine Barkin and Benjamin Boretz, started the publications series Open Space.