- Aria Notturna, for alto flute and piano
- CityMusic II: New York Orchestra, for narrator and orchestra a theater piece for young audiences
- Concerto for Strings, for string orchestra
- Dance Symfonye, for string trio, recorder trio, viola da gamba trio, harp and prepared piano
- Exordium, for brass ensemble
- Five Runic Songs, for trumpet and chamber ensemble
- Four Tableaus, for flute and guitar
- La Folia, for string orchestra and harp
- Lydian Sonata, for flute, clarinet and string quartet
- Lyra, for string orchestra
- Quartet for Low Strings, for two violas, cello and bass
- Serenade, for cello and chamber orchestra
- Seven Runic Songs, for viola, guitar and harp
- Trio, for clarinet, cello and harp
A native of Los Angeles, Jeffery Cotton studied composition at California State University at Northridge with Daniel Kessner, Frank Campo and Aurelio dela Vega, where Cotton received a Bachelor of Music cum laude in 1983. Subsequently, as a Fulbright Scholar, he studied with Hans Werner Henze at the Hochschule für Musik Köln (Cologne), West Germany, and in 1984 accompanied Henze to New Mexico, where he acted as Henze’s assistant at the Santa Fe Opera. There Cotton and Henze co-composed the music to Alain Renais’s film L’amour a mort, which won the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik.
Henze conducted the world premiere of Cotton’s Abendland at the 1984 Edinburgh Festival, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and mezzo-soprano Linda Hirst. The following year Cotton’s Dance Symfonye for string trio, recorder trio, viola da gamba trio, harp and prepared piano, was premiered at the Academy of Music in Cologne. In 1985 Cotton entered the University of Pennsylvania to study Music Composition and Theory as an Annenberg Fellow. He worked with George Crumb, Jay Reise, Chinary Ung and Richard Wernick, and in 1989 he received his Master of Arts and Ph.D.
The New York Youth Symphony commissioned Cotton’s CityMusic I: Berlin and premiered it at Carnegie Hall in 1988. Andrew Porter in the New Yorker described this work as "a strange, stark tone poem, imaginatively scored… dark, romantic, menacing, suddenly charming, exciting." In the winter of 1990 the National Orchestral Association premiered Cotton’s Fantasia (the first movement of his symphony Poems of Night), also at Carnegie Hall, under the direction of Jorge Mester. About this work Andrew Porter wrote: "If the other movements of Poems of Night are as arresting as this, the work should be billed without delay." And in the spring Dance Symfonye received its American premiere in Boston, under the direction of Yehudi Wyner.1990 was also the year in which Cotton received a Guggenheim Fellowship and returned to Germany, where, as he observed the reunification of the nation from a vantage point in Berlin, he also began work on a ballet about the construction of the Wall, based on the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Jeffery Cotton was Composer-in-Residence of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble in New York City from 1992 to 1996. St. Luke’s commissioned and premiered his Quartet for Low Strings (1992) for two violas, cello and bass; Trio (1993) for clarinet, cello and harp; Five Runic Songs (1995) for trumpet, horn, bassoon, violin, cello and bass; and Lydian Sonata (1996) for flute, clarinet and string quartet. At St. Luke’s Cotton created Second Helpings, a "hosted" series of contemporary chamber music performances in the ga lleries of the Guggenheim Museum SoHo. The series, hailed by the New York Times as "something truly different" and now part of St. Luke’s regular New York season, showcases second performances of works by emerging composers, presenting contemporary music in an informal and especially light-hearted setting.
In 1995 Cotton received a commission from a Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest consortium comprised of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, for CityMusic II: New York, a theater piece for young audiences, for narrator and orchestra. The Cleveland Plain Dealer describes the work as "an affectionate and humorous urban tone painting." The work was premiered by the Philadelphia Orchestra in October 1995, and performed again by the orchestra in February 1996, Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting and the composer narrating. The work has subsequently been performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, The St. Louis Symphony, the Detriot Symphony and the Indianapolis Symphony.
In March 1999 the Boston string orchestra Metamorphosen, under the direction of Scott Yoo, offered the world premiere of Cotton’s Serenade (1993) for cello and chamber orchestra (flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bassoon, harp, solo cello, strings). The Boston Globe described the work as "all at once luscious and logical, elegantly orchestrated with some super fire-and-ice wind chording. It considerately provided occasions to show what a capable cello soloist - in this case Alexis Pia Gerlach - could do" And in April 1999, Metamorphosen named Jeffery Cotton as Composer-in-Residence of the ensemble, starting in the 1999-2000 season. Cotton’s first new work for Metamorphosen, Lyra, was premiered by the ensemble on January 15, 2000 in Jordan Hall, Boston. The Boston Globe praised Lyra as a work that "draws the ear into the mystery of lyric utterance."
Cotton’s most recent work was La Folia, for strings and harp, commissioned by the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, who premiered the work in Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory, Boston, on March 9, 2001. His next work for Metamorphosen will be Concerto for Strings, scheduled to be premiered on April 20, 2002.