Academic Profile


J. P. E. Harper-Scott joined Royal Holloway Music Department, where he is now Professor of Music History and Theory, in 2005, after enjoyable but brief spells of employment in Liverpool and Nottingham. He is General Editor of the Cambridge University Press series Music in Context, a member of the Editorial Board of Music Analysis, a trustee of the Society for Music Analysis, a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College, and a member of the Council for the Defence of British Universities. This page gives details of his professional life; a biographical note is offered here.

His work so far has focused on an examination of music’s cultural, personal, and interpersonal significance in the last two centuries. It draws extensively on philosophical, cultural, and social theory and the explanatory resources of music theory. From the start his work has engaged particularly with the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. More recently, this has been supplemented by psychoanalysis (especially Lacan and Freud), critiques of the sexual, political, and economic subject (particularly the work of Alain Badiou, Karl Marx, and Slavoj Žižek), and an explicitly Leftist perspective. There is always a musical focus, which so far has been art music of the modern period, including twentieth-century symphonic music and opera in Britain (particularly Elgar, Walton, Britten, and Vaughan Williams), and the operas of Wagner, Strauss, and Berlioz.

Professor Harper-Scott’s current PhD students are pursuing scholarship in a range of methodological and theoretical directions, and there are particularly strong interactions in continental philosophy, critical theory, psychoanalysis, feminism, music analysis, opera and symphonic music, theories of modernism, and music and musical thought in twentieth-century Britain. Harper-Scott warmly welcomes enquiries from potential PhD students in any of his areas of scholarly interest, in both theory and repertoire.

Administrative work includes being Director of Research at RHUL and a member of the AHRC’s Peer Review College. Harper-Scott is also jointly responsible for the maintenance of the Golden Pages of conference listings in musicology and a moderator of the musicological mailing lists ‘Central and Eastern European Music’, ‘Euromusicology’, ‘Iberian and Latin American Music’, ‘Medieval and Renaissance Music’, ‘Musical Aesthetics’, ‘Nineteenth-Century Music’, ‘Suppressed Music’, and the umbrella ‘Musicology-All list’. Conference or job announcements may be emailed to him directly.

Research interests

  • Art music from 1789 to the present
  • Music history and theory/analysis
  • Critical theory: Heidegger, Badiou, Žižek, Adorno, Lacan, Freud, Marxism, postmodern critiques of human subjectivity

Harper-Scott has six books in print, the most recent of which is Ideology in Britten’s Operas (2018). It is his fifth book to be published by Cambridge University Press, the others being two monographs, The Quilting Points of Musical Modernism (2012) and Edward Elgar, Modernist (2006), and two co-edited essay collections. The first, co-edited with Julian Rushton, is Elgar Studies (2007); the second, co-edited with Jim Samson, is An Introduction to Music Studies (2009), a textbook for new undergraduates written by RHUL staff (a Korean translation appeared in 2019). His second single-authored book was a life-and-works study of Elgar for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Elgar: an Extraordinary Life (2007). He has also contributed articles and reviews to journals including 19th-Century Music, Music Analysis, Music & Letters, the Cambridge Opera Journal, and the Musical Times, and periodically writes opera and book reviews for the Times Literary Supplement.

Recent articles and book chapters in print or press consider love in Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict; gender in music; reactive modernism; and form and structure in Wagner’s Ring. Current or forthcoming research includes studies of stage works by Strauss and a monograph on the theory of music history, The Event of Music History. See his list of publications for further details.


Professor Harper-Scott became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2008. His teaching at Royal Holloway has included courses in theory and analysis at undergraduate and postgraduate levels (‘Analysing Western Art Music’ – a course of Schenkerian analysis – for second years, ‘Special Study: Theory and Analysis’ for third years, and the MMus course ‘Techniques of Theory and Analysis’), a module in early nineteenth-century music for the first-year ‘History of Music I’, another on late nineteenth-century music for the second-year ‘History of Music II’, optional second- and third-year undergraduate courses on Elgar, Wagner’s Ring, and Britten’s operas, and the compulsory MMus course, ‘Skills in Advanced Musical Studies’. He has also convened the courses in theory and analysis dissertations for third-year undergraduates and MMus students.

Information on his current PhD students and their interests can be found here.