John Hails

John Hails

Dr John Hails

Senior Lecturer


John Hails is a Senior Lecturer and Reader in Music at Edinburgh Napier University, where he teaches aesthetics, music psychology, composition, and ethnomusicology. He began his training at Durham University and the University of Huddersfield. He returned to Durham to read for a PhD by Portfolio of Compositions with Fabrice Fitch, which he received in 2008. His teachers have included Nicholas Bannen, Paul Archbold, Deidre Gribben, Christopher Fox, and Fabrice Fitch, but over the course of his training he was also taught by Brian Ferneyhough, Richard Barrett, Michael Finnissy, and Stuart Macrae amongst others.

John’s music has been performed by the Orlando Consort, the London Sinfonietta, Heather Roche, Sarah Watts, Nicholas Ashton, and Yan Lim. It has been performed in the Purcell Room, South Bank; at the 2008 Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, Darmstadt; at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival; commissioned by the Friends of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music for the 2001 festival; and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. At present, he is focusing on a series of chamber works exploiting various unorthodox intonations and developing fixed media and installation (real and virtual) work.

In addition to composition, John presents ideas about aesthetics, notation, and ethnomusicology at conferences within the UK and further afield, focusing on marginal and alienated/alienating musical practices within the art music of the last hundred years.

Research Areas




Fellowships and Awards

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize (2002) First Prize
  • UK & Eire Composition Platform (2002) Finalist


Grant Reviewer

  • Reviewer for The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland


Invited Speaker

  • Music from the Perspective of Globalization (MUSICA PRATICA, MUSICA THEORETICA XI), Akademia Muzynczna im. I. J. Paderewskiego w Poznaniu, Poznań, Poland, 8th April 2014. ‘Harry Partch as Maker of Multicultural Artefacts; Harry Partch as Maker of Supracul
  • Music and shared imaginaries: nationalisms, communities, and choral singing. Aveiro University, Portugal, 1st November 2014. ‘Performing the Scratch Orchestra's Nature Study Notes: creating and exploring a third sphere through improvised communal action’.
  • The Engine Room Conference (A celebration of the life, works and legacy of Cornelius Cardew), 11th December 2011. ‘Maps and tracings, tree root and branch; relationships between single works in Cardew’s oeuvre.’
  • University of Edinburgh, Guest Lecture series, 29th September 2011. ‘Analysing the music of Harry Partch; why should we, and how should we?’
  • London Conference of Critical Thought, UCL, 27/06/2015. ‘Let’s kill the audience: a manifesto for art music in the 21st century’.
  • International Conference of Music Since 1900, Glasgow University, 8th September 2015. ‘Shadows of Sonatas in the Prisons of Invention: New perspectives on formal structures in Ferneyhough’s works of the 1980s’.
  • Word Event: a verbal notation symposium, Bath Spa University, 21st September 2011. ‘”That was great, but it wasn’t Stockhausen!”; Issues of authenticity and performance practice in text notation of Karlheinz Stockhausen.’


Media Activity

  • Article (Who Should We Thank for the Revival of Experimental Music?), The Conversation


Public Engagement Activity

  • Performance: For Philip Guston (included performances in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and St James Artspace) 2013
  • The Dark Precursor: International Conference on Deleuze and Artistic Research 2015, Orpheus Institute, Ghent, Belgium, 11th November 2015. ‘Ceci n’est pas la musique; laying the groundwork for schizoanalyses of the musical act’.
  • Installation: Memories of You (Edinburgh Festival Fringe) 2011
  • Public performances (Music for the Galleries – included performances at all Scottish National Gallery venues) 2011-14



  • Reviewer for Journal of Arts and Communities



18 results

Sleepwalkers, Beware: Towards a Post-Structuralist Critique of Popular Music in Higher Education

Book Chapter
Moir, Z., & Hails, J. (2019)
Sleepwalkers, Beware: Towards a Post-Structuralist Critique of Popular Music in Higher Education. In Z. Moir, B. Powell, & G. Dylan Smith (Eds.), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Education: Perspectives and PracticesLondon and New York: Bloomsbury Publishing
No abstract available.


Hails, J. (2016)
enlightenment. London, UK
Musical work for solo or duo microtonal trumpet(s) and fixed media.

Nine for ones in nine: a schizophrenic cyborg love story.

Presentation / Conference
Hails, J. (2016, April)
Nine for ones in nine: a schizophrenic cyborg love story. Paper presented at Edinburgh Napier Staff Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland
By appropriating the images of the schizophrenic and the cyborg from Deleuze and Guattari, and from Donna Haraway respectively, this paper seeks to discuss the relationship be...

for one

Hails, J. (2016)
for one. Print manuscript in the possession of the composer
Musical work (duration 19') for oneunspecified melodic sustaining instrument. Work employs specific tuning related to just intervals.

for three

Hails, J. (2015)
for three. Print manuscript in possession of composer
Musical work (duration 41') for three unspecified melodic sustaining instruments. Work employs specific tuning related to just intervals.

Performing the Scratch Orchestra's Nature Study Notes: creating and exploring a third sphere through improvised communal action.

Conference Proceeding
Hails, J. (2014)
Performing the Scratch Orchestra's Nature Study Notes: creating and exploring a third sphere through improvised communal action
In June 2014, a disparate group of trained and untrained performers gathered together at the Chisenhale Dance Space to perform items from the Scratch Orchestra’s 1969 Nature S...


Hails, J. (2014)
Work for solo harp with optional fixed media. Written for harpist Milana Zaric to play and dedicated to the memory of the poet Simon Howard. First performance on 24th March 20...


Hails, J. (2014)
Sh. Edinburgh, Scotland
Sh is a work for solo guitar that lasts around three minutes.

Pied Beauty.

Hails, J. (2014)
Pied Beauty. Edinburgh, Scotland
Composition for soprano and two scordatura violas (alternatively, for soprano and stereo fixed media playback)


Hails, J. (2012)
EMG. Edinburgh, Scotland
Work for solo piano requested and first performed by Nicholas Ashton. This work samples vertical chord structures from an earlier piece for piano (EVEN MORE GEESE), which itse...

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