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

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


Grant Reviewer

  • Reviewer for The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland


Invited Speaker

  • 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.’
  • 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’.
  • 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.’
  • 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’.
  • 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’.


Media Activity

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


Public Engagement Activity

  • Public performances (Music for the Galleries – included performances at all Scottish National Gallery venues) 2011-14
  • 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
  • Performance: For Philip Guston (included performances in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and St James Artspace) 2013



  • Reviewer for Journal of Arts and Communities


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