Robert Sholl is a Professor of Music at the University of West London and teaches at the Royal Academy of Music
Robert’s publications on twentieth-century music include Messiaen Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2007), and Contemporary Music and Spirituality (Routledge, 2017) edited with Sander van Maas. He is editor (with George Parsons) of James MacMillan Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2020), editor of Olivier Messiaen in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2022), and author of a forthcoming monograph on Messiaen for Reaktion press’s Critical Lives series.
In 2022 he contributed to ‘The Sacred Music Podcast’ on the music of Messiaen. He has forthcoming articles on Messiaen and Jean-Louis Florentz in The Oxford Handbook to Spectralism (2022) and on Charles Tournemire in Art, Music, and Mysticism in the Long Nineteenth Century, ed. Corrinne Chong and Michelle Foot (Routledge). He has written on Stravinsky (Le Sacre du printemps), John Adams, Luciano Berio, Harrison Birtwistle, Brian Ferneyhough, and Arvo Pärt. His research interests include twentieth and twenty-first century music, critical theory and philosophy, musical analysis, performance, improvisation, somatic techniques (especially The Feldenkrais Method), Music and Psychoanalysis, Music and Spirituality, listening, and film music.
Robert has organised four conferences at the Southbank centre and was recently the artistic director for the Royal College of Organists’ London Forum, which was a celebration of Messiaen’s work. He has given papers at the Universities of Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Cambridge, Oxford, London, Amsterdam, Boston, McGill, Fordham, Hong Kong, Melbourne, The Royal Academy of Music, The Royal College of Music, at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama for their conference on The Phantom of the Opera, three times at the American Musicological Society Conferences (Washington, Milwaukee and Boston), twice at EUROMAC (Leuven and Strasbourg), at IRCAM, and EPARM (2022). Robert has been an academic referee for major University Presses, Trinity Laban, has worked as consultant for the University of Aix-en-Provence, and has tutored for The Royal College of Organists. In 2021 he was an invited jury member for the Fundación BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Awards. He is also a council member of the Guild of Church Musicians and a member of the Academic Board of the Royal College of Organists. In April 2022 he gave a lecture for the RCO on French Organ music 1920-2000, available on iRCO.
Robert is a trained Feldenkrais Practitioner and in 2019 he published a study of the Method and musical performance in the Journal of the Royal Musical Association entitled: “Feldenkrais’s touch, Ephram’s laughter, Gould’s sensorium: listening and musical practice between thinking and doing.” He is also the editor of The Feldenkrais Method in Creative Practice: Dance, Music and Theatre (Bloomsbury, 2021), which contains a separate study of Feldenkrais’s work, psychoanalysis and Glenn Gould. As a result of this work he recently examined Artistic Research in the Feldenkrais Method at the department of music and dance at UNIARTS in Stockholm, and was an invited speaker at the Feldenkrais World Summit entitled ‘Never stop: The artistry of self-care and creativity for lifelong embodied performance’.
Robert studied the organ with Olivier Latry (Notre-Dame de Paris). In 2016-17 he performed all of the organ works of Messiaen at Arundel Cathedral.
In 2021-23 he will play all of the Vierne organ symphonies together with major works of Tournemire and chamber music and songs, as well as the complete organ works of Maurice Duruflé. Robert has played at St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St John’s, Smith Square, and twice both at the Madeleine and at Notre-Dame de Paris. In May 2021 he gave recitals at Southwark Cathedral and at Exeter College, Oxford, which included this improvisation.
Improvisation has become a regular part of Robert’s recitals and he has released improvisations to silent films: James Sibley Watson’s and Melville Webber’s The Fall of the House of Usher (for which he published a companion article in Perspective of New Music in 2020), Rupert Julian’s The Phantom of the Opera (Unmasking Scene), which was shown at The Barbican Centre in 2017, and a live recording of Maria’s dance from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. He has also released improvisations to two films by Georges Méliès: the fairy-tale films Le Voyage dans la lune (1902) and Le Rêve de Noël (1900). In 2021-22 he will be collaborating with Dr. Leslie McMurtry (University of Salford) to create the first radio dramatisation of Phantom, for which he has written and recorded three songs and an opera scene using a period piano and straight voices (available on The Shattered Podcast and Apple Podcasts). At the Academy, Robert teaches an undergraduate year 3/4 elective on improvisation to silent film.
Robert has recorded Les ombres du Phantôm, a set of fourteen improvisations that act as thematic shadows of Gaston Leroux’s novel Le Phantôm de l’Opéra (1910). They shadow the narrative, themes, characters and events of the book. The improvisations were recorded using the organs of Coventry and Arundel Cathedrals, some with soprano and saxophone/bass clarinet. They use an invented musical language, and explore the acoustics of those buildings, the gesture and the materiality of the instruments in physical, spiritual and sonic space that is enhanced and extended through recording technology and electronic augmentations.
Edited book: Messiaen in Context, Cambridge University Press, Three Articles: “Introduction: The Image of Messiaen,” “Oliver Messiaen and Jacques Charpentier,” “Olivier Messiaen: Surrealist.” French - English translations of three other articles. Forthcoming.
Improvisations: “Les Ombres de Phantom”: improvisations on themes from Gaston Leroux’s Phantom de l’Opera. Forthcoming.
Article: “Jean Louis Florentz and Spectralism,” The Oxford Handbook to Music and Spectralism, ed. Amy Bauer, Liam Cagney and and Will Mason. Forthcoming.
Article: “Olivier Messiaen: Spectralist,” The Oxford Handbook to Music and Spectralism, ed. Amy Bauer, Liam Cagney and Will Mason. Forthcoming.
Edited book: The Feldenkrais Method in Creative Practice: Dance, Music and Theatre, Introduction, “Towards an Ability Studies,” 1-14; Article: “Feldenkrais, Freud, Lacan and Gould: How to Love thyself for thy Neighbour,” 38-54 (London: Bloomsbury, 2021).
Article: “James Sibley Watson’s The Fall of the House of Usher: Surrealism - improvisation – complementary serendipities,” Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Winter 2020), 23-69, and based on an Improvisation (recorded at Arundel Cathedral).
Edited Book: James MacMillan Studies ed. George Parsons and Robert Sholl Introduction (with George Parsons), 1-9, and Article: “Exquisite Violence: Imagery, Embodiment and Transformation in MacMillan” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 87-110.
Article: “Feldenkrais’s Touch, Ephram’s Laughter, Gould’s Sensorium: Listening and Musical Practice between Thinking and Doing,” Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Vol. 144, No.2, 397-428.
Article: “Inscapes of Musical Listening: Sensing/Feeling/Imagining,”
Article: “Pärt and the sound of one hand clapping,” Arvo Pärt’s White Light: Media, Culture, Politics ed. Laura Dolp (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 47-73.
Edited Book: Contemporary Music and Spirituality, ed. Robert Sholl and Sander van Maas (London and New York: Routledge, 2017). Introduction: (with van Maas): “What is a Contemporary Spiritual Music,” 1-14, and Article: “Searching for the Elusive Obvious: Memory, Forgiveness, Catharsis,and Transcendence in Contemporary Spiritual Music,” 229-57 (on Adams, Birtwistle, and Ferneyhough).
Article: “Stop it, I like it! Stop it, I like it! Masochism, Embodiment, and Listening for Traumatic Pleasure,” Thresholds of Listening, ed. Sander van Maas (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014), 153-74.
Article: “Arvo Pärt and Spirituality,” The Cambridge Companion to Arvo Pärt, ed. Andrew Shenton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 140-58.
Review: Stephen Schloesser, Jazz-Age Catholicism: Mystic Modernism in Postwar Paris 1919-1933, Music and Letters, Vol. 93, No. 1 (February 2012), 106-10.
Review: Marcel Cobussen’s Thresholds: Rethinking Spirituality Through Music, Music and Letters, Vol. 93 No. 1 (February, 2012), 90-3.
Article: “The Shock of the Positive: Olivier Messiaen, St Francis and Redemption through Modernity,” Resonant Witness: Conversations between Music and Theology, ed. Jeremy Begbie and Steve Guthrie (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 162-89. (also published in De Gids below).
Article: “Olivier Messiaen and the Avant-garde poetics of the Messe de la Pentecôte,” in Olivier Messiaen The Theologian, ed. Shenton (Ashgate, 2009), 199-222.
Article: “De schok van het positieve,” in Hemel en Aarde: special edition of De Gids (a Dutch culture and literature journal) for the Holland Festival 2008, 640-65.
Editor: Messiaen Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2007),