Oxford has a new Professor of Composition

Oxford has a new Professor of Composition


norman lebrecht

October 01, 2021

Press release:

The Faculty of Music is delighted to announce the appointment of Jennifer Walshe as the new Professor of Composition in association with Worcester College.  Professor Walshe’s research output is widely seen as trailblazing in the overlapping fields of composition, performance, video and text, resulting in works for orchestras and ensembles; musical compositions created and disseminated by, through and ‘about’ the internet; a host of new projects created using artificial intelligence; and a completely fictional history of avant-garde music and art in Ireland. The radical nature of Professor Walshe’s work has meant that it defies categorization within the contemporary classical music world; her work is equally heralded at the Darmstadt Summer Courses; the Bang on a Can Music Marathon in New York; concert halls such as the Wiener Konzerthaus and the Teatro Farnese; and festivals ranging from the Proms to All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Personal bio: “The most original compositional voice to emerge from Ireland in the past 20 years” (The Irish Times) and “Wild girl of Darmstadt” (Frankfurter Rundschau), composer and performer Jennifer Walshe was born in Dublin, Ireland. Her music has been commissioned, broadcast and performed all over the world. She has been the recipient of fellowships and prizes from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York, the DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm, the Internationales Musikinstitut, Darmstadt and Akademie Schloss Solitude among others. Recent projects include TIME TIME TIME, an opera written in collaboration with the philosopher Timothy Morton, and THE SITE OF AN INVESTIGATION, a 30-minute epic for Walshe’s voice and orchestra, commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland.


  • Gary Freer says:

    nice to see Glam Rock making a comeback

  • La plus belle voix says:

    Great news. Hope to encounter more scores like this one:


    Emotionally moving moment at 11:55 in the video.

  • John Borstlap says:

    “Walshe has written a large number of operas and theatrical works, including XXX_LIVE_NUDE_GIRLS!!! an opera for Barbie dolls, and TIME TIME TIME, with the philosopher Timothy Morton, which the Wire described as ‘a sprawling opus that spans the history of the planet… like Robert Ashley meets Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life'”.

    A very confused girl:




    … whose ‘works’ are the result of juvenile romanticized modernity, which is always greatly helped by ignorance. Thriving on the wave of liberation from sense, today such charlatans get the time of their lives.

    What’s going-on in Oxford? Another virus?

  • John Borstlap says:

    What kind of ‘composers’ will she produce? those who will be welcomed by the classical music concert world? This merely deepens the abyss between academia and music life.

  • sam says:

    Composition has no place in academia. Students learn to compose to please their teachers in the department in order to get that precious degree, which becomes an end in itself.

    If a young Philip Glass had put his early scores up for analysis, he would’ve certainly failed out of those obscurantist harmony and counterpoint classes favored by academic theorists, and his voice would’ve been suffocated by them.

    • John Borstlap says:

      In that case, wouldn’t that have been better?

      On another note: academic training in composition only developed in the course of the 19th century when music got codified and a subject of scientific interest. Academia has had the twofold influence of limiting individual talent to its own horizon, and unintentionally firing-off great talents into opposite directions. Thanks to a very academic education, Debussy calmly broke all academic taboos in one go and opened a world of artistic possibilities.

      • V. Lind says:

        Sorry — some of us can appreciate Glass. Don’t be so spiteful, just because he has had more international success (umm…a lot of people like the music) and still presented an original voice, but with clear comprehension of the shoulders on which he stands.

        • John Borstlap says:

          ‘If it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art’ (Arnold Schoenberg). One of the few sayings I agree with. The number of people liking something says nothing about its qualities. Glass is clever kitsch, nothing more. It comes from the USA where public taste is, let us say, tolerant.

        • Gus says:

          V. Lind, is this comment replying to sam?

          It seems to me that sam’s comment is supportive of Glass, not spiteful towards him. It’s critical of the limiting environment of an academic institution. Read it again?

        • squagmogleur says:

          What’s original about arpeggios ?

    • Squagmogleur says:

      “……his voice would have been suffocated by them”. If only……..

    • Squagmogleur says:

      “….his voice would have been suffocated by them”. If only……..

    • Peter San Diego says:

      John Cage studied with Arnold Schoenberg (at UCLA) but emerged unstifled. For better or worse, depending on your taste.

  • Timon says:

    The only music worse than most of pop is nearly all of contemporary art-music, that can’t be easy to achieve.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Contemporary art-music spans an enormous range from neo-Romanticism to… well, to a large variety of antipodes. It seems like using an unjustifiably broad brush to characterize “nearly all” of it as worse than most pop.

    • John Borstlap says:

      That is why young composers receive a thorough training at academia, to be able to achieve that level.

  • Contemporary music but not Walshe fan says:

    I’m not adverse to avant-garde music and as a listener familiar with, say, Berio’s works for Cathy Berberian, I have nothing against Walshe’s music qua music. But on top of that music Walshe puts a lot of inane sociocultural references and repeatedly turns the attention to her own self in a way that is frankly bonkers. I remember watching one video work of hers and thinking “This woman is not well”, which is not a reaction any other contemporary composer has ever given me.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But there is an essential precondition to be a modern artist or composer: you must not be well at all, either you must suffer from unbearable war trauma (Stockhausen, Xenakis), or got entangled into a suicide pact that went wrong (Boulez), or get into devastating low life saturated with alcohol, violence and sex (Francis Bacon), or suffer from identity trauma (Salvador Dali), or being mentally deranged (Tracey Emin) to enter into the wide realm of mental destruction. You can easily hear and see that in the products but since many people see this as a cause for celebration and cultivation, it has become a convention, like the lives of rock musicians. The celebration of destruction and nihilism gives people confirmation that their private life experience is not an exceptional individual mishap to be ashamed about.

  • Inversio Cancrizans says:

    A great day for Jennifer Walshe!
    A great day for Oxford!
    A great day for art!

  • John Borstlap says:

    Oh how I love this! A victory over all those old fogies who suppress us with their silly ideas & privileges & cannons that have to be preserved and stuff. I loved the barbie doll opera & look forward to new generations who write something really good & uplifting!


  • Freewheeler says:

    Ha ha! Oxford, you losers!

  • Warren stutely says:

    So often “radical” means pop simplicity/dumbing down middle class bull shit !!! For Christ’s sake leave serious music alone !!!