Julian Johnson

Julian Johnson

Professor, Regius Professor of Music

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Personal profile

Research interests

Julian Johnson joined the Music Department of Royal Holloway in 2007, having previously been Reader in Music and Fellow in Music at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford (2001–7), and Lecturer in Music at the University of Sussex (1992-2001).

He has published widely on issues in music history and the aesthetics of music across the broad period of musical modernity from the late 18th century to the present. His work is always shaped by questions of musical meaning, evident in an engagement with the philosophy of music, ideas of nature and landscape, and the relation of music to literature and visual art. He was, for many years, an active composer receiving professional performances and broadcasts in Europe, the USA and Japan, a background that continues to shape the way he pursues musicological work. In 2013-15 he held a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust to pursue a project entitled ‘Music, Language and Voice in French Musical Thought’ which explores music from Debussy to IRCAM in relation to French philosophy.

In addition to articles in academic journals and over thirty chapters in edited volumes, he has written six books and edited two others, on topics including musical aesthetics, music analysis, composition, Adorno, Beethoven, Berg, Delius, Harvey, Hegel, Hoffmann, Klimt, Kraus, Macmillan, Mahler, Modernism, Proust, Schoenberg, Schumann and Webern. His 2015 book, Out of Time: Music and the Making of Modernity (New York: Oxford University Press) reads against the grain of style history to propose that the whole of music history, from the late 16th century to the late 20th, might be better understood through the lens of ‘modernity’. His 2020 book, After Debussy. Music, Language, and the Margins of Philosophy (New York: Oxford University Press) explores the idea that music's embodied thinking in sound offers a critical counterpart to modern philosophy's self-critique of the limits of abstract language.

In addition to being a regular invited speaker at international academic conferences, Julian is also committed to fostering a wider public understanding of music. To that end he has been a frequent guest on BBC Radio 3 and on the BBC TV coverage of the Proms, and for the last 25 years has regularly given public talks for leading orchestras and opera companies (including the Royal Opera, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Opera, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the South Bank Centre, and the London Sinfonietta). He has twice acted as Series Consultant to the Philharmonia Orchestra, in 2009 for City of Dreams: Vienna 1900-35 (cond. Esa-Pekka Salonen) and in 2011 for the Complete Mahler Cycle (cond. Lorin Maazel).

In 2005 he was awarded the Dent Medal of the Royal Musical Association for ‘outstanding contributions to musicology’ and, in 2013, became the holder of the first Regius Chair in Music established as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In 2017 he was elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy.