Dr James Donaldson

Subject: Music

Department: Music

Academic position: Lecturer II in Music


James Donaldson is a music theorist whose interests centre on the theory and analysis of twentieth-century and twenty-first-century music. His primary research explores issues of musical meaning primarily through the lens of musical topics and he has further interests in early Parisian surrealism and spectralism. In addition to presenting at conferences across Europe and North America, he has published articles in Twentieth-Century Music, Music Theory Online, Tempo, and Music Theory Spectrum. He previously studied at Christ Church, Oxford and King’s College, London before receiving his PhD in Music Theory from McGill University in 2021. At Oxford he teaches modules in music analysis.


“Sketching between the Chorale and Sound Mass in Ligeti’s Hamburg ConcertoMitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung 35 (2023)

“Living Toys in Thomas Adès’s Living Toys: Transforming the Post-Tonal Topic” Music Theory Spectrum 44/1, 155–172 (2022).

“Topics, Double Coding, and Form Functionality in Thomas Adès’s Piano Quintet” Tempo 75/298, 41–51 (2021).

“Melody on the Threshold in Spectral Music” Music Theory Online 27/2 (2021).

“Reading the Musical Surreal through Poulenc’s Fifth Relations” Twentieth-Century Music 17/2, 127–160 (2020).