Dr James Donaldson

Subject: Music

Department: Music

Academic position: Lecturer I in Music


James Donaldson is a music theorist whose interests centre on the theory and analysis of twentieth- 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. 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 primarily teaches modules in music analysis.


“Sketching Musical Meaning? Case Studies from Ligeti’s Late Works” Journal of Musicology 41/3 (2024)

“Kaleidoscopic Topics in the Music of György Ligeti and Thomas Adès” Music Theory Online 30/2 (2024)

“Second-Order Topics and Prokofiev’s String Quartets” Music Analysis 42/2, 227–261 (2023)

“Sketching between the Chorale and Sound Mass in Ligeti’s Hamburg Concerto” Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung 35, 38–43 (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)