David Nicholls (musicologist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

David Nicholls (musicologist and composer) (born in 1955,[1] Small Heath, Birmingham, United Kingdom) is a British musicologist and composer. From 2000 through 2013 he was Professor of Music at the University of Southampton. Subsequently (having become entirely disenchanted with the UK's tertiary educational system) he took early retirement and was awarded the title of Emeritus Professor of Music, though he later relinquished this post. From 1987 to 2000 he was Professor of Music and sometime Research Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Keele University. Between 1984 and 1987 Nicholls was Keasbey Fellow in American Studies at Selwyn College, Cambridge; in 1998 he spent an extended semester at The College of William and Mary in Virginia, USA, as Visiting Professor of Music. During his academic career Nicholls gave many presentations--both refereed and guest--in North America, France, Germany, Mexico, Australia, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

He is a former editor of the journal American Music (2000–2005). Until 2000 Nicholls was also active as a composer, and his works were performed and broadcast in the United Kingdom, Europe, America, Australia, and South Africa.[2]


Nicholls was a pupil at St. Benedict's Primary School, in Small Heath, Birmingham, and subsequently King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys, in King's Heath. He then read Music at St. John's College, Cambridge, and graduated with a first.[3] In 1986 he completed a Ph.D. at Cambridge, under the supervision of the distinguished British composer Hugh Wood, with a thesis on the compositional techniques of Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, John Cage, and other experimental composers.

Major Compositions[edit]

  • Stars and Distances 1977-78; revised 1981 (16 solo voices, optional electronics)
  • Three Empson Songs 1978-79 (soprano, clarinet, percussion)
  • Reflections and Refractions 1978 (flute, clarinet, piano, string trio)
  • Pleiades 1979-80 (three groups of instruments)
  • ... with which to open ... and ... with which to close ... 1982 (soprano, clarinet, piano)
  • Competitive Strategies 2 1982 (oboe)
  • The Giant's Heart 1983 (mimes/dancers/puppets/actors, optional tape)
  • Chi 1983, revised 1987-88 (dancer, percussionist, live electronics)
  • Carol 1983 (8 voices, organ, bells)
  • Seascape 1984 (strings, harp, celesta, 4 percussion)
  • Gonepteryx rhamni 1985 (clarinet, piano)
  • Siva Dances 1985
  • ... whisperings upon leaves ... 1986 (soprano, 10 instruments)
  • Mosaic 1986 (flute, clarinet, piano, vibraphone, violin, violoncello)
  • In the Cage 1986 (singing/speaking recorder player, optional assistant/tape)
  • 2 Japanese Miniatures 1988-89 (8 players)
  • Largo e Piano 1989 (14 players)
  • Winter landscape with skaters and birdtrap 1989-90 (string quartet)
  • Several Elephants 1989-90 (soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, trombone/bass saxophone)
  • Cantata: Jerusalem 1990-91 (soprano, 2 mixed choruses, 2 wind & percussion bands)
  • Sam Bam and the House in the Sky 1994-95 (children's musical for voices and instruments)
  • Lily's Birds 1996 (a musical story for children; string quartet and narrator)
  • Songs of the Spirit 1998 (SATB chorus)
  • Tears 1998 (soprano, clarinet, piano)


  • Nicholls, David (1991 [1990]). American Experimental Music 1890–1940. Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42464-X
  • Nicholls, David, ed. (1997). The Whole World of Music: A Henry Cowell Symposium. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Press. ISBN 90-5755-003-2
  • Nicholls, David, ed. (1998). The Cambridge History of American Music. Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-45429-8
  • Nicholls, David, ed. (2002), The Cambridge Companion to John Cage, Cambridge University Press, ISBN


Personal life[edit]

Since 1984 Nicholls has been married to the writer and educator Tamar Hodes, with whom he has two children: Benjamin (born 1987) and Daisy (born 1990). Since retiring, Nicholls has spent his time primarily engaged in activities rendered impossible during his working life: gardening, cooking, reading non-academic literature, and building a large-scale model railway.


External links[edit]