John Harle

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John Harle
Harle in 2001
Harle in 2001
Background information
Born (1956-09-20) 20 September 1956 (age 65)
OriginNewcastle upon Tyne, England
GenresHybrid, Pop, Classical
Years active1973–present
LabelsUniversal, EMI Classics, Decca, Argo, Unicorn-Kanchana, Hannibal, Sospiro
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

John Harle (born 20 September 1956) is an English saxophonist, composer, educator and record producer.[1] He is an Ivor Novello Award winner and has been the recipient of two Royal Television Society awards.


Harle was born in Newcastle upon Tyne. Following his education at the Royal College of Music in London and in Paris with Daniel Deffayet as a French Government Music Scholar, he won the Amcon Award of The American Concert Artists Guild. In his early years, he was a member of the band of composer Michael Nyman and orchestrator for film composer Stanley Myers, expanding from there into scoring for film and television. In the 1990s, he began a career as saxophonist and composer, both artistically and commercially.

He composed the theme tune and music of six series for the BBC TV series Silent Witness[2] and in May 1998 was the castaway on BBC Radio 4's long-running Desert Island Discs programme, with the BBC describing him as "the most-recorded saxophonist in the world".[3]

He was artistic advisor to Paul McCartney for six years, and has collaborated with Elvis Costello, Herbie Hancock and Elmer Bernstein.

In addition to his own prolific recording, Harle has contributed directly or indirectly to a number of charting songs and albums by others.[4] A jingle he wrote for Nissan in 1993 became the basis of a charting pop single by Jazzie B.[clarification needed] His Terror and Magnificence (1996) featured Elvis Costello, Sarah Leonard and Andy Sheppard. He contributed to the charting album Standing Stone (1997) by Paul McCartney.[citation needed]

Harle has also been an educator, serving at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London in the late 1980s as a professor of Saxophone and Chamber Music.[4] He is currently Professor of Saxophone at the Guildhall School.[citation needed]

In 2012 the Royal Television Society awarded Harle its "Music: Original Score" award for his composition for BBC 2's programme Lucian Freud: Painted Life, describing it as "An excellent, challenging and original score that perfectly complements Freud's powerful imagery".[5] It also won the 2013 British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) Ivor Novello Award for "Best Television Soundtrack".[6]

In October 2013 Harle talked on BBC Radio 3's In Tune programme about his recently released album Art Music, the composition of which was inspired by his favourite paintings.[7]

Harle appeared with Marc Almond on BBC Radio 4's Front Row in February 2014 to discuss their collaborative work about Gothic London, The Tyburn Tree (Dark London).[8] Harle was a guest on the same programme in November of that year, to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Adolphe Sax by assessing the contribution of Sax's invention, the saxophone.[9]

Harle has written a reference book, The Saxophone: The Art and Science of Playing and Performing, published in May 2017.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Harle has two sons, writer and curator Matthew Harle, and Mad Decent composer and producer Danny L Harle.[1]


  1. ^ a b Gilbert, Jenny (2 March 1996). "Fantastic read". The Independent. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  2. ^ "John Harle & Marc Almond: The Tyburn Tree featuring Iain Sinclair and Sarah Leonard, 2 March 2014 - 19:30 Hall: Biogs". Barbican Centre. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Desert Island Discs: John Harle". BBC Online. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b Lewis, Uncle Dave. "Artist Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  5. ^ "RTS Announces Winners For Craft & Design Awards 2011/2012". Royal Television Society. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  6. ^ "2013 Winners". The Ivors. Archived from the original on 28 June 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Matthew Barley, Brook Street Band, John Harle". BBC Online. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  8. ^ "Marc Almond and John Harle; Willy Russell on Liverpool's Everyman Theatre; Gary Shteyngart". BBC Online. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  9. ^ "Interstellar, Nick Hornby, John Harle, Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes". BBC Online. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  10. ^ Harle, John (1 May 2017). The Saxophone: The Art and Science of Playing and Performing. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0571539628.

External links[edit]