Academic Staff Directory

Professor Robert Sholl

Academic school:
Job title:
Higher qualifications:

BMus (Melbourne), MMus (King's College, London), PhD (King's College, London), FRCO (Chm), ARCM, Grad Dip (St-Maur), FHEA

Professional organisations:
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)


Robert Sholl studied in Melbourne, Paris and London. He is a Professor at the University of West London and teaches at The Royal Academy of Music. Robert holds a PhD from King’s College, London, and he has taught at King’s College, London, the Royal College of Music.

Robert's research interests have focused on the music of Olivier Messiaen and Arvo Pärt, but he has also published on a wide range of twentieth-century music including that of Stravinsky, Adams, Birtwistle, Ferneyhough and Berio including a recent contribution on Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, Messiaen, and Berio in Thresholds of Listening ed. Sander van Maas (Fordham, 2015). This body of work synthesises Philosophy and Critical Theory (in particular the work of Adorno, Deleuze, Nancy, Marion, and Žižek), Lacanian Psychoanalysis, Somatic theory (in particular the work of Mosche Feldenkrais), Film music, Listening theory, Theology, Musical Analysis and Performance.

He has recently been given permission to translate the theoretical writing of the French composer Jean-Louis Florentz (1947-2004), whose life’s work was primarily concerned with ethnomusicology (principally Ethiopian chant). Robert is the editor of Messiaen Studies (CUP, 2007), Contemporary Music and Spirituality (Ashgate, 2016), and is involved in a number of forthcoming publications on the music of Messiaen and Arvo Pärt, including a new commissioned biography for Reaktion press’s Critical Lives series.

Robert has presented papers at AMS (twice, most recently in 2014), the RCM and RAM, Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Brown, Oxford, Boston, Leuven, Hong Kong, and Melbourne Universities. He has also organised four conferences at the Southbank Centre (on Contemporary Music and Spirituality, Pärt, Boulez, and Messiaen).

Robert has been a peer-reviewer for the AHRC, the Canadian Social Sciences Research Council, for academic journals and university presses, and a jury member for a promotions committee at the University of Aix-en Provence. He was the external examiner for the revalidation of UG and PG programmes at Trinity Laban (2005).


Robert has a burgeoning reputation as an organist. He studied with Olivier Latry (Notre-Dame de Paris). In 2004 he gave concerts at La Madeleine, St Paul's Cathedral and in the Festival de l’Art Sacrée at the Cathedral of St-Malo in Brittany. In 2006 he again gave a concert at La Madeleine, and at Notre-Dame de Paris. Recent highlights have included completing Messiaen's major organ cycles, two improvisation concerts, one with readings (Claudel’s Le Chemin de la Croix) and an improvisation (on the piano) to films in the Ealing festival. Forthcoming concerts will be at Westminster Abbey (December 2015), which includes an improvisation, and at Notre-Dame de Paris (July 2017). In 2016-17, Robert will perform the complete organ works of Messiaen at Arundel Cathedral.


Notre-Dame (June 2017)
Haileybury School (2016): Messiaen Livre d’Orgue and Méditations sur le Mystère de la Sainte-Trinité
Olivier Messiaen: Complete Organ works at Arundel Cathedral from April 2016.
Westminster Abbey (December 2015)


Research and scholarly output:


2016. Editor (with Sander van Maas (Amsterdam University): Contemporary Music and Spirituality (Ashgate Press), Author: 'Searching for the Elusive Obvious: Memory, Forgiveness, Transcendence, Catharsis, and Redemption in Contemporary Spiritual Music' (on Adams, Birtwistle and Ferneyhough), Author (with Sander van Maas): ‘Topics and Issues in Contemporary Spiritual Music: an Introduction’. (in press)

2015. Article: 'Stop it, I like it! Stop it, I like it!  Masochism, Embodiment, and Listening for Traumatic Pleasure', Thresholds of Listening, ed. Sander van Maas (New York: Fordham University Press, 2014), 153-74. (On Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps, Messiaen’s St François d’Assise, and Berio’s Visages).

2012. Article: 'Arvo Pärt and Spirituality', The Cambridge Companion to Arvo Pärt, ed. Andrew Shenton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 140-58.

2012. Review: Stephen Schloesser, Jazz-Age Catholicism: Mystic Modernism in Postwar Paris 1919-1933, Music and Letters, Vol. 93 No. 1 (February 2012), 106-10.

2012. Review: Marcel Cobussen's Thresholds: Rethinking Spirituality Through Music, Music and Letters, Vol. 93 No. 1 (February, 2012), 90-3.

2011. Article: ‘The Shock of the Positive: Olivier Messiaen, St Francis and Redemption through Modernity’, Resonant Witness: Conversations between Music and Theology, ed. Jeremy Begbie and Steve Guthrie (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 162-89. (also published in De Gids below).

2010. Article: 'Olivier Messiaen and the Avant-garde poetics of the Messe de la Pentecôte' in Olivier Messiaen: Theologian ed. Shenton (Ashgate, 2009), 199-222.

2008. Article: 'De schok van het positieve', in Hemel en Aarde: special edition of De Gids (a Dutch culture and literature journal) for the Holland Festival 2008, 640-65.

2008. Article: 'The Shock of the Positive: Messiaen Modernity and God', The Music of Olivier Messiaen From the Canyons to the Stars, Southbank Souvenir Festival Book, 18-19.

2007. Editor: Messiaen Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Article: 'Love, Mad Love, and the Point Sublime: The Surrealist Poetics of Messiaen’s Harawi', 34-62.

2007. Article: 'Making the Invisible Visible: The Theology, Culture and Practice of Olivier Messiaen’s Improvisations',

2007. Review: Alan Fraser's The Craft of Piano Playing (ML, February 2007). 

1997. Transcriptions: 'Interludes 1 and 2', Lindsay O’Neill, ed., Musical Miniatures: Nineteen pieces by A. E. Floyd (Kevin Mayhew, 1997), 6-10.

1996. Review-Article: 'Qu’est-ce qu’il se passe', The Musical Times, 37-41.

1996. Interview: 'À l’ombre de Notre-Dame', with Olivier Latry (Titulaire des Grandes Orgues de Notre-Dame de Paris), The Musical Times, 36-40.

1996. Review-Article: 'Deutchland über alles?', The Musical Times, 40-1.

1996. Review-Article: 'Lyric and Dynamic', The Musical Times, 42-3.

1996. Review-Article: 'The True Way?', The Musical Times, 35-7.




September 2015. Convenor: RMA conference session on Arvo Pärt, Paper: 'Arvo Pärt and Interiority: inside the mirror'.

June 2015. Paper: ‘Lacan, Feldenkrais and Gould: how to love thyself, but not as thy neighbour’, (Re-)stroring performance conference, Bath Spa University.

May 2015. Paper: 'Arvo Pärt and Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11', Oxford University.

March 2015. Programme note: Westminster Abbey performance for Arvo Pärt’s Passio.

February 2015. Recital: Improvisations to Films by James Sibley Watson (Ealing Film Festival).

2014. Jury Member: University of Aix-en-Provence.

2014. Paper: ‘On the organ as God’s Mouthpiece’ (AMS Milwaukee).

2014. Interviewed for BBC Radio 3 Sunday Feature: ‘Educating Isaac’.

2014. Paper: 'How do you like your counterpoint, Sir? Music pedagogy beyond therapy', Leuven EUROMAC conference.

July 2014. Conference Organiser: 'Jean-Louis Florentz: visions d’ailleurs', IMR, University of London. Paper: 'Jean-Louis Florentz: spectral musician of an imaginary organ'.

March 2014. Conference Organiser: ‘Visions of the Beyond: French organ music around Olivier Messiaen Southbank centre, March 29, 2014. Paper: 'Olivier Messiaen and Jean-Louis Florentz: vibrations harmoniques'.

November 2013. Lecture-recital: ‘Olivier Messiaen: the organ as the God's mouthpiece’, RAM Dukes hall.

March 2013. Conference Organiser: Music and Pedagogy, Conference atInstitute of Musical Research, London University. (HEA and RAM funding awarded).

February 2013. Paper: ‘Catholicism and Catharsis: The Sublime, the Apocalyptic and Ecstasy in the Music of Charles Tournemire and Olivier Messiaen’, FMCS Conference, Yale University. (RAM and UWL funding awarded).

March 2012. Paper: 'Arvo Pärt: Embodiment - Enchantment - Transcendence', Music and the Body Conference at Hong Kong University. (RAM funding awarded).

September 2011. Conference Organiser: ‘Pierre Boulez in Context’, Southbank Centre. Paper: ‘Rites of Passage: Messiaen and Boulez on Le Sacre du Printemps’.

June 2011. Paper: ‘D’Après Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre: Opera, satire and Cultural Cannibalism’, Harvard Screen-Satires conference (dept of Comparative Literature), (RAM funding awarded).

September 2010. Conference Organiser: Arvo Pärt: Soundtrack of an Age, Southbank Centre. Paper: ‘Pärt’s Soundtrack of an Age: Diagnosis, Post-Mortem and Obituary of Modernity’.

March 2010. Paper: ‘Minimalism, Icons and Interiority’, paper at the Boston International Arvo Pärt conference, (RAM funding awarded).

October 2008. Paper: ‘Representation and Naïveté in Messiaen’s Première Communion de la Vierge’, paper at the Messiaen Conference at the RAM.

June, 2008. Paper: ‘The Avant-garde and Beauty: Messiaen’s theological aesthetics in the Messe de la Pentecôte’ (Birmingham International Messiaen conference, June, 2008).

May 2008. Paper: ‘Olivier Messiaen: Church Musician’, given at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music.

February 2008. Conference organiser: Contemporary Music and Spirituality, London Southbank Centre (February 1-2, 2008).  Participant in a roundtable discussion at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the Quatuor pour la fin du Temps, 3 February 2008.

October 2007. ‘Olivier Messiaen, the Avant-garde, and the Messe de la Pentecôte’, Boston University Messiaen Project Conference.
‘The Shock of the Positive: Olivier Messiaen, St Francis, and Redemption through Modernity’, Cogut Centre for the Humanities, Brown University (FRC funding awarded). Paper read at KCL in March, 2008.

June 2007. ‘Searching for the Elusive Obvious: Memory, Forgiveness, Transcendence, Catharsis, and Redemption’, Contemporary Music and Spirituality Conference, University of Amsterdam

January 2007. ‘The Shock of the Positive: Olivier Messiaen, St Francis, and Redemption through Modernity’, The Royal College of Music.

November 2005. ‘Making the Invisible Visible: The Culture, Theology, and Realisation of Olivier Messiaen’s Improvisations’, AMS Washington DC.

June 2005. ‘Staticism and ‘Tonality’ in the Music of Olivier Messiaen’, Dublin International Music Analysis Conference.

May 2005. ‘Music and Faith in the Age of Aquarius’, Chair of a Seminar at the London Festival of Contemporary Music (May 2005).

February 2005. ‘Messiaen, St Francis and Redemption through Modernity’, FMCS conference at Princeton University.

October 2004. ‘Making the Invisible Visible: The Culture, Theology, and Realisation of Olivier Messiaen’s Improvisations’, RMA/AHRB Study Day on Musical Improvisation at SOAS, University of London.

July 2004. 'The Surrealist poetics of Messiaen’s Harawi', International Symposium on French Music at Melbourne University.

Nov. 2002. Organiser of conference/workshop on Music and Health at King’s College, London.

June 2002. ‘Olivier Messiaen and Redemption through Modernism’, International Messiaen conference (Sheffield University).

September 2001. Organiser of a Conference at King’s College London on the Music of Charles Tournemire. Paper: ‘Messiaen, Tournemire and the Culture of Redemption through Modernism’.


Research degree supervision:



Role in team

Thesis title

Chris Stanbury Second supervisor A survey of recorded electronic organ playing 1943-2005 with reference to technological mediation in performance style and practice.
Christina Vinson Principal supervisor The Pan-American Association of Composers (1928-1934).