Dr. James Else - Northern School of Contemporary Dance


Head of Postgraduate

PhD in Music (Composition), University of York
Master of Music (Composition) with Merit, Kings College, University of London
Bachelor of Music (Honours) 1st Class, University of Glasgow

Additional qualifications

DipABRSM (Diploma of The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) (Performance, Piano) with Distinction, 2002
(Fellow of the Higher Education Academy) (AdvanceHE Fellow)

Role and responsibilities:

James is responsible for the effective delivery and ongoing development of the postgraduate programmes at NSCD. As part of the management team, he works closely across all NSCD departments to help students and staff thrive in the NSCD environment. James oversees the timetabling provision, alongside chairing the Learning, Teaching & Quality Assurance Committee and the Academic & Estates Resources committee.  He also teaches in the areas of film, music, creative and contextual work.

Who am I?

“I am someone that is drawn to all the possibilities of what ‘the arts’ can be – whether that is in traditional forms, or patterns, games and experiences. For me art offers me a unique lens for seeing the world, trying to make sense of its complexities, and discovering its beauty.

I am someone that is always questioning, trying to unpick the paradoxes and intricacies that dominate the world around us by investigating the edges and classifications that we put on things, when are they helpful, and when they obscure other meanings. Above all, I aim to value everyone as individuals, enjoying the differences that make us unique”


Career History

James is a composer, filmmaker and lecturer. He studied music at the University of Glasgow and King’s College London, before completing a PhD in composition at the University of York with Nicola LeFanu.

James has been involved in contemporary dance since 2005, specialising in its relationships to other art practices both in creative and theoretical fields. Alongside his teaching at NSCD he works as a TV producer primarily for BBC broadcast, including the BAFTA Scotland winning programme The Great Climb and the Scottish Adventure Award-winning series The Adventure Show currently in its 17th series.

He is active as a freelance composer including recent performances by the BBC Philharmonic (as part of their Red Brick Sessions), Cuatro Puntos, Delta Saxophone Quartet, Ligeti String Quartet, Jeremy Huw Williams and Ian Pace.  James has had his music performed across the UK and Ireland, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and he also regularly composes television music for BBC Scotland.


Professional activity

Else, J (2007-) Producer: The Adventure Show – BBC 2 Scotland. Scottish Adventure Awards Winner, 2014

Else, J (2010) The Great Climb – BBC 2 Scotland/BBC HD.  BAFTA Scotland Winner, 2011

Else, J (2007) Elgar: Sonata for Organ No. 1 featuring James Lancelot, Commercial DVD and CD

Else, J (2007) To Hell and Back – BBC 2 Scotland.  Finalist Celtic Film Festival, 2008

Research interests

James composes both traditional concert repertoire and music for television.  He is interested in developing harmonic and structural languages that respond to the history and hierarchies of western music.

Outside of his practice-based research in music composition and filmmaking, James is particularly interested in the abstract connections that can be made between different artforms, artworks and ideas.  As such his research profile covers a wide range of subjects including movement research, visual, conceptual and performance art.

Performance and research artefacts

Else, J (2020) A view from elsewhere (Violin) – first performance: Lisa Obert BBC Radio 3 Night Tracks

Else, J (2019) Drenched (Tenor and Piano) – First performance: Christopher O’Gorman & Kate Ledger, 2019.

Else, J (2018) Climbing the Virtual Stepladder: Exploring the Reality of Virtual Worlds in Performance. Body, Space & Technology. 17 (1), pp. 34–50. https://www.bstjournal.com/articles/10.16995/bst.295/

Else, J (2016) falling, unseen (String Sextet) – First performance: Cuatro Puntos, 2016. Also performed by: BBC Phil (The Red Brick Sessions), 2017.

Else, J (2016) Art vs Research, Dance HE conference, NSCD, Leeds. 28th October 2016

Else, J (2015) Peer Observation of Teaching, CDD conference, The Place, London. 9th April 2015

Else, J (2014) Light Shadows (Saxophone Quartet) – First performance: Delta Saxophone Quartet, 2014

Else, J (2013) On the Wind (String Quartet) – First performance: Ligeti String Quartet, 2013

Else, J (2012) One Hour (Baritone & Piano) – First performance: Jeremy Huw Williams & Nigel Foster, 2012

Else, J (2012) Forgotten Notes (Flute & Horn) – First performance: Souza Winds, 2012

Else, J (2011) A Stolen Moment (Piano) – First performance: Ian Pace, 2011

Else, J (2003) New Ways to Mountains (Electronic) – BBC Radio 3