Simon Clarke

Photo of Simon Clarke

Deputy Head of Graduate School

BMus, MMus, MPhil, PhD

Email: [email protected]

  • MPerf Course Leader
  • PGDip:AS Course Leader
  • Director of CPRC (Contemporary Philosophy Research Centre)
  • Theory and Musicianship Module Coordinator 
  • PhD supervisor
  • Postgraduate tutor
  • Undergraduate tutor

Simon Clarke is a philosopher, composer and guitarist who has been lecturing in the RNCM’s Academic Studies department since 2003. 

He studied as a composer at the RNCM before completing his PhD at the University of Manchester, the focus of his thesis being a hermeneutic analysis of Ravel’s orchestration within the context of contemporary continental philosophy. Adorno, Badiou, Derrida and Priest, in particular, continue to be the basis of his work within and without musical contexts. 

Current and Future Research

Simon’s research interests, in addition to French and German music of the early twentieth century, are primarily philosophical. Beginning with his 2010 article ‘Line and Colour: Instrumental (Ir-)Rationality in Adorno’s Musicology’, his focus has been the aesthetic foundations of traditional ontology, very much in the Derridean line, though this has more recently developed into a self-styled 3D philosophy (Deconstruction, Dialectics and Dialetheism). In this vein, ‘Debussy’s Speculative Idea: Orchestration and the Substance of Jeux‘, reading Debussy through Hegel’s Logic, was published by the Journal of the Royal Musical Association in 2018. More recently, both ‘Aporetology or Aporetography in Derrida and Badiou’ and (2020) and ‘Nothing Else Matters: Dialeteism and the Event of Sovereignty’ (2022) have appeared in the French journal MaLiCE. He is currently writing a monographh with David Horne entitled Music in Contradiction (publication 2024) – here, the idea is to interpret music in accordance primarily with Graham Priest’s Logic of Paradox (LP), along with the work of his fellow ‘paraconsistent frontierspeople’ Hegel, Heidegger, Adorno, Althusser, Derrida and Butler. 

As a composer and guitarist Simon’s work centres on his chamber ensemble, Vulgar Display, the unusual conception behind which being an irreconcilable antagonism of extreme metal and the classical chamber tradition. He also specialises in orchestration, most notably the orchestral ‘completion’ of Ravel’s Miroirs (2003) and the remodelling of Ravel’s violin sonata as a violin concerto (2009).

College and External Research Roles

  • Simon leads the RNCM’s Contemporary Philosophy Research Centre (CPRC).

Undergraduate Teaching

  • Theory and Musicianship 1 and 2
  • Introduction to Philosophy (elective)
  • Aesthetics (elective) The Beatles (elective)
  • Ravel and the Art of Orchestration (elective)
  • Strauss’s Tone Poems (elective)
  • Strauss’s Operas (elective)
  • Debussy (elective)
  • Rachmaninioff’s Orchestral Music (elective)
  • Metal (elective)
  • Language of Music 3 (elective)


Postgraduate Teaching

  • Research Methods: Musicology
  • Major and minor dissertation supervision

Research Supervision

  • David Bainbridge – ‘Grasping Nothing: A Study of Minimal Ontologies and the Sense of Music’ (awarded April 2023)
  • Maria Stratigou – ‘Performance Aspects of Louise Farrenc’s Études for Piano’ (awarded November 2021)
  • Olga Paliy – ‘Interrelation of the Fugue and Piano Sonata as a Result of Taneyev’s Influence on His Contemporaries’ (awarded June 2017)


    Journal Articles

  • Simon Clarke, ‘Nothing Else Matters: Dialetheism and the Event of Sovereignty’, MaLiCE – Le magazine des littétures et des cultures, 13 (2022), Online.
  • Simon Clarke, ‘Logics of Inexistence: ‘Aporetology or Aporetography’ in Derrida and Badiou’, MaLiCE, le Magazine des Littératures et des Cultures à l’ère numérique, 10 (2020).
  • Simon Clarke, ‘Debussy’s Speculative Idea: Orchestration and the Substance of Jeux’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 143 (2018), 135-169.
  • Simon Clarke, ‘Line and Colour: Instrumental (Ir-)rationality in Adorno’s Musicology’, Contemporary Music Review, 29 (2010), 359-365. 10.1080/07494467.2010.587313
  • Conference Contributions

  • The Death of Adorno: Ray Brassier’s Enlightenment and Extinction ,  The 12th Annual International Critical Theory Conference in Rome,  9th May 2019
  • From Here to Eternity: Badiou and the Immanence of Truths ,  RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group, London  2019
  • Subtractive Deconstruction, Rhetorics of Borders, Logics of Worlds ,  6th Derrida Today Conference, Montreal 26th May 2018
  • Identity and Multiplicity: Badiou, Wagner and Negative Dialectics ,  9th International Critical Theory Conference in Rome, Rome 6th May 2016
  • The Inexistence of Derrida and Badiou: Identity, Conjunction, Difference ,  5th Derrida Today Conference, London 11th June 2016
  • Vulgar Display: The Virtuosity of Failure ,  Virtuosity – An Interdisciplinary Symposium, Budapest 5th March 2016
  • Identity and Immunity: The Topos at its Limits ,  8th International Critical Theory Conference in Rome, Rome 7th May 2015
  • Vulgar Display: Inscribing the Incompatible ,  The European Platform for Artistic Research in Music Conference, Graz 25th April 2015
  • Jemeinigkeit and ‘being-towards-death’: Derrida’s ‘Aporetology’ and the Metal Topos ,  Mind over Metal, Odense 4th December 2015
  • Derrida and Topic Theory: Musical Semiotics Folded Back into Philosophy ,  4th Derrida Today Conference, New York 29th May 2014
  • Compositions

  • Maurice Ravel Simon Clarke Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, 2009, Solo violin and large orchestra, 
  • Performances

  • Maurice Ravel Simon Clarke Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Royal Academy of Music Orchestra, Howard Williams, Thomas Gould Solo violin and orchestra, Royal Academy of Music

Professional Activity

Simon’s research revolves primarily around Derrida, Badiou and Adorno. His recent conference contributions, including 2018’s 6th Derrida Today event and the 11th International Critical Theory Conference in Rome, have been directed towards a long-term study of Derrida’s and Badiou’s respective ontologies and onto-topologies. 2017, meanwhile, saw the launch of the RNCM Contemporary Philosophy Research Centre (CPRC), of which Simon is the director, through its inaugural conference celebrating the RNCM’s diverse output in the field. 

Recent musicological colloquia include 2016’s Virtuosity – An Interdisciplinary Symposium in Budapest, and 2015’s EPARM conference in Graz.

Vulgar Display, a new music ensemble juxtaposing extreme metal with the classical chamber tradition, was founded in 2012 by Simon (the group’s guitarist). Its remit has been to commission and perform new works from the north-west’s pre-eminent composers in accordance with its unconventional stylistic parameters; on this basis, Gary Carpenter, Adam Gorb, Larry Goves, David Horne, Emily Howard, Matthew King and Nina Whiteman, amongst many others, have all been involved. Following December 6 2012’s’Tournament Roadkill’ event, a further RNCM outing, ‘You Suffer’, took place on February 13 2014.