Professor Agustín Fernández
Professor of Composition / Head of Music

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  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7636
  • Fax: +44 (0) 191 208 5242
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  • Address: International Centre for Music Studies
    School of Arts and Cultures
    Armstrong Building
    Newcastle University
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 7RU
    United Kingdom


I am a composer interested in music with cultural resonance, which shows awareness of the creative and performative traditions of which it is part, but which also seeks to extend the horizons of expression and technique beyond well-tried territories.

If this were myspace I would tell you who I like, but, since it is not, let me tell you what I like: I am for innovation, universality and passion. I am against dogma, purity and tedium.


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I obtained my PhD at City University, specialising in Composition. Before that, I completed an MMus at The University of Liverpool and a Licentiate’s degree at the Bolivian Catholic University. In between, I spent three years in Japan, studying composition with Takashi Iida and with Akira Ifukube, and also training as a violinist with Takeshi Kobayashi. My research interest is composition. Wider interests include contemporary music, Afrocuban music, popular Latin American music and traditional music of the British Isles.

Recent compositional launches include the première of String Quartet No. 1 'Montes' by the Momenta Quartet at Rock Hall Auditorium, Philadelphia. This was followed by a series of further performances of this work in the USA, paving the way for a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation for a second string quartet. In 2010 I conducted a series of performances of my Misa de Corpus Christi for children’s choir, mixed choir, baritone and orchestra in Cochabamba and La Paz, Bolivia, with a youth ensemble of 220 players and singers. Most recently (December 2012) Souvenir de Teoponte was premièred at Vienna’s Festsaal, Diplomatische Akademie. String Quartet No. 2 'Sin tiempo' is mooted for a première in New York this autumn. When I finish writing it, sometime soon, I will immediately proceed to compose an arrangement of Northumbrian songs, commissioned by The Sage Gateshead, for performance at Newcastle's Discovery Museum as part of the Festival of the Northeast. I will then resume the updating of my electroacoustic opera Teoponte for a series of performances in Bolivia. 

The range of my work includes opera, orchestral, chamber, vocal and electroacoustic music. To mention a few examples, Danza de la loma has been recorded and broadcast by the BBC Symphony and also performed and broadcast by the Ulster Orchestra and by Orquesta de Cadaqués. Fuego received its US première by The Juilliard Symphony at New York’s Lincoln Center, a venue which also saw the first performance of Peregrine by the New Juilliard Ensemble in 1997 and of its revised version in 2005. Fuego has also been played by Orchestra Sinfonica di Perugia and most recently by Orquesta de Castilla y León in three concerts in Valladolid and Salamanca in May 2007.

The chamber opera The Wheel, commissioned by the Royal Opera House’s Garden Venture, was performed five times at Riverside Studios by the Garden Venture with Endymion Ensemble in 1993. The London International Opera Festival featured my electroacoustic opera Teoponte in 1988.

Other electroacoustic works include Wounded Angel for charango and electronic sounds, which is available from NMC records in a recording by myself, and on dB Productions recorded by Stefan Östersjö, and Silent Towers, which has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and on European radio stations, and is also available from Lontano Records. Both works have also been performed at London’s South Bank (Purcell Room).

My orchestral works are published by Tritó of Barcelona, and my guitar music by Tre Media of Karlsruhe. The song cycle Alquimia is published by Mundo Arts.

My compositional research focuses on the integration of a cultural multiplicity into a language which invokes the European classical canon while challenging it. Earlier stages of my career - folk musician, orchestral player, harmony teacher, language instructor in Japan – provide the background for a diversity in search of integration. My current technical explorations pursue harmonic processes that extend tonality in ways which are aurally traceable, rhythmic and textural schemes that promote continuity, and the use of standard instrumentations in such a way as to reflect the influence of electroacoustic and folkloric sonorities.

Roles and Responsibilities

Composer, professor of composition. Head of Music since January 2012. Module leader for Contemporary Compositional Techniques and Specialist Study Composition (Major and Minor). Leader of the music strand of the AHRC-funded project Northumbrian Exchanges. School or Arts and Cultures' representative to International Business Development Committee. 


PhD (City), MMus (Liverpool), Licenciado (Universidad Católica de La Paz)

Previous Positions

Dartington College of Arts, Lecturer in Composition (1994-5)
The Queen's University of Belfast, Composer in Residence (1990-1994)
Municipal Chamber Orchestra of La Paz, Co-leader (1983-4)
Komagane Training Institute, Language Instructor (1982-3)
Embassy of Bolivia in Japan, Private Secretary to the Ambassador(1981-2)
National Symphony of Bolivia, Principal viola (1976-80)
National Conservatory, Harmony Teacher (1977-80)



Honours and Awards

Hamlyn Bursary for participation in Dartington Summer School's music-theatre course (1991)

FCO award for postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom (1984-1987)

JICA award for studies in Japan (1980-1981)

Honor al Mérito, Prefectura de Cochabamba (1979)

National Composition Prize Sesquicentenario de la República, La Paz, Bolivia (1975)

Charango de oro, First Prize in Interprovincial Charango Competition, Cochabamba, Bolivia (1971)

Koussevitky Commission, New York 2011 


English, Spanish, Japanese (residual), Italian (developing)

Informal Interests

Northumberland, languages, literature, fitness, dog

Research Interests

Composition, contemporary classical music, world musics especially Latin American and British traditional musics

Other Expertise

Contemporary music, popular musics of Latin America, creative projects in the community

Current Work

String Quartet No 2, Sin tiempo, to a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation for the Momenta Quartet, New York

Future Research

Ongoing development of opera cycle Melmoth the Wanderer.

Research Roles

Active researcher
Member of Music Research Committee

Postgraduate Supervision

Member of AHRC Peer Review College 

Students who have successfully completed their PhD under Prof Fernández's supervision include Patrik Bishay from Germany, Christopher Randall from the USA and Matthew Rowan from the UK, Sergio Camacho from Spain, Joel Eriksson from Sweden and Johann Hasler from Colombia.

Helen Papaioannou has secured funding from AHRC for a PhD with Prof Fernández and is currently in the second year of her doctoral studies.

Current MMus students specialising in composition with Prof Fernández include Andrew Middleton and Juan Manuel Loaiza Restrepo. 

Esteem Indicators

Appointed to the Chair in Composition at Newcastle University from 1 August 2007.

Only featured composer at the celebrations of the centennary of the National Conservatoire of La Paz, Bolivia (2007).

Signed up for publication of orchestral works with Tritó S.L. of Barcelona.

Signed up for publication of guitar works with Tre Media of Karlsruhe.

Eleven works published online by the British Music Information Centre as part of The BMIC collection (

Appointed Composer in Residence at Barcelona Festival of Song 2006. Songcycle commissioned by the festival, Alquimia to be published by Mundo Arts in 2008.

Resident composer at the festival Songs Across the Americas, Bolivia, August 2003.

Artistic Co-ordinator of Music from the Chiquitos Indians of Bolivia, a project involving Emma Kirkby and Florilegium and resulting in performances at Newcastle Early Music Festival and Wigmore Hall, March 2003.

Featured composer at 2002 Encounter of Latin American Composers and Performers in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Pájaro negro for soprano and ensemble selected to close the festival.

External examiner for PhDs in Composition at Brunel University and at Goldsmiths College and Royal Holloway College, University of London.

Member of AHRC Peer Review College


Composition commissions funded by North Music Trust, Fundación Arnoldo Schwimmer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Great Britain, Greater London Arts, Merseyside Arts.

Undergraduate Teaching

Module leader for Contemporary Compositional Techniques (MUS2041), Major Specialist Study Composition (MUS3012), Minor Specialist Study Composition (MUS3016)


Postgraduate Teaching

Creative Projects in Composition, Composition in the Community, supervision of research in composition, contributing to The Shaping of Latin America II (at the School of Modern Languages)