Simon A. Morrison Professor of Music

“I can explain why and how music matters then as now.”

Simon Morrison is an archival historian specializing in 20th-century Russian and Soviet music with expertise in opera, dance, film, sketch studies, and historically informed performance. Having earned unequaled access to repositories in Russia, he has unearthed previously unknown sketches, scores, letters, diaries, official documents, contracts, financial records, photographs, and other sources related to musical life from the tsars through the Soviets. He is a leading expert on composer Sergey Prokofiev, and has just published a revisionist account of the career of Tchaikovsky with Yale University press. Current projects include a history of Moscow for Knopf and a study of Shostakovich for Norton. 

His writing on popular music includes Mirror in the Sky: The Life and Music of Stevie Nicks (University of California Press, 2022). 

Morrison writes frequently for academic and general audiences. A contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and London Review of Books, he has authored feature articles along with opinion pieces for Time Magazine, the New York Review of Books, and New York Times. His biography of Lina Prokofiev, the composer’s first wife, was prominently featured on BBC Radio 4, BBC World News television, and WYNC radio. His history of the Bolshoi Ballet, based on exhaustive archival research in St. Petersburg and Moscow, was enthusiastically reviewed in major newspapers and magazines, including the New York TimesThe Guardian (UK), Wall Street Journal, and New Republic.

A sought-after speaker, Morrison has taught academic seminars and delivered public lectures in Israel, Hong Kong, China, Denmark, Canada, Thailand, the UK, Russia, and across the United States. He has been featured on national and international broadcasts (both radio and television) in Russia, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and across the United States. Recent appearances include spots on American Public Radio’s signature program Marketplace, The Current on CBC (Canada), and Start of the Week on BBC television.

Morrison is actively engaged in the performing arts, most notably ballet, and has translated his archival findings into new productions. In 2005 he oversaw the recreation of the Prokofiev ballet Le pas d’acier at Princeton University, and in 2007 he co-produced a world-premiere staging of Alexander Pushkin’s drama Boris Godunov, which featured Prokofiev’s incidental music and realized Vsevolod Meyerhold’s directorial concepts. In 2008, Morrison restored the scenario and score of the original version of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet for the Mark Morris Dance Group. He has also consulted with renowned choreographer Alexei Ratmansky.

At Princeton, he revived the ballet La boîte à joujoux, using a version of Debussy’s score as premiered in 1918 by the Moscow Chamber Theater, a version that included a previously unknown “jazz overture.” He oversaw the staging of John Alden Carpenter’s jazz ballet Krazy Kat (1921), based on the iconic comic strip; brought to light Prokofiev’s Music for athletes/Fizkul’turnaya muzyka (1939) for performance by undergraduate dancers; and prepared the score to Prokofiev’s incidental music for Eugene Onegin, set to a playscript by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, for a staging by Princeton faculty and students as well as a performance by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. In 2017 Morrison developing a concert performance of Cole Porter’s pantomime Within the Quota for the famed Penguin Cafe Orchestra.

Under Morrison’s guidance, graduate students in musicology at Princeton have won such prestigious, competitive awards as the ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, the AMS 50 Fellowship, Virgil Thomson Fellowship, Dena Epstein Award, and the Chateaubriand. They have also delivered papers at the national meetings of the American Musicological Society and Society for American Music, then graduated to tenure-track positions in musicology at selective colleges and universities.

Morrison has led student excursions to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yakutsk, and Athens. He is a recipient of Princeton’s Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities.

Princeton University, PhD

McGill University, MA

Moscow Pedagogical Institute, Diploma in Russian

University of Toronto, B.Mus (cum laude)

Guggenheim Fellowship; ACLS Fellowship; Alfred Einstein Award (from the American Musicological Society)


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