Re di Donne
Chamber Opera in one Act
Year: 2019 Duration: 60'
Libretto by Cristina Battocletti and John Palmer
Four singers: Soprano 1: Ivana; Soprano 2: Martina; Mezzosoprano: Frida; Baritono (Baritenore): Rocco.
Ensemble: Fl / Bass Fl, Clarinet in B-Flat / Bass Clarinet, Tenor Trombone, Percussion (1), Piano, Vl, Vc, Db, Electronics.
Commissioned by the Istituzione Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto “A. Belli” with funds provided by the Ernst von Siemens Foundation.
World premiere: Teatro Caio Melisso, Spoleto, 6th, 7th, 8th September 2019.
Conductor: Vittorio Parisi
Stage Director: Alessio Pizzech
Ensemble del Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto with John Palmer (electronics)
for violin, cello, vibraphone and piano
Year: 2013 Duration: 17'
Crossing Dialogues was commissioned from and written for the Open_Music quartet, a contemporary music ensemble dedicated to the interaction between written and improvised music. Since my childhood I have always been attracted by improvisation as both a stand-alone performance practice and in conjunction with a written-out composition. I guess it is both its ritual character and its focus on the now that makes it so attractive to me: the perception of the very instant as an irreplaceable moment within a continuous flux that faces me with an unrepeatable condition. In my own musical practice I have always perceived improvisation as a twofold experience: an improvised-composition being at the same time a composed-improvisation. Form being the crucial link between the two notions.Additional Info:
Commissioned by Open Music, Stuttgart and first performed by the Open Music Ensemble at Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 21st November 2013.
Instrumentation: Violoncello, Violin, Piano, Vibraphone
for violin, viola, cello and piano
Year: 2016 Duration: 14'
This music was inspired by a poem by Heloïse Ph. Palmer entitled Dawn from the collection Ohne sie, wo wärest Du? published in 2014:
the morning dew
…trembling the shrub
at your feet.
German version translated by the author:
wie der sanfte Morgentau
zart benetzt …
… der Strauch erlebt sich
Der dunkle Klee
zu Deinen Füßen
(Reprinted by kind permission of the author.)
Commissioned by the Society of Classical Musicians and first performed on the 5th October 2016, BKA, Berlin, by the Modern Art Ensemble.
Instrumentation: Violoncello, Viola, Violin, Piano
for violin, cello and piano
Year: 1995 Duration: 9'
Similar to a Pythagorean theorem, where being given two elements an established procedure will produce a new third factor, this music unfolds from two melodic units from which a third one is established immediately. The three themes are developed separately on alternating instruments and gradually merge into a new final statement, a meta-theorem so to speak, or a theorem in the theorem.Additional Info:
Commissioned by the Bath Festival, UK. Second prize winner of the 1996 Tokyo International Competition for Chamber Music Composition. Selected by the ISCM Bulgarian Section in 1996.
First performed by The Gould Piano Trio at The Guildhall, Bath 2nd June 1995.
Instrumentation: Violoncello, Violin, Piano
for soprano, prepared piano and electronics (also an acousmatic piece)
Year: 2008 Duration: 9'
Based on a text written in memory of a friend who passed away in 1988, Transient was written in 2008 for soprano, prepared piano and two electronic sources, one consisting of live processing, the other including the text – whispered, spoken and sung – transformed in the electronic studio. Another important vocal source is breathing, imagined as a metaphor of life after life. The unfolding of the music is based on a relational system where a word (a phrase or a concept) of the poem is associated to a specific pitch. The syntactic relations established between pitch and word (meaning) have generated musical phrases articulated in six sections corresponding to the six verses of the text.Additional Info:
English text by John Palmer. Selected at the 36th Bourges International Competition Electroacoustic Music 2009 in Section II: Trivium – 3rd category. May also be performed as a duo (soprano & electronics) or as an acousmatic work.
Acousmatic version first performed at JSEM/MSJ Electroacoustic Festival 2009, Nagoya City University, Japan, 10th May 2009.
Duo version premiered by Marie-Pierre Roy (soprano) and John Palmer (electronics).
Instrumentation: Electronics, Soprano, Piano
for two flutes
Year: 2016 Duration: 5'
“Properly conceived, action should be understood as a cognitive-affective-conative-expressive-performative vector, with a form, content, mood, style and efficacy of its own.” In his book Dialectic The Pulse of Freedom, the philosopher Roy Bhaskar argues extensively about his theory of dialectics also known as critical realism. If music is indeed philosophy, this is one of the most musical books ever written: an enthralling quest for self-knowledge calling for uncompromising social, ethical and political awareness. The morphological conditions to be set constantly anew: a lifetime argument!
The world premiere of conditional action took place at the Risuonanze 2016 Festival in Tricesimo (Udine), Italy, on 29th May 2016 and was performed by Fosca Briante and Tiziano Cantoni.
Written for the 2016 Festival Risuonanze.
Instrumentation: 2 Flutes
for piano and electronics
Year: 2016 Duration: ca. 10'
I wrote woanders (en. elsewhere) having being inspired by a German poem written by Heloïse Ph. Palmer entitled La-Ura. The original poem appears below. The English version, written by the same author, reads: “although remote / yet present / here / for once, this very day / stirring appearance / no less whilst beholding / sans haste, / sans urge / to be”.
First performed by Heloïse Ph. Palmer (piano), Kaspar Kalnin (electronics) on 9th November 2016, Arena Festival, Riga, Latvia.
Electronics consisting of a stereo soundfile. The piano may be amplified.
Instrumentation: Electronics, Piano
Year: 1984 Duration: 5'
Written in 1984 at a time when I was listening to a lot of jazz, missing rhymes is my first piano piece. I was interested in exploring an imaginary poem that seems to be impossible to unfold due to its fragmentary nature and at the same time questioning whether it is possible to perceive a more subtle level of declamatory speech taking place between the fragments.Additional Info:
First performed by Heloise Ph. Palmer on 28th June 2014, Hock am Turm, University of Music, Stuttgart, Germany.
Year: 2013 Duration: 8'
Three short pieces written in 1994, 1996 and 2003. The titles are: 1. Grace, 2. Iris, 3. Helen.
First private performances by John Palmer. First public performance by Heloise Ph. Palmer on 29th June 2013, Hock am Turm Festival, Stuttgart, Germany.
Year: 1986 Duration: 7'
Arcanum, the Suite it was. Twelve hieroglyphs speaking from the past. Symbols to the mind. The scarab and Carl Gustav Jung.
First performed by Heloise Ph. Palmer on 28th June 2014, Hock am Turm, Chamber Music Hall, University of Music, Stuttgart, Germany.
Year: 1989 Duration: ca. 5'
Improvised composition / composed improvisation.
song for you
Year: 1987 Duration: 9'
Improvised composition / composed improvisation. First performed by John Palmer (piano), Christian Hartmann (double bass) on 8th July 1988, Rathaus, Sursee (version for piano and double bass).
for solo piano
Year: 1990 Duration: 10'
In Tibetan Buddhism Shambhala is the name of the pure land. Although there are many literary references describing it as a physical place situated in central Asia, the Tibetan myth of Shambhala refers to an imaginary place of peace and happiness dwelt by enlightened people.
The world premiere took place at the Tempelgesellschaft in Stuttgart on 20th September 2014 and was performed by Heloise Ph. Palmer.
Year: 1989 Duration: 4' 20"
Improvised composition / composed improvisation.
Year: 2011 Duration: 4' 30"
I wrote se potessi having being inspired by a short poem written by the Italian poet Leopoldo Verona in 1985. The original poem appears below. The English translation reads: if I could / speak of you / I would / multiply / my voice / I would be hundred / and more people / I would / have many / and many hearts / and thousand arms / and hands / like feathers / help / if I could / speak of you.Additional Info:
Commissioned by the Biblioteca Statale di Cremona, Italy. First performed by Heloise Ph. Palmer on 11th September 2011. Gollma Church, Tag des Offenen Denkmals, Gollma, Germany.
Year: 1989 Duration: ca. 50'
Musica reservata is a collection of 12 short pieces for solo piano composed from December 1988 to May 1989, mostly during the night. It may also be performed by two pianists on two pianos by playing two different pieces or indeed the same piece simultaneously. Each piece of musica reservata may also be performed alone, as an autonomous, self-contained piece.Additional Info:
First performed by Friederike Wild at Chamber Music Hall, University of Music of Stuttgart, Germany, 7th November 2012.
Year: 1992 Duration: ca. 2'
I wrote glimpse in Dartington, England, on 15th August 1992, the day John Cage passed away. The news reached all the musicians at the International Summer Course immediately and I still remember how the busy environment of the campus was suddenly transformed into a state of collective silence. A tribute concert was coordinated by Michael Finnissy and all the composers were invited to write a short piece in memory of Cage. I wrote glimpse on the same day and performed it on the tribute concert two days later. The music is based on the four letters of the name C-A-G-E whilst the title refers to the glimpse of consciousness in my life that was triggered by the work and thought of John Cage.Additional Info:
First performed by John Palmer on 17th August 1999 at Great Hall, Dartington, UK.
Year: 1988 Duration: 5'
The intriguing phenomenon of the déjà-vu prompted me to write a music flowing on two dissimilar dimensions: on the one hand an explicit vicinity of sound unfolding in an almost pointillistic fashion; on the other hand a wider space obtained through the use of both the sustain and sostenuto pedals on which chords, short melodies and single resonances are projected.
Dedicated to John Cage.Additional Info:
First performed by John Palmer on 22th November, 1990 at Trinity College of Music, London.
Year: 1990 Duration: 6'
In the pantheon of ancient religions, the myth of Athena is possibly the most intriguing and diversified of all the gods. Throughout the years her image has been persistent in my dreams and I finally wrote this music perhaps in a state of trance in 1990 at Elstree, Hertfordshire. For some logically inexplicable reason the score disappeared and the music was forgotten almost immediately. Yet, it surfaced again several years later, in 2013. I recorded the music in the same year.
The world premiere of Athena took place at the Stadtbibliothek “Walter Bauer” in Merseburg, Germany, on 21st October 2015 and was performed by Heloise Ph. Palmer.
After Silence (1)
for piano and electronics
Year: 2005 Duration: 17' 10"
“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is Music” (Aldous Huxley). After silence is a cycle of works written for piano and electronics exploring the perception of resonance in relation to sound as a quest for silence. The preposition after indicates both a temporal condition and a search for deeper states of consciousness.
After silence (1) was inspired by a text I wrote in 2005: after silence / space mirrors / reflecting / invisible sound. / away from… / I stand motionless / listening / through the barely audible.Additional Info:
Electronics: ring modulation, reverberation and tape. May be also performed on a Fender Rhodes.
First performed by John Palmer (Fender Rhodes & electronics) on 24th November 2005 at Salon des Arts, London, UK.
Instrumentation: Electronics, Piano
Year: 2015 Duration: 5'
In 2014 I was asked by Heloise Ph. Palmer to write a short piano piece, related to a love song I had written in 2012 that was entitled Being with you. I was certainly spellbound when I found out that the Latin word for love, amor, may be etymologically derived from the Latin a-mors, meaning ‘without death’. What more inspiring notion of such a powerful sentiment?Additional Info:
First performed by Heloise Ph. Palmer on 18th April 2015 at Stadthalle Bogenhaus, Löbejün, Germany.
for organ and electronics
Year: 2011 Duration: 12' 35"
Thereafter was inspired by the sacred trinity of ancient Egypt consisting of Ausar, Auset and Heru, and the related symbolism of Egypt’s mystical triangle as described by Plutarch in volume V of his work Moralia. The Ancient Egyptians believed in an animated universe where all things are permeated by energetic forces containing a soul. Moreover, numbers did not only express quantities but also principles of nature and their related energy. Like every other component of the universe, numbers were also male and female.Additional Info:
Commissioned by the ALEA Association, Italy, and first performed by Marco Bidin at University of Music, Stuttgart, 20th February 2013.
Instrumentation: Electronics, Organ
for synthesizer https://johnpalmer.org/
Year: 1990 Duration: 15' - 18'
Very often I dream I am able to fly due to an enormous concentration of the mind. This is a sensation I am unable to describe verbally. Also, I frequently hear music while I am dreaming: from familiar melodies to unknown sounds and harmonies. Spirits is the title I gave to a music I heard many times, but most intensively in August 1990, when I was living in a cottage at Elstree, Hertfordshire. This experience was so strong that I felt impelled to write down the music immediately. What struck me mostly was that, in my dreams, every time I heard this music I found myself suspended in the air. The sounds resembled human voices singing very short motives recurring over a very long – and almost everlasting – time span.Additional Info:
First performed by John Palmer at BMIC, London 23rd February 1993.
For Yamaha SY-77 or SY-99; also a Korg M1. The performance should take place at candlelight.
Year: 1999 Duration: 8' 52"
When the acquisition of a new viewpoint begins to take shape, intuition becomes the tool for exploring other states of mind located beyond logical understanding. I have interpreted the experience of satori as the unfolding of a deeper insight into the truth of reality, an enlightened consciousness flashing into a new spiritual actuality.
for alto flute, piano and electronics
Year: 2006 Duration: 13'
In this music I have dealt with space and sound as attributes of moving images in time. The alto flute provides the timbral material for the electronics consisting of multiphonics and harmonics, whilst the piano ‘colours in’ the flute’s timbral variations with short motives deriving from the flute’s melodies. As in a moving universe, both instruments are projected onto dissimilar spaces delineated by the spectral content of the flute.
Afterglow is the third work of a triptych based on piano and a woodwind instrument where I have explored each duo in terms of spatial and timbral relations. The triptych consists of nowhere (clarinet, piano and electronics), from the lake (oboe and amplified piano) and afterglow (alto flute, piano and electronics). As in the other two works, in afterglow my perception of space was inspired by a short poem using minimal syntax and condensed imagery.Additional Info:
Afterglow was commissioned by and written for Arianna Palin and Detta Danford. The premiere took place at The Space, in London, during the Enterprise Festival on 23rd June 2006. The performers were Detta Danford (flute), Arianna Palin (piano) and John Palmer (electronics).
Instrumentation: Electronics, Piano, Alto Flute
for string orchestra and string quartet
Year: 1991 Duration: 5'
Some years ago I wrote a piece for string orchestra called “Music for the World”. It was a conscious emotional reaction to some disturbing political events that occurred in the world in the early 1990s. I was interested in exploring the meaning of two contrasting human dimensions symbolised by two dissimilar musical textures, and an interacting space where a “there-ness”, represented by the the resonant body of the main orchestra, is opposed to a “here-ness” represented by the string quartet placed in its centre.Additional Info:
A string quartet plays in the centre of the stage being surrounded by the string orchestra.
Instrumentation: String Orchestra, Violoncello, Viola, 2 Violins