for two flutes
“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 two shakuhachis
Silent/listen is a new series of duos written for the same instrument. As the title suggests, with each silent/listen piece I intend to explore attentive listening in relation to silence and within a musical context delineated by the idiosyncrasy of a specific instrument. The focus of all the silent/listen pieces is very much related to the Japanese perception of ‘ma’, that is silence as the source of sound, rather than absence of sound. Starting from ‘ma’ as the inner space of listening, the idiosyncratic techniques of an instrument will be revisited by two performers.
Silent/listen was written for two shakuhachis and explores the diversity of specific techniques such as vibrati and trill production according to Japanese honkyoku tradition. The performance should resemble a Zen meditation.
Written for Jim Franklin and Jean-François Lagrost and first performed by them at the Prague Shakuhachi Festival, Prague, 25th August 2014.
Instrumentation: 2 Shakuhachis
for two percussionists
Commissioned by the Andreaskirche, Stuttgart, meditation 1 consists of six movements to be played preferably as interludes between other musical works or texts of a spiritual/ritualistic nature.
Meditation 1 was premiered on 29th April 2012 at the Andreaskirche, Stuttgart, and was performed by Maria-Clara Thiele and John Palmer.
Instrumentation: 2 Percussion
from the lake
for oboe and piano
From the lake was inspired by the following Zen poem taken from the Buddhacarita:
‘A lotus unsoiled by the dust of passion,
Sprung from the lake of knowledge;
A sun that destroys the darkness of delusion;
A moon that takes away the scorching heat
Of the inherent sins of existence.’
(The Buddhacarita, Book XIV)
Stylistic references to romantic music have been used as both emotional and syntactic codes appearing and disappearing throughout the piece in interlaced fashion.
Commissioned by Piet Van Bockstal. The music was inspired by a Zen text. First performed on 1st July 2005 at Wonder Site, Tokyo by Piet Van Bockstal & Yutaka Oya.
Instrumentation: Piano, Oboe
for violin and harpsichord
Bach, Contrapunctus, Interpunctus, Between: two musical entities and a space between them, a continuous contrapunctal between-ness being always present and irrevocable: such a musical space is triggered by three fragments deriving from ‘the Art of Fugue’ unfolding in 19 interrelated moments. On another plane, I was intrigued by the existence of the between-states, the bardos of Tibetan Buddhism, a transitional experience between death and rebirth that I like to imagine as an intense dialectical confrontation with the self in a musical present suspended between past and future.
Commissioned by the Bach Centenary Bremen for Matthias Cordes. First performed by Matthias Cordes (violin) & Renate Bratschke (harpsichord), Radio Bremen, 8th October 2000.
Instrumentation: Violin, Harpsichord
I, Medusa was inspired by the Greek myth of Medusa. The narrative is focused on the tragic dichotomy that characterises the story: on the one hand the dedicated and loving priestess of Athena’s temple before having been raped by Poseidon, on the other hand the same woman who, after the raping, cannot but hate the very goddess who has turned her into a monster. The torment of a woman torn between devotion and unjust punishment remains hard to grasp. Medusa embodies the colliding forces of love and hate within a fierce confrontation that never seems to end, while the interventions of an invisible Chorus punctuate an incessantly emotional narration of the story.
I, Medusa was commissioned by Viktoriia Vitrenko, to whom is dedicated, with funds provided by the City of Stuttgart. The world premiere took place at Kunstraum 34, Stuttgart, on 25th October 2019 and was performed by Viktoriia Vitrenko (voice), Nazar Stets (double bass) and John Palmer (electronics).
Instrumentation: Electronics, Mezzo Soprano, Double Bass
Of Shadows Unveiled
for flute, bass clarinet and piano
Of shadows unveiled was commissioned by the Bateau-Lavoir Ensemble to whom it is dedicated. This music unfolds in seven thematically interconnected sections and was inspired by a text I wrote about that remote space that is the night, a living world where the Invisible takes over the Visible in the most natural way.
First performed by the Bateau-Lavoir Ensemble, Argenta (FE), Italy, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, 10th November 2013.
Instrumentation: Piano, Bass Clarinet, Flute
for soprano, prepared piano and electronics (also an acousmatic piece)
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.
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 alto flute, piano and electronics
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.
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 2 celli & electronics
Commissioned by the KunstArbeiders Gezelschap V. Z. W. The electronics consists of a tape part.
First performed by Peter Schuback (cello), John Palmer (cello), Dirk Veulemans (electronics) at Godelieve Kapel, Ghent, 4th December 2003.
Instrumentation: Electronics, 2 Violoncellos
for trumpet in C, piano and electronics
Originally written in 1993, reflections was re-written in 2001 for Kiyonori Sokabe and Yutaka Oya. This music springs from a desire to explore relational projections of melodic and timbral phrases, sometimes apparent, some other times more ambiguous, as if suggesting two different, yet interacting aspects of the same musical reality. Such projections are articulated upon points of departure and return, sometimes anticipation. The constant interplay of the reflections is equally triggered by the electronics, the trumpet and the piano.
The premiere of the first version took place in London at the BMIC on 27th May 1993. The performers were: Simon Lenton (trumpet), Philip Mead (piano) and John Palmer (electronics). Kiyonori Sokabe commissioned and premiered the final version at The Warehouse, London in 2001 (Kiyonori Sokabe (trumpet), Yutaka Oya (piano), John Palmer (electronics).
Instrumentation: Electronics, Piano, Trumpet in C
for bass flute, 6 & 12-string guitar and viola
First performed by Das Neue Kammer Trio, Bad Brückenau, Bad Brückenau Guitar Festival, 19th September 2001.
Still was commissioned by and written for Das Neue Kammertrio, and premiered by them at the Guitar Festival in Bad Brückenau, Germany, on 19th September 2001.
Over the past few years I have become increasingly interested in both the haiku literary form and the Japanese aesthetics of ma, a highly focused Japanese awareness of silence as a crucial musical event occurring between two sounds. The application of the haiku employed in still consists of 17 verses, each divided in 17 musical syllables (5+7+5). By so doing, I created a meta-haiku consisting of recurrent and interrelated segments. In still I have also explored microtonal differentiations in relation to different tunings of the guitar and the viola reinforced by the timbral flexibility of the bass flute. Additionally, I have conceived each of the three instruments as a complementary sonority of one meta-instrument. (2001)
Instrumentation: Viola, Guitar, Bass Flute
for harpsichord, world percussion and electronics
Encounter is an attempt to confront and transcend two different music traditions and two dissimilar approaches to music making: the intuitive and ritualistic tradition of the East (represented by the world percussion) and the precise, yet passionate and daring, attitude of the West (represented by the harpsichord). Although maintaining their own historical and cultural connotations, both instruments are trying to establish a link that should enable them to find a common language and an inspiring ground for interaction. The inevitable pitch-based discourse of the harpsichord and the rhythmic universe of world percussion are gradually projected onto another musical space delineated by the electronics.
Commissioned by the Arts Council of England for Jane Chapman.
First performed by Jane Chapman (harpsichord), Pete Lockett (world percussion), John Palmer (electronics) at ICA, London 26th March 1998.
Instrumentation: Electronics, Harpsichord, Percussion
for cello, piano & live-electronics
First performed by Neil Heyde (cello), John Palmer (piano & electronics) at May Fest, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK on 29th May 1997.
Instrumentation: Electronics, Violoncello, Piano
for violin, cello and piano
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.
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 clarinet, piano and electronics
1993 ca. 14' 30"
Nowhere is the first work of a triptych based on piano and a woodwind instrument where I explore each duo mainly in terms of spatial relationships. The triptych consists of nowhere (clarinet, piano and electronics), from the lake (oboe and amplified piano) and afterglow (alto flute, piano and electronics). In nowhere I have dealt with 13 idiomatic spaces that unfold both independently and simultaneously.
First performed by Ensemble Omega & John Palmer (electronics) at ZKM, Karlsruhe, 6th November 2003.
The electronics consist of a soundfile (tape) and live-electronics. A max/msp patch is also available.
Instrumentation: Electronics, Piano, Clarinet in Bb
for violin, viola, cello and piano
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, vibraphone and piano
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.
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, clarinet, cello and piano
2013 10' full details & preview Composer
for violin, clarinet, cello and piano
This music was written for the virtuosity of four distinct musicians. I decided to explore some aspects of temporal relations within a musical flux where the compression and expansion of four melodic phrases are perceived in changing segments of time and in their melodic and harmonic qualities. Changing perceptions, changing perspectives. In such a scenery, chamber music becomes a theatre of transitive interactions delineated by intrinsic transformations: in my mind, ever-changing transitions of fugitive states of mind.
Commissioned by the Eppur Si Muove Stiftung, Zurich and first performed by the Modern Art Sextet at Konzerthaus, Berlin 24th September 2003.
Instrumentation: Violoncello, Violin, Piano, Clarinet in Bb
Second String Quartet
My second String Quartet (dream) was inspired by one of Franz Kafka’s dreams which he described in a letter to his friend Milena Jesenka in September 1920. The letter begins as follows,
“Yesterday I dreamt of you. I no longer know what happened, I only know that we continuously turned into each other, I was you, you were I. Eventually, you caught fire, I remember that we tried to extinguish the fire with a cloth and took an old jacket with which we tried to put out the flames. Yet, the transformations started again and went so far that you were no longer there, but I was the one who was burning and at the same time I was also trying to extinguish the fire […]. At the end you were rescued and fell into my arms […]. But still the uncertainty of the transformations increased, perhaps it was I, who fell in somebody else’s arms.”
Second prize winner of the 1996 City of Klagenfurt International Composition Prize, Austria. Selected by the SPNM in 1997.
First performed by The Kreutzer Quartet (at that time named The Sheppard Quartet) at Klagenfurt, Stifting Viktring, 3rd August 1996.
Instrumentation: Violoncello, Viola, 2 Violins
for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano
2010 ca. 10'
This music is linked to a previous work of mine called transitions (2000) for violin, clarinet, cello and piano. I was interested in both the notion of transferring and the state of being transferred. (In psychoanalysis transference denotes an unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another: usually a redirection of feelings and desires from the past towards a new object in the present.). Seven fragments from transitions have been revaluated and transformed by the original ensemble with the addition of a flute, while a new emphasis is put on the temporal relations and the process of compression and expansion that characterized both works. Transference was commissioned by the Modern Art Sextet, Berlin.
Special Mention and Medal of the President of the Italian Republic at the 2010 Citta’ di Udine Eighth International Competition for Composers.
First performed by the Modern Art Sextet at Konzerthaus Berlin, 19th January 2011.
Instrumentation: Violoncello, Violin, Piano, Clarinet in Bb, Flute
for piano, 2 violins, viola and cello
2008 3' 30"
Currently being revised.
Instrumentation: Violoncello, Viola, 2 Violins, Piano
Any Number of Musicians
Rhythm to go
A manual of rhythm for music students and professional musicians and a concert piece for any number of musicians
2014 ca. 40'
Rhythm to go is a concise course including rhythm exercises for ear-training programmes at music colleges, conservatoires and universities. This manual has been designed for two academic years, but may be adjusted to any other course duration on a graduate level. It is divided into four chapters, each covering the coursework of one semester and being divided into 10 levels, in turn divided into 7 exercises, one a day! Additional exercises have been included in chapter 5. Emphasis is given to the intermediate level of difficulty as this is the most relevant for the majority of students, at least on an undergraduate level.
Concert version of aleatoric and modular form. Also educational work for rhythm. First performed by Students Ensemble of the Stuttgart University of Music and Performing Arts at University of Music and Performing Arts, Stuttgart, 1th December 2015.