Charlemagne Palestine

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Charlemagne Palestine
Charlemagne Palestine.jpg
Palestine performing at the LMC Annual Festival of Experimental Music in London on November 30, 2007
Background information
Birth name Chaim Moshe Tzadik Palestine
Origin Brooklyn, New York
United States
Genres Minimalist
Occupation(s) Musical performance artist
Instruments Vocals, piano, organ, harmonium, spoken word
Website Official website

Charlemagne Palestine (born Chaim Moshe Tzadik Palestine) is an animist, bringing to life a spectrum of sonic tonalities, bodies, moving images, organs, Bosendorfer pianos, his own abundant collection of stuffed animals, glasses of cognac, strips of colored fabric, and a plethora of found and self-made objects. Notoriously provocative, Palestine has developed a complex persona that rejects disciplinary categories. Instead, his medium is alchemy, where intense experiences—trances, orgasms, cataclysms, and shamanic rituals–propel mind and matter to a hypnagogic state.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1947, Palestine began by singing sacred Jewish music and studying accordion and pano. At the age of 12 he started playing backup conga and bongo drums for Alan Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Kenneth Anger, and Tiny Tim. From 1962–69 Palestine was daily carillonneur for the Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in Manhattan, eventually creating a piece that consisted of 1,500 15 minute performances. From 1968-72, Palestine studied vocal interpretation with Pandit Pran Nath, experimented on kinetic light sculptures with Len Lye, composed music for Tony and Beverly Conrad’s film "Coming Attractions," taught at Cal Arts with Morton Subtonick, created the sound and movement piece Illuminations with Simone Forti, and developed his own alternative synthesizer, The Spectral Continuum Drone Machine. Throughout the seventies Palestine created records, videos, sculptural objects, abstract expressionist visual scores and performed regularly in the company of his stuffed animals. From 1980-1995 Palestine performed only rarely, exhibiting instead at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and in documenta 8. During that time he also founded the Ethnology Cinema Project in New York, which is dedicated to preserving films that document disappearing traditional cultures. After moving to Europe 1995, in addition to creating exhibitions, Palestine performs regularly, re-releasing older material and developing new videos and sonic projects.

“I don’t like the word music by itself. It has nothing to do with me. I’m sure there are musicians, and I have met some of them, and there have been musicians for centuries, but they are not me. Sometimes I enter a world where sounds do things that could resemble music, but again I prefer curiosity: I move. I groove. I sit. I fall. I sing. I sming. I ring. I ding. I flip. I flop. I schmip. I schmup. For me those are all part of gesamtkunst—total art. And it’s not something I invented; it is a German term from the end of the nineteenth century. Gesamtkunst is what pop Balinese people do. It’s what Hopis do. That’s what the Mesoamericans did centuries ago. They painted. They danced. They vomited. They fucked. They swung around. They drank. They ate. They built. They destroyed. That was their civilization. It was a civilization that also did these certain disciplines." [1]

Selected discography: solo works[edit]

  • Karenina. 2 CDs. Solo performance with Indian harmonium and falsetto voice, rec. March 1997 in Paris. London: World Serpent Distribution.
  • Schlingen-Blängen. Solo performance for organ. US: New World Records, 1999.
  • Four Manifestations on Six Elements. Solo pieces for piano and for electronics. Belgium: Barooni Records.
  • Godbear. Solo pieces for piano. Belgium: Barooni Records.
  • Strumming Music. Solo piece for piano. Felmay, San Germano, Italy, 1995; reissue of New Tone recording nt6742
  • Three Compositions for Machines. Staalplaat, 1997.
  • Schlongo!!!daLUVdrone. Organ of Corti, 2000.
  • Jamaica Heinekens in Brooklyn. Piece for found sound and electronic drones. Belgium: Barooni Records.
  • Alloy. Alga Marghen, 2000.
  • Continuous Sound Forms. Alga Marghen, 2000.
  • Charlemagne at Sonnabend. 2 CDs. CP, 2001.
  • Music for Big Ears. Staalplaat, 2001.
  • In Mid-Air. Alga Marghen, 2003.
  • Old Souls Wearing New Clothes. VPRO, 2003.
  • A Sweet Quasimodo between Black Vampire Butterflies: For Maybeck. Cold Blue, 2007.
  • The Apocalypse Will Blossom. Yesmissolga, 2008.
  • Voice Studies. LP only. Alga Marghen, 2008.
  • From Etudes to Cataclysms. 2 CDs. Sub Rosa, 2008.
  • "Strumming Music for Piano, Harpsichord and String Ensemble". 3 CDs. Sub Rosa, 2010.
  • "Relationship Studies". LP. Algha Marghen, 2010.
  • "Two Electronic Sonorities". LP. Algha Marghen, 2012.

Selected discography: collaborations[edit]

  • Pan Sonic and Charlemagne Palestine. Mort aux vaches. Staalplaat, 2000.
  • Charlemagne Palestine, David Coulter and Jean Marie Mathoul. Maximin. Young God Records, 2002.
  • Charlemagne Palestine, David Coulter, Michael Gira and Jean Marie Mathoul. Gantse Mishpuchach / Music in Three Parts. Fringes Recordings, 2004.
  • Charlemagne Palestine and Tony Conrad. An Aural Symbiotic Mystery. Sub Rosa, 2006.
  • Charlemagne Palestine, Terry Jennings, Tony Conrad, Robert Feldman, Rhys Chatham. Sharing a Sonority. Alga Marghen, 2008.
  • Charlemagne Palestine and Christoph Heemann. Saiten in Flammen. Streamline, 2009.
  • Charlemagne Palestine and Janek Schaefer. Day of the Demons. Desire Path Recordings, 2012.
  • Charlemagne Palestine and Rhys Chatham Youuu + Mee = Weee. Sub Rosa, 2014.



  • Johnson, Tom (1989). The Voice of New Music: New York City 1972–1982: A Collection of Articles Originally Published by the Village Voice. Eindhoven, Netherlands: Het Apollohuis. ISBN 90-71638-09-X.
  • Palestine, Charlemagne (2004). Sacred Bordello. Book with CD. Milan: Alga Marghen.
  • Voegelin, Salome. Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art. London: Continuum. 2010. Chapter 2 Noise, pp. 50–52.

External links[edit]