John Palmer (composer)

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John Palmer (1959) is a British composer, pianist and musicologist.

John Palmer

John Palmer began his music career as a songwriter, pianist, guitarist and keyboard player in the mid-seventies. In the 1980s he studied piano with Grazia Wendling and Eva Serman at the Lucerne School of Music (Musikhochschule Luzern), Switzerland, while attending courses in composition with Edison Denisov and Vinko Globokar. He continued his composition studies in London at Trinity College of Music, Royal Holloway, University of London and at City University London where he obtained a PhD in Composition in 1994. Further studies include composition with Vinko Globokar at the Dartington Summer School and privately with Jonathan Harvey, analysis with Jonathan Cross at the University of Bristol, and conducting with Alan Hazeldine at the Guildhall School of Music And Drama in London. Since 1987 Palmer's works has focused on orchestral, instrumental, vocal, chamber music, and electroacoustic composition.

Selected works[edit]


  • Re di Donne (2019) Chamber Opera in One Act, for 4 singers and ensemble with electronics



  • Asgard (1987- rev. 2001) for 2 speakers and ensemble (fl, cl, vl, vla, vc, pno, electronics)
  • Koan (1999) for shakuhachi and ensemble (fl, ob, clar, perc, pno, vl, vla, vc)
  • Waka (2003) for percussion and ensemble (fl, ob, cl, pno, vl, vla, vc)
  • Legend (2008) for harp and ensemble
  • You (2008) for trombone and ensemble
  • Transparence (2015) for viola and ensemble with electronics
  • Blurring definitions (2016) fl, cl, bs, perc, 2 vl, vla, vc, db

Chamber music[edit]

  • First String Quartet (1986)
  • Utopia (1989) soprano and wind quartet
  • Hellawes (1991) flute trio
  • Theorem (1995) violin, cello, piano
  • Second String Quartet (dream) (1996)
  • Encounter (1998) harpsichord, world percussion, electronics
  • Between (2000) violin and harpsichord
  • Transitions (2000) violin, clarinet, cello, piano
  • Still (2001) bass flute, 6 & 12-string guitar, viola
  • Nowhere (2003) clarinet, piano, electronics
  • Afterglow (2006) alto flute, piano, electronics
  • Transference (2010) flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano
  • Crossing dialogues (2013) violin, cello, vibraphone and piano
  • Of Shadows Unveiled (2013) flute, bass clarinet and piano
  • Towards the soul (2015) trombone quartet
  • Conditional action (2016) two flutes
  • Alba (2016) violin, viola, cello, piano


  • Hieroglyphs (1985–86) piano
  • Three Preludes (1987) piano
  • Poem for the Absurd (1987) piano
  • Musica Reservata (1989) piano
  • Shambhala (1990) piano
  • Satori (1999) harpsichord
  • Hinayana (1999) oboe
  • Mosaic (1998) harpsichord
  • Drang (1999) accordion
  • Without (2004) violin
  • Almost (2006) cello
  • Over (2006) violin
  • En avant (2006) piano
  • Se potessi (2011) piano
  • Eulogy (2013) piano
  • Verso l’alto (2014) viola
  • Three Haikus (2014) shakuhachi
  • Hypothesis (2017) percussion
  • Yahari (2017) guitar

Electroacoustic (including acousmatic)[edit]

  • Beyond the bridge (1993) cello and electronics
  • Renge-kyo (1993) piano and electronics
  • Encounter (1998) harpsichord, world percussions, electronics
  • '…as it flies…' (2001) tape
  • Transfiguration (1999–2006) trombone and electronics
  • I am (2002) tape
  • After silence 1 (2005) piano and electronics
  • Inwards (2005–06) bass flute and electronics
  • In the Temple (2006–07) tape
  • Present Otherness (2008) tape
  • Mémoires (2011) tape
  • Woanders (2016) piano and electronics


  • 1990 - Cornelius Cardew Competition, England: special mention for in memory of a friend, for soprano and piano.
  • 1992 - City of Lucerne Cultural Prize, Switzerland: first prize winner with Omen, for orchestra and choir.
  • 1994 - Bourges International Competition for Electroacoustic Music, France: second prize winner with Beyond the Bridge, for cello & electronics.
  • 1995 - Surrey Sinfonietta Orchestral Competition Contest, England: first prize winner with Concertino, for orchestra.
  • 1995 - 1st Tokyo International Competition for Chamber Music Composition: second prize winner with Theorem (piano trio).
  • 1996 - City of Klagenfurt International Composition Prize, Austria: second prize winner with Second String Quartet (Dream).
  • 2009 - Bourges International Competition for Electroacoustic Music, France: selection of Transient for soprano, prepared piano & electronics.
  • 2010 - Città di Udine International Competition for Composers, Italy: Special Mention and Medal of the President of the Italian Republic for Transference, for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano.
  • 2011 - Presque Rien International Competition Prize, Paris: prize winner with mémoires, for electroacoustic sounds.


Bibliography (selected writings by John Palmer)[edit]


Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco by Jonathan Harvey. An aural score, analysis and discussion (2018), 008-MA, 009-MP, 0010-MP Vision Edition. ISBN 978-0-9931761-3-5. ISMN: 979-0-9002315-4-3, 979-0-9002315-5-0.

Conversations (2015), Vision Edition 003-MC, 2015. ISBN 978-0-9931761-0-4.

Rhythm to go (2013), Vision Edition 002-MP. 2013. Second edition 2014. ISMN 979-0-9002315-1-2.

Jonathan Harvey's Bhakti for chamber ensemble and electronics (2001), Edwin Mellen Press, Studies in History and Interpretation of Music. ISBN 0-7734-7436-6; ISBN 978-0-7734-7436-9 * mellenpress

Integrating Skills Development with Academic Content in Higher Education (with Honeybone A., Blumhof J., Hall M.). A guide to the work of the Hertfordshire Integrated Learning Project, Hatfield, University of Hertfordshire, UK, 2001.

Formal Strategies in Composition. PhD Thesis, City University, London, 1994.

Articles and Papers:

Introduction to ‘Images of the mind' (1997). Paper given at the 1997 KlangArt International Congress ‘New Music & Technology’ in Osnabrück, Germany. Published in ‘Musik und Neue Technologie 3, Musik im virtuellen Raum’ (edited by Bernd Enders), Universitätsverlag Rasch, Osnabrück (2000). ISBN 3-934005-64-0.

Conceptual models of interaction: towards a perceptual analysis of interactive composition (1997-8) Paper given at the 1997 Sonic Arts Network Conference, University of Birmingham, UK, 10–12 January 1998. Published in the Seamus Journal, USA, Vol. XIV no. 1, Summer 1999. SEAMUS, Sonic Arts Network

Perceptual Abstraction and Electroacoustic Composition (1998) Paper given at the 1998 Seamus Conference, Dartmouth College, NH, USA, 16–18 April 1998 (1997–98). Published in the Seamus Journal, USA, Vol. XIII, No. 2, Fall 1998. SEAMUS

Listening: towards a new awareness of a neglected skill (1997) Paper for the Stockholm Hey Listen! International Conference on Acoustic Ecology, 9–13 June 1998 Published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, June 1998.

Which Global Music? (1999) Paper given at the 1999 Klangart Congress, Osnabrueck, Germany, June 1999. Published in ‘Musik und Neue Technologie 4’ (edited by Bernd Enders), Epos music Universitätsverlag Osnabrück (2003). ISBN 978-3-923486-01-4, ISBN 978-3-923486-02-1 epos music publisher read article

The lesson of freedom: Remembering Luc Ferrari (2005) Published in 'Soundscape - The Journal of Acoustic Ecology', Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2005. ISSN 1607-3304 Soundscape


Breathing Silence. An interview with John Palmer. By Cristina Scuderi, 2011. Musica/Tecnologia Journal, Vol. 5, 2011, Firenze University Press. ISSN 1974-0042. [1]

The Ambiguity of Sounds. Composer and pianist John Palmer. By Christian Peter Meier. Luzerner Zeitung, 25.1.1993. In German.

Intervista a John Palmer. By Lia De Pra Cavalleri. Verifiche, Swiss Journal of culture and politics in education, April 2003. In Italian. [2].

Interview in Composition Today'. By Christian Morris, 2014.

External links[edit]