Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco

by Jonathan Harvey An aural score, analysis and discussion

John Palmer

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by Jonathan Harvey

An aural score, analysis and discussion

Ask about this work
Composer John Palmer
Year of Composition 2018
Duration -
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-b-jp1mpvv1


“I think John Palmer has created something unique with this project. As well as a comprehensive essay, usefully placing Harvey’s work in a range of musical, technological
and social contexts, there is the most expert, precise and illuminating post facto graphic score I have yet seen of an acousmatic piece of music, derived from close and informed listening. This alone would be admirable; but, coupled with the teaching and learning suggestions that Palmer proposes (including ear training, spectral awareness and aesthetic engagement) the project represents one of the most ambitious and practical attempts that I know of to explain, in detail, how such music derives and accretes artistic meaning from its sonic materials. Harvey’s work is by now an acknowledged masterpiece; Palmer has made the reasons for its excellence palpable and assimilable.”

– Martin Butler, composer and Professor of Music, University of Sussex, UK

“I find many good ideas expressed cogently and articulated quite clearly. Palmer’s article is an invaluable addition to critical writing on particular aspects of ’spectral’ pieces
which are based on pitch structures.”

– Kevin Austin, composer and Professor in Electroacoustic Studies, Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

“This new examination of Jonathan Harvey’s early 80s IRCAM classic, Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, offers plenty of insights into the composer’s thinking and musical preoccupations. The text discusses the intricate spectral transformations achieved with software that was still far from fully-fledged at the time, and the accompanying aural
score lays out the details of the elements at play in the piece. The author has also used this work as the basis of some intriguing and important exercises in ear training and sound cognition – all tested in the context of his own teaching. Fascinating stuff!”

– Jonty Harrison, composer and Emeritus Professor of Composition and Electroacoustic Music, University of Birmingham, UK

“This is an excellent and useful analysis for anyone who has heard Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco. Palmer has uncovered some of the mysteries behind this work and his
scores are feasts for the eyes which help the ears and the mind of the reader/listener. Like Stockhausen’s Gesang der Junglinge, Harvey’s work impresses precisely because it interrogates the human voice – albeit a child’s and not an adult voice. That is quite illuminating. Since I first heard them both I have been driven to be curious: How is this achieved? Why am I moved? What do I recognise as familiar, and what is novel in this work? In his inspired book, John Palmer proposes convincing evidence for answers to these questions about Jonathan Harvey’s music, and beyond.”

– Paul Alan Barker, Professor of Music Theatre, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London, UK