operatic & interdisciplinary

Every Word Was Once An Animal

interdisciplinary performance installation, 2020.

X Every Word Was Once An Animal

interdisciplinary performance installation, 2020.

Every Word Was Once An Animal merges art, science, dance, music, and olfaction. An ongoing collaboration between visual artist Carla Bengtson, composer Juliet Palmer, choreographer Darion Smith and video artist and ceramicist Jessie Rose Vala.

Every Word was Once an Animal explores the overlapping forces of nature and culture between humans, animals, and language. The interdisciplinary exhibition blends Bengtson’s playful investigations into the lifeworlds of nonhuman animals with choreographer Darion Smith’s interest in embodied language, composer Juliet Palmer’s investigations into the material possibilities and constraints of human and nonhuman utterance, and artist Jessie Rose Vala’s evocations of the intimate relationship between sculptural form and the mythic mind. Inspired by the research of Dr. Emilia Martins (Arizona State University) on the group learned, gestural language of Western fence lizards.

Presented at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene, Oregon, March-December, 2020.

Funding: JSMA Academic Support Grant, the University of Oregon’s College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Art + Design, the Oregon Arts Commission, the Ford Family Foundation, Spring Creek Projects’ Long-term Ecological Reflections Program, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Center for Art Research.



Piano Action

imaginary composition of indeterminate duration, 2020.

X Piano Action

imaginary composition of indeterminate duration, 2020.

Commission: Decolonial Imaginings series produced by of-the-now with the Vancouver Foundation and the Canadian Music Centre BC region, October 2020


“Come with me to the edge of the tracks, through the rotting wood and rusting metal of the train turntable, where under the Manitoba maples and aspens grow deadly nightshade and goldenrod, mulberry, Queen Anne’s lace and wild rose. The fence has been knocked down in places and what’s left of the freight yard buried in trash. In the middle of the night, people pull up at the bottom of the Rona car park, dumping whatever it is they want to forget: a red glove, McDonald’s wrappers, a red Tim Horton’s coffee cup, yellow plastic strapping from shipping pallets, a Harvie’s Canadian coffee cup, dog poop in a knotted black plastic bag, white styrofoam cups, empty antifreeze jugs, window cleaner bottles, and plastic bags.

Walk a little further, past a shopping cart with a squirrel perched on top, to the old transfer table. Sit down and rest on one of the plywood bar stools, discards from someone’s kitchen island. There’s an old toilet in the long grass, a white sneaker without laces, blue surgical masks (used once), and plastic bottles — Pepsi, Gatorade, Naya, Polish Spring.

On the other side of the train tracks once stood the Heintzman piano factory. Now a non-descript brick, concrete and glass condo looms over rows of Victorian brick terraces and a Tibetan Buddhist temple. In 1890 they made 1,000 pianos each year, sending them by rail to Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Kenora, Winnipeg, Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Medicine Hat, Calgary, Banff, Kamloops, and Vancouver.

Twenty years later the factory was still busy, wood hanging to dry in the central courtyard and workers arriving every morning to build pianos. William Fell was one of those workers — a piano action finisher. He’d connect everything together like a see-saw so that the hammers hit the strings in just the right place, so the keys felt not too heavy and not too light, and the pedals muffled the strings or allowed them to ring on and on… William lived with his wife Inazetta in the same house I now live in. The last trace of William that I find is a military record: “Previously reported Wounded and Missing, now for official purposes presumed to have died in the vicinity of Avion on or since July 23rd 1917.”

piano action finish

finish piano action

This introduction is nearly finished.” 

Choreography of Trauma

for flute, clarinet, electric guitar, percussion, violin, cello, choir & video projection [20′].

X Choreography of Trauma

for flute, clarinet, electric guitar, percussion, violin, cello, choir & video projection [20′].

Commission: Continuum Contemporary Music with funds from the Ontario Arts Council

Premiere: Christine and the Element Choir with the Continuum Ensemble, February 9, 2020 at the Music Gallery, 918 Bathurst, Toronto

Choreography of Trauma embraces the virtuosity and emotional extremes of the Trauma Bay. Listening and observing one Saturday evening in March 2018, I was mesmerized by the complex choreography of the trauma team working to bring patients back from almost certain death. Choreography of Trauma is my musical homage: an intermingling of the hundreds of small gestures, strings of numbers, unexpected sounds and words that save a life.

The verbatim text is excerpted from observation at Sunnybrook’s Trauma Bay, March 10, 2018 and a follow-up interview with Trauma Team Leader Dr. Bourke Tillmann.

Choreography of Trauma was commissioned by Continuum and funded by The Ontario Arts Council. Thanks to Drs. Avery Nathens and Bourke Tillmann for welcoming me into the controlled chaos of Sunnybrook’s Trauma Bay during my Ontario Arts Council residency. An extra shout-out to Bourke for sharing his musical passion as a drummer.

Ukiyo, floating world

for violin, shamisen, voice, bass koto, percussion, piano & & video projection [28′] 2019.

X Ukiyo, floating world

for violin, shamisen, voice, bass koto, percussion, piano & & video projection [28′] 2019.

Funding: The Canada Council for the Arts

Premiere: Thin Edge New Music Collective & Urbanvessel.  Ongaku Festival, September 22, 2019 at 918 Bathurst, Toronto

Ukiyo, floating world is a poetic contemplation of the detritus of our disposable economy, inspired by improvisations with marine plastic pollution in Japan.

“Ukiyo” or “The Floating World” was the name given to the pleasure quarters of 17th century Edo, Kyoto and Osaka. For over 250 years, beautiful volumes of woodblock prints celebrated this world. “Ukiyo can also mean “sad troublesome world.” Wading knee deep in the plastic trash of our contemporary “floating world”, sadness is hard to resist. But “Ukiyo” can also mean “going with the flow”, sparking the transformation from a perception of abandonment to one of beauty. Playing the ocean’s garbage, we were enthralled: from the sonic boom of plastic fishing floats, the screech of styrofoam buoys, and the rippling ridges of packing crates, to the rattle of gaudy plastic cigarette lighters and the resonance of hollow pipes.

Ukiyo, floating world creates a dialogue between live musicians and video footage of this new “floating world”. Many thanks to Thin Edge New Music Collective for joining us as we enter unknown waters. 

Composer & Artistic Director, Urbanvessel: Juliet Palmer
Designer: Sonja Rainey
Video Editing & Projections: Sonja Rainey
Videography: Sonja Rainey & Juliet Palmer
Violin: Ilana Waniuk
Shamisen & Voice: Aki Takahashi
Bass Koto: Miyama McQueen-Tokita
Percussion: Germaine Liu
Piano: Cheryl Duvall
Cultural consultant: Yo Utano

Inside Us

for solo vocalist, choir, audio tracks, multiple video projections, 3 televisions, and turntable [45′].

X Inside Us

for solo vocalist, choir, audio tracks, multiple video projections, 3 televisions, and turntable [45′].

Western Front with funds from the Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Laura Swankey with DB Boyko and the VOICE OVER mind Choir, February 8, 2018 at the Grand Luxe Hall, Western Front, Vancouver
Recording: Laura Swankey, Christine Duncan & The Element Choir, February 9, 2020, presented by Continuum and Urbanvessel, Toronto’s Music Gallery

Inside Us presents ten stories gathered from “the edges of life” — moments of awareness of heartbeat and breath. These sung stories are punctuated by two interludes, improvisations by the soloist using diagnostic ultrasound recordings on a custom cut disc, giving voice to the rhythms of the body’s veins and arteries. The video connects inner and outer worlds in a visual diary which ripples, flutters, bubbles, drops and flows.

Inside Us was commissioned and premiered in 2018 by DB Boyko with the VOICE OVER mind Choir at Vancouver’s Western Front with funding from The Canada Council for the Arts.

Production Credits
Video, music & sound: Juliet Palmer
Backing track vocals: Laura Swankey
Recording engineer: Jean Martin
Original stories: Diana Stewart-Imbert, Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, DB Boyko, Soressa Gardner, Donna Lytle and Carol Sawyer (ed. Palmer)
Ultrasound diagnostic recordings: Paul Sheeran, Peter Burns and Caroline Maloney (Sunnybrook Research Institute)
Artistic residency, Sunnybrook Research Institute: funded by The Ontario Arts Council

Performers (2020)
Laura Swankey, vocal soloist
Christine Duncan, conductor, with singers: Brooklyn Bohach, Emma Cava, Meghan Gilhespy, Sylvo Frank, Andrea Kuzmich, D. Alex Meeks, Olivia Shortt, Lieke van der Voort, Jackson Welchner

The Man Who Married Himself

dance opera for 3 vocalists, 2 dancers & chamber ensemble [50’] 2017.

X The Man Who Married Himself

dance opera for 3 vocalists, 2 dancers & chamber ensemble [50’] 2017.
counter-tenor, baritone, Carnatic vocalist, flute, clarinet, percussion, portative organ, hurdy-gurdy, violin & cello.

Premiere: Toronto Masque Theatre, Crow’s Theatre, Toronto, March 10-11, 2017

Librettist: Anna Chatterton
Toronto Masque Theatre
Funders: Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts
Production: choreographer Hari Krishnan, director Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière, conductor Larry Beckwith, set & costume design Rex, lighting Gabriel Cropley
Featuring: Scott Belluz (counter-tenor), Alex Samaras (baritone) & Subhiksha Rangarajan; Ravyn Wngz & Sze-Yang Ade-Lam (dancers)

Program note:
Unwilling to marry a woman, a man fashions a lover from his own left side. He’s enraptured by her perfect beauty – a mirror of his own – until he discovers that this new woman longs for freedom and wildly desires another. 

South Asian and Baroque music and performance traditions meet in a new masque based on a traditional Indian folk tale (from A.K. Ramanujan’s A Flowering Tree). A powerful & timely allegory of the female and male warring within, told through music, words and movement.

Composer’s Note:
Just when you think you’ve grasped it, the story slithers away like a snake — that’s what keeps me fascinated. What seems like a familiar “woman born of man” creation story gets a feminist twist: the Newborn Woman outfoxes the Prince and heads off into a blissful future of new lovers. The tale comes from Karnataka in South India, where elements of matriarchal culture still play out in family structures. It’s not a myth, but a folk tale handed down from one generation of women to the next. It could be understood perhaps as a story of consolation for women enduring the hardships of life in a man’s world.

On a more personal note, the tale suggests the need to find a balance between what we might understand as the masculine and the feminine within each of us — to seek a more nuanced understanding of gender. The Prince locks up and limits the Newborn Woman — the Other — keeping what is different at a suspicious distance. In contrast, the Lover and the Newborn Woman fall in love through a gentle process of listening and exchange. The Lover uses imagination to understand what the Newborn Woman is telling him. Unlike The Prince, who imposes an idealized femininity onto the Woman, the Lover listens, waits and understands. Openness to difference and generosity of imagination transform our encounters with “the Other”, both within our selves and in the wider world.

Image: Sze-Yang Ade-Lam & Ravyn Wngz (photo by Kakumi Mori)



a cappella opera [70’] 2016.

X Sweat

a cappella opera [70’] 2016.
soloists: 2 soprani, mezzo-soprano & baritone
chorus: 2 soprani, 3 mezzi.

“The depiction of the women’s collective experience resonated most powerfully in the rhythmic ensemble evocations—sung and spoken—of the soul-destroying daily grind…and the slowly unfolding, overlapping textures of voices yearning for a better life.” —Wall Street Journal

Librettist: Anna Chatterton
Soundstreams Canada
Funders: Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts

Sweat film (2023)

Sweat merges contemporary dance and operatic storytelling with evocative and striking imagery. Filmed in raw factory spaces, Sweat tells the story of a group of women working in the garment industry and sets their individual aspirations against the demands of global capitalism.

Producer: Bicycle Opera Project
Jennifer Nichols Cinematographer Ash Tailor Music Director Geoffrey Sirett
Featuring: Stephanie Tritchew, Larissa Koniuk, Catherine Daniel, Keith Lam, Caitlin Wood, Justine Owen, Erica Iris, Alex Beley, Cindy Won, Dedra McDermott, Miyeko Ferguson, Carleen Zouboules
Funding: Canada Council for the Arts

CalArts Production (2019)

Photograph of opera singers in a set that resembles a sewing sweatshop. There are sewing machines and fluorescent lights. One singer is arched backwards over a sewing table, her hands raised to the ceiling.

Director Jesse Bonnell Music Director Tanner Pfeiffer Scenic Designer Theo Her Costume Designer Sonya Berg Lighting Designer Ben Wilson Sound Designer Scott Goldfarb Video Designer Christopher Jungwoo Kim
Featuring: Kate Masson, Linda Marie Burns, Elizabeth Waller, Noah Jordan Cott, Socks Whitmore, Michelle Wang, Julie Reames, Emily Tschirhart, Mana Contractor

Canadian Touring Production (2017)

Singers beneath a billowing plastic sheet as scraps of paper fall from above

Producer: Bicycle Opera Project
Director Baņuta Rubess conductor Geoffrey Sirrett choreographer Jennifer Nichols designer Sonja Rainey lighting Kai Masaoka stage manager Julia Howman
Featuring: Stephanie Tritchew, Keith Lam, Larissa Koniuk and Catherine Daniel
Chorus: Cindy Won, Caitlin Wood, Justine Owen, Stephanie Tritchew and Emma Char

New York Premiere Production (2016)

Opera production still of Sweat

Producer: Center for Contemporary Opera in cooperation with Urbanvessel.
National Sawdust, New York, October 26-27, 2016.
Giselle Ty conductor Lidiya Kankovskaya choreographer Nicole Pearce set design Frank Oliva costumes Asa Benally lighting Bruce Steinberg stage manager Jeromy Hunt
Featuring: Larissa Koniuk, Shabnam Kalbasi, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Patrick McNally and Eric McKeever
Chorus: Isabella Dawis, Katya Gruzglina, Leanne Gonzalez-Singer, Christine Duncan and Hanne Dollase

Program note:

“Made in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Italy, China, India…the U.S.A.”  Who sews our clothes, who makes our shoes? Where do they live? How much are they paid? What would you dream of, sewing sleeves all day? Is life better in the village you left behind? Sweat is a kaleidoscope of characters and stories collected from factories around the world. Plunging headfirst into the ethical conundrums of the garment trade, the work offers a window into the lives of the unseen millions who work to clothe us and the high-flying designers whose fantasies feed the fashion industry.

Photos: Dahlia Katz, Bicycle Opera Production


Audio installation, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Pedestrian Bridge, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5 2015.

X Undercurrent

Audio installation, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Pedestrian Bridge, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5 2015.

Transducers applied to the pedestrian bridge transform it into a vibrating loudspeaker, singing the river’s Anishinaabemowin name to the most constricted and polluted section of the waterway.

Original song for the Wonscotonach River composed by Marie Gaudet and performed by the First Nations School of Toronto girls singing group.

Wonscotonach has been translated by linguist Basil Johnson as “burning bright point or peninsula” or a point bright with fire, perhaps referring to the peninsula near the mouth of the Don (later the Toronto islands).

“When you think about it, a lot of these songs came from the women who did the laundry along the riverside. This song came to me when I was in the laundromat. I was in there alone, listening to the swishes of the water and the humming of the machines. And I was thinking of another song that I really liked and thinking that, geez, I’d like to make a really nice pretty song like that one. And so that is how the song came to me.” — Marie Gaudet, on composing the Wonscotonach River Song

Creative team: artistic director Juliet Palmer & sound artist Christopher Willes
Additional voices: Regent Park School of Music

Inner Rivers

Audio installation, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Belleville Underpass, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5 2015.

X Inner Rivers

Audio installation, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Belleville Underpass, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5 2015.

Diagnostic ultrasound recordings transport the listener along the body’s inner rivers. Entering the tunnel, we are immersed in a dynamic audio map of blood flow: from the tips of the fingers, through the abdominal region, to the head and brain.

Research work in Dr. Peter Burns’ laboratory at the University of Toronto makes use of Doppler ultrasound to measure the dynamic flow of blood, its pressures and the resistance of blood vessels themselves. Ultrasound imaging of blood flow can provide an audible indicator of health or illness.

Exiting the tunnel, listen for the sound of the river. What obstacles does the river face? What are the pressures and resistances it must overcome?

Creative team: composer Juliet Palmer, sound artist Christopher Willes & Sunnybrook scientist Dr. Peter Burns


chamber opera — 5 singers (sop, 2 mez, ten, bar) + ensemble (cl/bcl, egtr, perc, pf, vn, db) [80’] 2012.

X Shelter

chamber opera — 5 singers (sop, 2 mez, ten, bar) + ensemble (cl/bcl, egtr, perc, pf, vn, db) [80’] 2012.

Commissioner: Tapestry New Opera
Funders: The Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts and Tapestry New Opera
Premiere: Edmonton Opera, November 16-20, 2012
Librettist: Julie Salverson
Production: direction Keith Turnbull, design Sue Page, movement Jo Leslie, video & lighting Beth Kates and Ben Chaisson

Program note: Shelter: a nuclear family adrift in the atomic age. Since Prometheus stole fire from the gods, we have flirted with the dangerous beauty of science. In the invisible shadow of Fukushima, how will we survive when knowledge so outstrips understanding? In this fable a father protects his family at any cost, a mother chases storms and a nuclear physicist is midwife to a child who glows in the dark. When the dashing Pilot enters, our world is forever altered.

Composer’s note: The Cold War hovered over my childhood, threatening imminent catastrophe and planetary doom. Growing up in New Zealand was no guarantee of safety — the governments of France, the U.K. and the U.S.A. all conducted nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean. This was brought home in 1985 when I heard the explosive boom as the French government bombed the Greenpeace vessel The Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour. Skip ahead fifteen years and I became a citizen of Canada, a country with a strikingly different atomic history. The lights in my house are powered by nuclear power and my neighbourhood in Toronto hosts a uranium fuel pellet processing plant. At night I lie in bed listening to the haunting sound of train whistles and wonder if another shipment of uranium has arrived from the west. In some sense we all live along the Highway of the Atom and everywhere is downwind. Tripping over tailings and bogged down in radioactive mud, perhaps laughter and beauty will cause us to linger a moment and consider which path leads us out of this mess.

Fire on the Water

Fire on the Water is a 60-minute choreographed performance for brass, winds, vocals and drumkit which premiered at the event of the same name, August 26, 2012.

X Fire on the Water

Fire on the Water is a 60-minute choreographed performance for brass, winds, vocals and drumkit which premiered at the event of the same name, August 26, 2012. Organized by TheWaves collective — Christie Pearson and Marcus Boon — the Fire on the Water event was a free all-ages all-day swim-in and dance party featuring installation and live performance at the Sunnyside Pavilion, Toronto.

Choreography: Aimée Dawn Robinson a.k.a. Motherdrift
Performers: Allison Peacock, Barbara Lindberg, Lo Bil, Victoria Cheong and Dawne Carlton
Music: Juliet Palmer (in collaboration with the performers)
Performers: Brodie West, Nick Fraser, Lina Allemano, Doug Tielli, Nicole Rampersaud, Charles Davidson and Alex Samaras
Funders: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and The Toronto Arts Council

All photos by Giulio Muratori.

Like an Old Tale

An operatic staging of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

X Like an Old Tale

An operatic staging of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. For 2 operatic soloists — sop + bar, 2 traditional singers, 2 SATB choirs, traditional drummers and chamber ensemble – cl/bcl, pf, perc, vn, db [150’] 2011.

Commissioner: Jumblies Theatre Company
Funder: Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Jumblies Theatre Company, director Varrick Grimes, soloists Doug MacNaughton (baritone) and Neema Bickersteth (soprano), Rosary Spence (First Nations singer), Sharada Eswar (Carnatic singer), Toronto, December 8-18, 2011.
Concept: Ruth Howard
Program note:

Like an Old Tale has drawn me into a world in which hundreds of people from all over the world retell an old story through sound, text, movement and image. How can music help or hinder our understanding of each other? Over the last year and a half we’ve worked together to create a musical world which makes room for different cultural traditions and skills. Some moments are soundscapes, while others are clearly operatic and driven by the vocal line. There have been break-through moments: the Bohemian chorus’ gutsy embrace of the call and response of the Daffodil song; Sharada singing Katrinile Varum Geetham while the Sicilian Choir sing a lament; Rosary and Sharada spinning a double lullaby together over the musical bed of the ensemble; mridangam drummer Sarma joining the groove in Rosary’s Water Song. When we read through the outline of the piece in the summer, I was struck by the compelling voices of children and seniors speaking passages from Shakespeare’s text: these extraordinary words are the bedrock of our collaboration. I am indebted to the generous contributions of Sharada Eswar and Rosary Spence, whose songs weave their way through the piece, and to the band (Adam, Adam, Aleksander, Alex and Martin) whose improvisations summon the Badlands and Bohemia. Thanks to everyone for giving voice to this new world!


interdisciplinary work fusing boxing, dance & opera [60’] 2010.

X Voice-Box

interdisciplinary work fusing boxing, dance & opera [60’] 2010.

Commissioner: World Stage, Harbourfront Centre
Funders: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Roger D. Moore & Harbourfront Centre Fresh Ground new works.
Credits: music Juliet Palmer, text Anna Chatterton, choreography Julia Aplin.
Premiere: Urbanvessel with Vilma Vitols, Neema Bickersteth, Savoy Howe, Christine Duncan, Anna Chatterton, Julia Aplin & Juliet Palmer, World Stage, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, November 10-14, 2010.
Program note:

During the research and development of Voice-Box we learned that Canadian women were not allowed to box until 1991. Lawyer and aspiring boxer Jenny Reid not only won that right for women, but fought the first sanctioned match against Thérèse Robitaille in Nova Scotia. It wasn’t until last year that women were granted permission to box in the upcoming 2012 Olympics. This is a huge breakthrough as the last time women boxed at the Olympics was in 1904 at a demonstration match. Savoy Howe generously supplied us with stories about being a female boxer in a world of men, the discrimination and eventual support she and other female boxers experienced.

Voice-Box celebrates and encourages women who choose to scrap it out, to display strength, sweat and skill, punching like a girl, fighting ugly but fighting fair, in the ring and in the world.

— Julia Aplin, Anna Chatterton and Juliet Palmer.


a cappella opera [40′] 2008.

X Stitch

a cappella opera [40′] 2008.

Commissioner: The Theatre Centre, Toronto
Premiere: Vilma Vitols, Neema Bickersteth, Christine Duncan & Patricia O’Callaghan, FreeFall Festival/World Stage, The Theatre Centre, Toronto, March 12-16, 2008.
Creative Team: music Juliet Palmer, libretto Anna Chatterton, choreography Marie-Josée Chartier, direction Ruth Madoc-Jones, design Sarah Armstrong, lighting Kimberly Purtell
Awards: Dora nominations “Outstanding New Opera” and “Outstanding Production” (2008)
Funders: The Toronto Arts Council, The Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Ontario Arts Council Theatre Creator’s Reserve and The Theatre Centre.

Preview in NOW Magazine, May 2010.

Stitch was developed in residence at The Theatre Centre and funded by The Ontario Arts Council, The Toronto Arts Council, and The Canada Council for the Arts.
Program note:

From the abuse of the sweatshop to the fantasy of costume and the empowerment of sewing-it-yourself, the sewing machine has been a force for liberation and exploitation since its invention in the 19th century. Hemmed in by the language of sewing and the inexorable rhythm of the machine, three women fight to find space for imagination and individuality. Stitch gives voice to the unseen women who clothe us all.


site-specific performance for 3 singers, percussion and dancers [60’] 2006.


site-specific performance for 3 singers, percussion and dancers [60’] 2006.

Funders: The Laidlaw Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council, The Toronto Arts Council, and the City of Toronto.
Premiere: Urbanvessel with Susanne Chui, Louis Laberge-Côté, Jean Martin, Christine Duncan, Aki Takahashi and Vilma Vitols, Harrison Baths. X Avant Festival, Toronto, September 20-22, 2006.
Creative Team: music Juliet Palmer, choreography Yvonne Ng, lyrics Anna Chatterton, installation Christie Pearson.
Program note:

Slip is a site-specific performance for a swimming pool or bath house fusing sound, movement and light. Urbanvessel investigates each new performance site, reflecting the users and the history of the space, and evoking its latent drama, dream spaces and stories. Each production of Slip is unique, but builds on our previous performances. Cultures with distinct architectures and social rituals of bathing are juxtaposed to increase awareness of our own histories. As humans we are bound together by the intimate experience of cleansing and our precious connection to water.

In 2006 Slip travelled the labyrinth of Toronto’s Harrison Baths complex: from the tiled lobby, through the gargantuan men’s locker room, to the majestic pool, and finally, through the series of intimate rooms making up the women’s space.


dance score for bass clarinet + double bass [35′] 2002.

X Cypress

dance score for bass clarinet + double bass [35′] 2002.

Commissioner: Yvonne Ng, Tiger Princess Dance Projects
Funders: The Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, The Laidlaw Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts.
Premiere: Justine Chambers, Susanne Chui and Susan Lee; Robert Stevenson & Peter Pavlovsky, Artword Theatre, Toronto, December 5-8 2002.
Choreography: Yvonne Ng
Program note:

Conceived and Choreographed by Yvonne Ng, Cypress was inspired by the Chinese legend of the Three Friends: bamboo, plum and cypress. They do not die, but remain constant and blossom before the spring comes. The cypress symbolizes longevity, a core aspect of friendship. The dancers – Justine Chambers, Susanne Chui and Susan Lee – fill the space with flowing movements that are both strikingly awkward and yet starkly organic. They become the ever-shifting, ever-sifting landscape, creating and disarming their boundaries and conjoined limitations. As with many of her works, Ng found her movement vocabulary from exercises in constraint. Choreographic phrases are eked out of the dancers’ limited freedom and are surprisingly swollen with poignant, and poetically enduring images. In my score for Cypress, I was drawn to the rich web of connections the double bass and clarinet draw across musical cultures: from klezmer, tango, and gypsy music to Indian film scores. Performed by contemporary virtuosi Peter Pavlovsky (double bass) and Robert Stevenson (bass clarinet), the score veers from groove to grunge, as the instruments shadow, tangle, keen and sigh.


dance score for violin + audio playback [90′] 2002.

X Inland

dance score for violin + audio playback [90′] 2002.


Excerpt: Flock Dance

Commissioner: The New Zealand International Arts Festival
Funder: The New Zealand International Arts Festival Trust
Premiere: Douglas Wright Dance with violinist Deborah White, The Opera House, Wellington, The New Zealand International Arts Festival, March 7, 2002.
Credits: concept and choreography Douglas Wright, set and costume design John Verryt, film/video Florian Habicht

Program note:
Using animal imagery to take us into the heart of the human condition, Inland charts the fragile equilibrium between shepherd, flock, dog and hawk.

Flotsam & Jetsam

interdisciplinary performance for mezzo-soprano, piano & dancer [50’] 2001.

X Flotsam & Jetsam

interdisciplinary performance for mezzo-soprano, piano & dancer [50’] 2001.

Funders: The Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Laidlaw Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Vilma Vitols, Ya-wen Wang, Susan Macpherson, Open Ears Festival, Kitchener, Canada, May 6, 2001.
Credits: music & concept Juliet Palmer, choreography Bill James, lighting Paul Mathiesen, costume Evelyn von Michalofski, video Nick de Pencier, set design Juliet Palmer, Paul Mathiesen & Evelyn von Michalofski.
Additional credits: Am Meer (1828) for voice and piano — Franz Schubert; Venus of the South Seas (1924) starring Annette Kellerman — dir. James R. Sullivan; excerpts from How To Swim (1918) — Annette Kellerman; recorded voice: Gladys Boyce.
Program note:

As a teenager in the 1920s, my grandmother Gladys played piano for silent films in the remote New Zealand town of Takaka. She still recalls a film which was shot nearby at Pohara beach. Although Glad has never seen the film, I found out later that it was the underwater spectacular Venus of the South Seas, starring Australian diver Annette Kellerman. A trained classical musician, Kellerman’s stage performances combined piano, violin and vocal recitals, along with high-diving and underwater stunts.

Flotsam & Jetsam weaves together memories of my grandmother with the fantastical watery world of Annette Kellerman. This performance is dedicated to my grandmother, Gladys Boyce.



site-specific collaboration for 2 percussionists & 7 dancers [18’] 1999.

X Cocktail

site-specific collaboration for 2 percussionists & 7 dancers [18’] 1999.

Commissioner: Bill James & Chiyoko Slazvnics, Art in Open Spaces
Funder: The Laidlaw Foundation
Premiere: Pam Johnson, Karen Kaeja, Juliet Palmer, Sara Porter, JoAnna Powell, Rick Sacks, Miko Sobreira, Teena Walker & Julia Wyncoll, Water Sources 2, Art in Open Spaces, Toronto, Canada, July 23, 1999.
Credits: choreography/co-direction Karen Kaeja; music/co-direction Juliet Palmer.

Program note:

Cocktail was conceived in the turbulent waters of “Salmon Run”, Susan Schelle’s evocative and erotic sculpture situated in the fountain between the Skydome and the CN Tower. Due to a last-minute city permission battle, Cocktail was reworked for Bernie Miller’s “The Poet, The Fever Hospital” sculpture in Metro Square.  

In the fluid medium of water, music becomes visible and dance audible. Friction and subtle encounters provide soundscore and movement bedrock. Dancers meet, bringing sound to life.

A Guided Viewing

sound installation 1998.

X A Guided Viewing

sound installation 1998.

Commissioner: Mercer Union
Premiere: Mercer Union Gallery, Toronto, Canada, May 15-June 20, 1998.
Thanks: Martin Arnold, Steve Bishop, Sam Bishop-Green, Nicholas Brooke, Allison Cameron, Ruth Caston, Millie Chen, Ann Christie, Christian Christie, Sasha Lutz-Winkler, Barbara Milewski, Eliot Palmer, James Rolfe, Nicholas Scott Rolfe, John Sherlock, Evelyn Von Michalofski, Todd Winkler and Mary Wright.

Program note:
A Guided Viewing hijacks the gallery audio-guide and reworks it into a face-to-face encounter between viewer and ‘artwork’. Questioning the idea of an authoritative voice, A Guided Viewing presents instead a polyphony of voices, each equally insistent.

Blood Shower

music theater for 2 percussionists [10’] 1998.

X Blood Shower

music theater for 2 percussionists [10’] 1998.

Premiere: Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Voix Nouvelles, Royaumont, France, September 26, 1998.
Text: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
Program note:

Blood Shower is based on the poetry and polemics of Filippo Tomasi Marinetti, author of the Futurist Manifesto. Nourished by “fire, hatred and speed”, the futurists exulted in a Utopia of technological violence. In conflict with this ideal of a “heroic hygiene”, Marinetti’s work is pervaded by a passionate sensuality: love becomes both sadistic and voluptuous. Blood Shower juxtaposes and blends sounds from daily life with ‘normal’ percussion sounds, while weaving an enigmatic relationship between the two musicians.


CD/sound installation/radio broadcast 1995.

X miasma

CD/sound installation/radio broadcast 1995.

Commissioner: Artspace Gallery
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: Artspace Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, August 29-September 22, 1995.
Radio Broadcast: Concert FM (NZ)and ABC’s The Listening Room (Australia)
Text: Josh Lacey
Program note:

Miasma is about the weather. Miasma is about the remote chance of getting what you want.

Miasma is a multi-track work for two compact disc players, mute weather channel T.V. and living room. Utilizing the random shuffle feature of two domestic CD players, twenty short dialogues by English writer Josh Lacey combine with forty-four music tracks in an endlessly changing remix. The dialogues use meteorological language to describe broader concerns, their randomization reflecting the chaos and unpredictability of our relationship to the weather itself.


tape, voice, food blender, electronics, grapefruit & slides [25’] 1993.

X Citrus

tape, voice, food blender, electronics, grapefruit & slides [25’] 1993.

Commissioner: Richard Dale
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: Juliet Palmer, SoundCulture Japan, Tokyo, January 27, 1993.
Ars Electronica: honourable mention, 1994
Voices: C. Bryan Roulon, Matt Wuolle, Mark Zaki, Josefina Calzada-Garza, Christoph Erlenkamp, Jeffrey Fourmaux, Juliet Palmer, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Janet Parker

Program note:

Beginning with a photograph I hold dear of my grandparents proudly displaying bunches of home-grown grapefruit, I set out to make this image resonate through my obsessive expression of this personal icon. I wanted to turn the grapefruit into sound.


I searched for texts using the words pulp, juice, juicy, grapefruit, squeeze, peel… Then I found and recorded people who seemed ‘right’ for the scenarios and characters these texts evoked. I recorded the fruit themselves: cut into pieces, sucked, juiced and drunk. I listened to the recordings and found that the most interesting moments were when the tape recorder caught people off-guard in their attempts to assume the new identities the written texts suggested. Not only did these ‘found’ words take me to a place apparently far from my family and the fruit, but my friends’ voices and personalities tapped into tones and emotions I had not expected. I wanted to stage an intense physical interaction with the fruit itself. A cadenza for blender and 75 grapefruit was born and is now the fulcrum of the entire performance piece. During the first 10 minutes I feverishly chop as many fruit as possible into segments which the audience devour before I deal the final electric blow to the remaining fruit. In the end, all that remains is to drink deeply and to sing.