Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco by Jonathan Harvey. An aural score, analysis and discussion.

John Palmer

Vision Edition, 2018
008-MA, 009-MP, 0010-MP
John Palmer
ISMN: 979-0-9002315-4-3, 979-0-9002315-5-0
ISBN: 978-0-9931761-3-5


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This set of three connected works comprises a book including an in-depth analysis and critical discussion of Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, an aural score and a workscore for class work. 

The set is available as a bundle including one book, one aural score and one workscore. Teachers who may want to use the workscore for analysis, composition, ear-training and sound cognition classes may purchase either a small class pack including the book, the aural score and 12 workscores, or a larger class pack including the book, the aural score and 20 workscores.

Peer reviews:

“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, 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, Professor in Electroacoustic Studies, 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, Emeritus Professor of Composition & 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.


“John Palmer has undertaken the definitive analysis of Harvey’s iconic electroacoustic work: an insightful and fitting tribute to a wonderful composer”.

Sam Hayden, Professor of Composition, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, UK.


Part 1: Analysis and discussion (book)-  ISBN 978-0-9931761-3-5

Part 2: An aural score  –  ISMN979-0-9002315-4-3

Part 3: A workscore – ISMN 979-0-9002315-5-0