harmony for our time


'Harmony seems to be a mostly forgotten notion in our society.'

 – Paul Gallagher

'Palongawhoya' – chamber ensemble. 

'Already Gone' – a cappella quartet.  video

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'Stationary Point' – trumpet with clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone.

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 'Kingdom of Mescal' – solo tenor in four movements.  video   

Dreamscape as a mythical quest for understanding.

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'Lure' – solo flute.

Recording courtesy of Johnny Reinhard

LURE - PAUL GALLAGHER - A. Bolotowsky, flute
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 'Seen' – three-part canon.

Beyond dreams, beyond myths, beyond anything necessary or conceivable.

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'Six Blind Men and the Moon– accompanied tenor in six movements.

A cappella version for tenor and mezzo soprano, American Festival of Microtonal Music, on Bandcamp.

Bone Dry Stone post mount.jpg
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'Tangible Midnight' – solo piano.

In appreciation of Morton Feldman.

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Paul Gallagher, just intonation composer

Harmony is central to the compositions of Paul Gallagher (1953-2011). Born in Pittsburgh, Paul Gallagher graduated from the Pennsylvania State University and received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he studied composition with Morton Feldman and Lejaren Hiller and voice with Heinz Rehfuss.

Paul Gallagher's orchestral, instrumental, and vocal compositions in just intonation have been performed in New York, Copenhagen, and Pittsburgh. His symphony, “Way of the Hopi,” premiered at Merkin Hall in New York in 1987. His chamber opera, Six Blind Men and the Moon, was performed at the Kraine Theater in New York in 1998. The vocal work, “Kingdom of Mescal,” premiered in New York in 1992. His grants included a fellowship in composition from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a New York State Council on the Arts grant to produce a new music radio program, and grants from Meet the Composer. 


He was invited to lecture on microtonality at the Young Nordic Music Festival in Copenhagen, and his works for just-tuned piano were presented in concert on Danish Radio. Performances include a chamber orchestra piece by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, a choral work in New York by Melodious Accord, and numerous vocal and chamber pieces in New York and New Jersey presented by Composers Concordance, North/South Consonance, Composers Guild of New Jersey, New York Open Center, Phoenix, Composers’ Forum, Newark Museum, and the New Jersey State Museum.

Occasionally working across the art-jazz-folk spectrum and sometimes in in standard temperament, his vocal catalogue includes an early album of rounds intended as accessible vehicles for his career-spanning themes of natural harmony and existential unity. One of the rounds, "Song of Survival" for mixed voices, flute, alto flute, and double bass, was chosen in a nationwide search for new choral music by Melodious Accord and performed for mixed chorus a cappella in New York in 1990. Another, "Close Your Sleepy Eyes," for mixed voices and flute, has received numerous performances. 

just intonation legacy

Paul Gallagher made enduring contributions to the artistic possibilities of just intonation.


Starting in 1980 – when tuning outside the standard 12 equally divided pitches to the octave was even more unfamiliar to audiences than it is today – Paul Gallagher developed an original approach to just intonation that extended the ratios of the natural harmonic intervals to all elements of the composition.


"From the outset," he wrote, "it was clear to me that the quality and richness of these harmonies, drawn untempered from the overtone series, would demand their own language and syntax...so I began to develop a style that unfolds from the intervals themselves and the way they relate to each other. Rhythms, melodies, phrase structures, etc., were all derived from the same proportions as the harmonies."

"Thus the material – melodic, harmonic, rhythmic – reflects itself in the overall structure and at all levels between."

His compositions generally use 19 tones to the octave, occasionally up to 32, with his primary scale the 8th through 16th partials of an overtone series with C as the fundamental. His modal variations are built on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th partials of that series.

Though illness limited his active composing period to the 1980s and 1990s, his legacy includes a rare feat, a symphony for full orchestra in just intonation, the premiere of which was enthusiastically received at the American Festival of Microtonal Music in 1987. Premiering at the following year's festival was his composition for solo flute, "Lure." His other just-tuned instrumental compositions include two works for piano and another for piano and violin, a work for trumpet with woodwinds and vibraphone, a wind orchestra, and a single-movement work for chamber orchestra.

A tenor and vocal coach, Paul Gallagher also focused heavily on writing music and lyrics for accompanied and unaccompanied voice in just intonation. Several such pieces for solo tenor and soprano, alto, tenor, and bass quartet were eventually woven into a choreographed oratorio that was performed in New York in 1998, with his paintings and photo-intarsia projected as backdrops.

Like many just intonation composers, Paul Gallagher was captivated by the tuning system's clarity. With pitch intervals dictated by natural frequency relationships, just intonation produces what proponents consider pure, uncompromised sound not achieved through traditional tunings tempered into equally divided octaves to facilitate modulation and transposition. And like microtonal frameworks in general, just tuning permits wide experimentation outside the constraints of the prevailing European classical tuning system. 

In addition to these advantages, Paul Gallagher prized another: its poetic, metaphoric appeal.

"My use of just intonation stems from an interest in harmony both aurally and philosophically," he wrote. "Each partial of an overtone series is itself a fundamental, casting its own series of partials. Yet, this myriad of partials and fundamentals is not heard as a complexity but as a single composite sound."

Like the themes of universal inseparability, mythology, and rites of awareness animating several of his narratives on existential harmony, the tuning itself contributed a layer of relevance that infused the act of composing with meaning.

"In each facet of Being can be seen both its fundamental identity and its relative or partial identity," he wrote. "To observe that each facet constantly embraces both poles is to see that they are in fact a single identity and to understand harmony as an inevitable reality."

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Already Gone – soprano, alto, tenor, bass a cappella, 1997.

Aspens – mezzo soprano, tenor a cappella, 1985.

Blood Red/Exquisite Blue – soprano, alto, tenor, bass a cappella.

Canons and Exchanges (Not One, Not Two; To Hide in a Stone; The Seed Is Sown) – mezzo soprano, tenor a cappella, 5:00, 1990. Premiered in Newark, 1991, Newark Museum, Barbara Hess, mezzo soprano, Paul Gallagher, tenor.

Clear the Way – mixed voices, 8:00, 1987. Premiered in New York, 1988, New York Open Center.

Close Your Sleepy Eyes – three-part round for mixed voices, flute, 1987.

Colorado – tenor, ashiko, 4:00, 1993. Premiered in Madison, NJ, 1994, Paul Gallagher, tenor and percussion.

Fall Lightly – mezzo soprano, flute, clarinet, two violins, cello, 1984.

Kingdom of Mescal – tenor / mezzo, tape in four movements, 20:00, 1991. Premiered in New York, 1992, Paul Gallagher, tenor.

Nothing Doing – mezzo soprano, tenor a cappella, 14:00, 1987.  Premiered in New York, 1985, Barbara Hess, mezzo soprano, Paul Gallagher, tenor.  

Version for tenor, mezzo, violin, piano. 

Saltwater – solo tenor, tape in five movements, 15:00, 1993. Premiered in Trenton, 1994, Planetarium of the State Museum, Paul Gallagher, tenor.

Seen – tenor, digital delay, 9:00, 1992. Premiered in New York, 1994, Paul Gallagher, tenor.

Shining Sweet Water – three-part canon a cappella, 1987.

Six Blind Men and the Moon – tenor and mezzo soprano in six movements,  4:00. Premiered in New York, 1991, Anita Shapolsky Gallery, MicroFest II, Barbara Hess, mezzo, Paul Gallagher, tenor.

Version for accompanied tenor. Premiered in New York, 1998, at the chamber opera of the same name, Paul Gallagher, tenor.

Song of Survival ­– mixed voices, flute, alto flute, double bass, 12:00, 1983. Premiered in New York, 1990, Melodious Accord, Alice Parker conducting.

Songs to the Four Directions (North: Water Finds Its Way; South: Cradle the Sky; East: Fly; West: Stillness, Quiet).  Premiered in State College, PA, 1984, Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

Ulmus Americana – five tenor/countertenor voices a cappella, 10:00, 1987. Premiered in New York, 1988, Paul Gallagher, tenor/countertenor.

Walk It Off – soprano, alto, tenor, bass a cappella, 1998.

Water Finds Its Way (North: Songs to the Four Directions) – mezzo soprano, tenor a cappella, 5:00, 1990. Premiered in Newark, NJ, 1991, Newark Museum, Barbara Hess, mezzo soprano, Paul Gallagher, tenor.

Voir – soprano and piano. Premiered in Buffalo, NY, 1980, Christine Marstrand, soprano, Erik Skjoldan, piano.

Wonder – mixed voices, 5:00, 1988. Premiered in New York, 1994, Don't Tell Mamma, Joan Vayda, mezzo soprano.


chamber instrumental


Just Piano –  solo piano, 16:00, 1984. Premiered in New York, 1988, Erik Skjoldan, piano.

Lure – solo flute, 12:00, 1985. Premiered in New York, 1988, Andrew Bolotowsky, flute.

Nierika – violin and piano, 10:00, 1986. Premiered in New York, 1988, Laura Seaton, violin, Erik Skjoldan, piano.

Nocturne – piano, 1982.

Peal – violin, cello, 1986.

Stationary Point – trumpet with clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone, 10:00, 1982. Premiered in Buffalo, NY, 1982, David Kuehn, trumpet.

Tangible Midnight – solo piano, 62:00, 1995.

Windspoor – flute, clarinet, two violins, cello, 1984.



Illumination – short overture (3, 3, 3, 2 / 2, 3, 3, 1 / 2 percussion / strings), 1984.

Nighthawk – wind orchestra, 20:00, 1983.

Way of the Hopi – four pieces (3, 3, 3, 2/2, 3, 3, 1 / 2 percussion / strings), 1985. Premiered in New York, 1987, Merkin Hall, American Festival of Microtonal Music, the composer conducting.

chamber orchestra


Palongawhoya – piano solo, two flutes, bassoon, two horns, trombone, two violins, viola, cello, double bass, 1981. Premiered in Pittsburgh, 1990, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, David Stock conducting.

Way of the Hopi – two pieces (1, 1, 1, 1 / 1, 1, 1 / 2 percussion / strings), 1989. Premiered (two pieces) in Pittsburgh, 1990, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, David Stock conducting.


opera / oratorio


Six Blind Men and the Moon – choreographed multimedia chamber opera. Solo tenor with digital ensemble (Six Blind Men and the Moon, Saltwater, Kingdom of Mescal); a cappella quartet (Blood Red/Exquisite Blue; Water Finds Its Way; Walk It Off, Already Gone, Fly, Wonder), 100:00, 1998. Premiered in New York, 1998, Kraine Theater; lead vocals: Paul Gallagher, tenor; quartet: Ovaline Whitner, soprano, Karen Goldfeder, alto, Chad Karl, tenor, Steven Raiford, bass.




Prowling the Interior – tenor, countertenor, digital ensemble (Kingdom of Mescal, Seen, Saltwater, Ulmus Americana, Colorado) words, music, vocals: Paul Gallagher; compact disc, 1995.

Round the Great Circle – three- and four-voice rounds and madrigals for mixed voices, flute, bass, percussion (Birds Fly, Shining Sweet Water, Song of Survival, Walk With Me, Medicine Wheel, Jumping Mouse, Close Your Sleepy Eyes); words and music: Paul Gallagher; vocals: Paul Gallagher, tenor, Barbara Hess, mezzo soprano, the Heron Consort: Darah Clatworhy, Bruce Detrick, André Solomon-Glover, Dana Hanchard, Jay Taylor, Caryl-Beth Thomas; flute: Rheva Kaplan, Rachael Rudich; percussion: David Light; double bass: Brian Smith; cassette, 1987.

early works


Ant Kiva – two violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute/alto flute, oboe, clarinet/bass clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, percussion.


Equinox – viola, piano.

Hocoka – chamber orchestra.

Holohedram – solo cello.

Labyrinth – soprano, alto, tenor, flute, oboe, clarinet, viola, cello, double bass; text: Pablo Neruda.



Percussion Quartet – 1979.

Three Neruda Songs – soprano, harp, flute, viola, cello; text: Pablo Neruda; 1982.

Unbound – 1979.

Under the Stone – 1979.


additional downloads forthcoming – inquiries welcome

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Kingdom of Mescal



Ulmus Americana


cd  $8.99

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sheet music inquiries welcome


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