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Conditional Action for Two Flutes (2016) [Playing score]

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  • Staff Pick

Staff Pick


Chris Hankin Just Flutes staff member - [email protected]

You really have to be comfortable with complex rhythms and multiphonics to tackle this fascinating duet. There are other contemporary techniques used too and it is the combination of textures coupled with the unpredictablilty of the writing that is so appealing. Quiet passages of airy sounds and soft dynmamics contrast with spikey articulated sections or cascades of notes, all enhanced by glissandi, fluttertonguing and pitch bending. This produces a piece that will challenge both the performers and their audience which is sometimes exactly what you need!

Pan - Journal of the British Flute Society

This review first appeared in Pan, the journal of the British Flute Society and is reproduced with permission. Join the BFS: membership starts from £20 a year.

John Palmer has an amazingly creative output of works for flutes and Conditional Action, written in 2016, builds upon this catalogue.  In this five-minute piece Palmer explores the full spectrum of flute technique from microtonality and aeolian sounds to mutiphonic work all wrapped together in complex rhythmic structures.  One particularly effective gesture is the mutiphonic trills that open the work; these are full of sonic infomation which the players are asked to 'bring out ad lib'.  This moment of freedom juxtaposes the otherwise tightly controlled timbres and rhythms that dominate the piece as the two voices appear as one singular line. Intentions for the more experimental techniques are clear and mostly very practical; however achieving these will require the player to explore their instrument and technique as specific fingerings and embouchure techniques are not given.  This piece brings a level of complexity and virtuosity that is often reserved for the solo repertoire into a duet setting and so Conditional Action is undoubtedly an undertaking for two adventurous flute players who are well versed in the performance of contemporary music.

Gavin Stewart

From the Publisher

"Properly conceived, action should be understood as a cognitive-affective-conative-expressive-performative vector, with a form, content, mood, style and efficacy of its own." In his book Dialectic The Pulse of Freedom, the philosopher Roy Bhaskar argues extensively about his theory of dialectics also known as critical realism. If music is indeed philosophy, this is one of the most musical books ever written: an enthralling quest for self-knowledge calling for uncompromising social, ethical and political awareness. The morphological conditions to be set constantly anew: a lifetime argument!

The world premiere of conditional action took place at the Risuonanze 2016 Festival in Tricesimo (Udine), Italy, on 29th May 2016 and was performed by Fosca Briante and Tiziano Cantoni.

Performance duration (approx): 5'00

Difficulty guide: 9
Difficulty level, roughly compared to ABRSM exam grades. 0 is beginner, 9 is advanced (beyond grade 8).

Item Details


  • Part 1: Flute
  • Part 2: Flute
Category: Duets for Two Flutes
Publisher: Composers Edition
Publisher's reference: Ce-jp1ca1-pr
Our Stock Code: 1447798
Media Type: Paperback - Playing score (6 pages [score])

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