"Kennedy's stylistic trajectory is opposite from that of most composers. He grew up in the world of American experimentalism and then re-appropriated Classical rhetoric...
It's accessible, even joyous music, aimed to impart wisdom and celebrate our existence on earth.
It's experimental and classical music at once, memorable and even hummable –
but so peculiar around the edges!"
– Kyle Gann in his composer portrait
of Kennedy in Chamber Music Magazine
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Audio excerpts, links to score previews, and full scores available for free download where noted.
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blessing the boats (2016) for chorus and orchestra 6’ (text by Lucille Clifton)
220.127.116.11 18.104.22.168 T+6 perc Hp Strings
Open Share (2015) for orchestra 18’
Open instrumentation, suggested minimums of 22.214.171.124 126.96.36.199 T+perc Strings
Passages (2013) for chamber orchestra 16'
188.8.131.52 184.108.40.206 T+perc Pno Str: 1-1-1-1-1
Garden Winds (2011) for chamber orchestra 8’
220.127.116.11 18.104.22.168 2 perc Strings
BAGHDAD (2006) for string orchestra 15’
“A rising star… BAGHDAD is a solemn, stirring succession of tone clusters, drones and reiterative fragments that still manage to be deeply lyrical,
surprisingly accessible… and powerful music, too.” - Washington Post
Storm and Stress (2005) for orchestra 10’
22.214.171.124 126.96.36.199 T+3 perc Strings
Chant for Strings (2002) for string orchestra 14’
Orchestra and Soloist
Horn Concerto (2007) 22’
188.8.131.52 184.108.40.206 T+3 perc Hp Strings
The Power Within (1997) for baritone and chamber orchestra 12' (text by Gary Snyder)
Strings (at least 4 4 4 3 2), 1 perc.
Trinity (2007) Chamber Opera to libretto by Andrea Walters 40’
For S, MS, T, Bar and piano/electronics Commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera
"Kudos to Kennedy for writing singable, lyric vocal parts.
Trinity is a good work – musical, well-paced, adaptable for performance in virtually any kind of space." – Santa Fe New Mexican
The Language of Birds (2004) Opera in Two Acts to libretto by Peter Krask 90'
For soloists, children's choir and small orchestra Commissioned by the Sarasota Opera
"Some might say the measure of great art is that it touches the heart, teaches a lesson and shifts one's perspective on life.
I confess that at the world premiere of "The Language of Birds," I laughed and cried, I learned that truth and kindness are more valuable than money,
and I will never listen to bird song in the same way again. After much hard work, a good dose of inspiration and months of collaboration
with the singers of the Sarasota Opera, composer John Kennedy has created an opera of great note." – Sarasota Herald Tribune
Guadalupe (2000) musicdrama to libretto by David Olson 80’
For soprano soloist, choir and small orchestra Commissioned by Santa Fe Stages
Bury the Evidence (feature film, 1998) 100’
For percussion and electronics Directed by J. Greg DeFelice
Partners in Time (2014) for ensemble 16’
Fl/picc, Cl/BCl, Vn, Va, Vc, Perc, Pno
Garden Winds (2011-12) (chamber version) 8’
Fl, Ob, Cl/BCl, 2 Vn, Va, Vc, Perc
Malangan (2008) 90’
Nine instruments, speaker, tape
Full Measures of Devotion (1997) 15'
Piano, marimbula, steel drum, gongs, percussion, optional numbers of strings and winds
Nostalgic Patterns (1995) 10’
Piano, perc, and multiple pitched instruments
Collective Sentiments (1988) 12’
Any number strings, winds, pitched percussion
Arden (2021) 5' for mezzo, violin, viola, cello, piano, and soundtrack
Declining (2018) 8' for soprano and double bass
Spoletudes (2016) 11' for dizi, bass cl, cello, and percussion
Inequalities (2014) 14’ for piano and percussion
"We mustn’t forget that Kennedy is not only a dynamite conductor and leading new music champion,
but a really terrific composer as well." – Charleston City Paper
Insignia of Image (2012) 8' any two pitched instruments, w/percussion obligato
iPhone 4tet (2012) ~12' for four iPhones
Island in Time (2012) 17' for alto flute, bass clarinet, cello, and percussion
Parallel Elegies (2010) 16' for cello and two percussion
Soft Surfaces (2009) 65' for 2 percussion, electronic keyboard, and soundtrack
100 Years (2008) 7' for vn, va, vc, db
O Waters (2007) 15' water percussion trio
Recession and Procession (2006) 6' brass quintet
First Deconstruction (in Plastic) (2005) 7' percussion duo
las piedras del cielo (2004) ~10' 8 players with pairs of rocks
10011001 (2001) 11' 3 perc, piano
Transitional Songs (2000) 15' fl, vc, pno, 2 perc
Adagio (Power and Beauty) (1998) 7' string quartet
“Power and Beauty radiates the warmth and generosity of Kennedy’s musical mind.” — Albuquerque Journal
Exigencies of Inner Rhythm (1997) 60' percussion quartet
Animals in Distress (1995) 15' 4 players with animal distress calls
Sounds Heard (1995) 30' text recitation, 4 percussion, computer-generated sounds
The Big Hurt (1995) 3' percussion quartet
Fanfare for the Common Gun (1994) 3' 1-3 people with handguns
Splendid Noises (1992) 20' 3 or more percussion with text recitation
Sacred Spaces (1989) 10' percussion trio
Grain (1988) 10' shakuhachi and 3 percussion
Chant (1988) 12' percussion trio
“This music is meant for intense listening to its essence…there seemed to be an expansion of the space.” — Zurich Tages-Anzeiger
The Journey (2019) 9' solo viola
Even the Stones Breathe (2010) 8' solo cello
Naturali Periclitati (2007) 16' solo piano in three movements
"Naturali Periclitati (“Endangered Natures” in Latin) conjures ominous visions of the dangers of our lost natural and human heritage...there is a freewheeling, ruminating aspect to it that is captivating." – Fanfare Magazine
fp (2007) 4' solo violin
Spoletude I (2005) 14' solo trombone
I am a Little Church (2004) 4' (text by e.e. cummings) for speaking percussionist
The Family Piano (2004) 10' solo piano
The Force of Its Spirit (2001) 5' solo piano
Both (1998) 5' solo viola
The Morning Inside Us (1998) 6' solo cello
The Winged Energy of Delight (1997) 7' toy piano
Song at Sunset (2001) 14’ (text by Walt Whitman) baritone, string quartet (piano version also)
One Body (1998) 62' for baritone/countertenor, string quartet, 2 percussion
Chamber cantata with texts by Joy Harjo, John Kennedy, Kenneth Patchen, Gary Snyder, and Walt Whitman
“Sometimes in the course of human events, something so extraordinary happens that you want life to stop – just for an instant, while you savor the moment.
At Spoleto’s Music in Time series Monday night, a Recital Hall full of people had to be reminded to continue breathing as John Kennedy premiered
his ‘One Body’… Amidst all the sound and light and movement of Spoleto, this ‘One Body’ is what I want to hold in my head and heart until next year.
Or maybe the year after that. Kennedy has crafted a work of truth and beauty more lasting than even he knows.”
– Charleston Post and Courier
Eagle Poem (1998) 4’ (text by Joy Harjo) voice and piano
On the Beach at Night Alone (1998) 7’ (text by Walt Whitman) voice and piano
Prayer for the Great Family (1998) 5’ (text by Gary Snyder) voice and piano
All is Safe (1998) 5’ (text by Kenneth Patchen) mezzo soprano and piano
Summum Bonum (1994) 9’ (text by Robert Browning) soprano and string quartet
Someday (2000) 12’ (text by Pierre Tielhard de Chardin) SATB a capella chorus
"A perceptive and beautiful setting…Kennedy limns de Chardin’s musings on love’s power through a variety of techniques: smooth, soft tone clusters that build up and down from a central pitch; brilliant and sudden eruptions of sound; passages in widely spaced octaves; and sections where the women’s voices flow chantlike above long-held notes from the men. The shifting-key centers illuminate the piece like sunbeams streaming through stained glass."
– Santa Fe New Mexican
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John's digital short Arden sung by
Naomi O'Connell in 2021.