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John Kennedy composer


"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

To order scores and parts or for more information, click here: 


Audio excerpts, links to score previews, and full scores available for free download where noted.

Full features may not be available on mobile devices.


blessing the boats (2016) for chorus and orchestra 6’ (text by Lucille Clifton)  T+6 perc  Hp  Strings 

Open Share (2015) for orchestra 18’

Open instrumentation, suggested minimums of  T+perc  Strings 

Passages (2013) for chamber orchestra 16'  T+perc  Pno  Str: 1-1-1-1-1

Garden Winds (2011) for chamber orchestra 8’  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’  T+3 perc  Strings

Chant for Strings (2002) for string orchestra 14’

Orchestra and Soloist

Horn Concerto (2007) 22’  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. 


Opera/Music Drama


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

Large Ensemble

Mycorrhizms II (2023) for 2 or more musicians (open duration 15' - 1'15')

Mycorrhizms I (2022) for 2 or more musicians (open duration 15' - 1'15')

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

Small Ensemble

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 



Solo Voice

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

To order scores and parts or for more information, click here: 

John's digital short Arden sung by

Naomi O'Connell in 2021.

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