RF Palmer Composing at His Computer

RF (Raymond) Palmer earned a masters degree in music from Hamline University, and a bachelors in musical theory and composition at the University of Minnesota, where he studied with Eric Stokes, Alex Lubet, and Dominick Argento. Then he launched an independent composing career that includes bold and complex instrumental works, crisp brief piano pieces, soulful chamber works, and a wide variety of choral tunes. He has sung as a baritone with the Oratorio Society of Minnesota since 1987, and is a member of its Chamber Choir.

Ray says of his work, “I try to set words in ways that reflect the meaning, rather than fitting the words into the music. When a poetic image strikes me, rather than just composing the words note-by-note, I give them added depth by portraying the images in the musical expression itself.”

Yet Palmer is also dedicated to constant invention. One seldom hears the same notes twice, although often riffs voiced in one part will reappear in another in an altered fashion. This music has a wonderful restless quality, despite its inherently melodic character, which means there are few resting points in his pieces. A melodic line will be improvised in the next measure, inverted soon thereafter, and improvised some more. Key changes, time changes, and chromatic changes are frequent. This gives Palmer’s music a complex, satisfying quality.

Given his solid classical training, Palmer uses instrumentation with considerable sophistication, and his compositional vision places him right at the cutting edge of contemporary music. Some singers will find his work a challenge, but those who stay with it will learn a great deal, and be rewarded with richly textured melody and imagery.