As a member of Toca Loca, we toured our P*P Project to two continents and of about 20 works commissioned, this piece was one of the most successful. We had a lot of fun rehearsing this piece – there is a lot of performer input in repetitions and sequence, especially in the opening, so you can really use your creativity in deciding (or not deciding!) on a structure and interpretation.

Based loosely on Alanis Morissette’s iconic single Hand in My Pocket, all the performers need to be comfortable singing, speaking and shouting repetitions of text taken from Morissette’s original lyrics, (some of which are borderline expletives). The aleatoric (chance/indeterminate) nature of the opening can create accidental or intentional word juxtaposition or wordplay that can evoke laughter or flickers of pain, a feature that is not out of place in Palmer’s music.

Percussionists beware – the part looks simple, but the rhythms are tricky.  Ensemble, once the piece gets moving, does not fall into place, due to the independence of each part, and the many rests to fill (rests are the bane of perfect ensemble!). In the middle instrumental section, the piano parts become quite rangy and scattered. In this section, the parts don’t fit under then hand and will need some time in the woodshed.

In a few centuries, perhaps Alanis’ oeuvre will be a footnote of 2nd millennium mythology, but for now, I find it a positive to be deconstructing a pop culture reference with an audience that, to varying degrees, can hardly have escaped exposure to it. Whether they are willing or not, they will understand in part the currency of communication, and be able to perceive and  Palmer’s deft machinations.  In this day and age, it is not necessary, but sometimes helpful, to find some universally common ground, when exploring uncharted areas.

Notes to the Performer:

  • There’s no best way to deliver the sung and spoken text. However, a general rule of thumb is to avoid caricature and be yourself. In other words, I don’t think there’s an authentic way, other than what is authentic to you.
  • As previously mentioned, spend a lot of time monkeying around with the singing text. The order of phrases, the number of repetitions and even doubling back is all at the performers’ discretion. Simon and I performed this piece so often that we would choose words directly in reaction to each others’ choices. We did have a signal where would agree to play together again.
  • The drum graphics in the third section are indications of…whatever you think they are. A good starting place is yacht rock drum fill, but use your imagination.
  • Drummers – the phrase where you have to yell out numbers and play, right after the metric modulation, has claimed many. Avoid overconfidence.

Percussion List: Vibes, cowbell, woodblock, drumset, h.h., splash

Title:  Five

Composer:  Juliet Palmer

Country:  New Zealand/Canada

Duration:  8 min

Date of Composition:  2008

Publisher:  Canadian Music Centre

Purchase Link:

Commission:  Toca Loca


Premiere:  Toca Loca, Feb 2008, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, ON

Performance History:  

  • Toca Loca, 2008, Tanna Schulich Hall, Montreal, PQ
  • Toca Loca, 2008, The Music Room, Halifax, NS
  • Toca Loca, 2009, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB
  • Toca Loca 2009, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB
  • Toca Loca, 2009, The Western Front, Vancouver, BC
  • Toca Loca, 2009, C3, Berghain, Berlin, Germany
  • Toca Loca, 2010, The Music Gallery, Toronto, ON
  • Ryan Scott, Sarah Hagen, Gregory Oh, July 2017, Maureen Forrester Hall, Waterloo, ON


  P*P – Toca Loca (artwork by Shary Boyle) – Centrediscs   |   iTunes   |   Spotify

Notes by Juliet Palmer:

Five leaps into the vexing world of Alanis Morrissette and the never-ending list of opposites found in her song Hand in My Pocket. Why choose this song? I heard it when I first came to Canada in 1996, which gives it a sentimental gloss, but I’m also intrigued by songs that we remember in spite of ourselves. How does that work exactly? I also couldn’t but help think of the invincible pianist and cyclist Gregory Oh when Alanis sings “I’m short but I’m healthy, I’m high but I’m grounded”. Finally, I guess I really do hope that “everything’s going be fine, fine, fine”.

New Zealand-Canadian composer Juliet Palmer is known as a “post-modernist with a conscience” (The Listener) whose work “crosses so many genres as to be in a category of its own” (Toronto Star). Juliet is the artistic director of Urbanvessel, a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration. Recent works: The Man Who Married Himself with librettist Anna Chatterton and choreographer Hari Krishnan (Toronto Masque Theatre); Vermillion Songs for tenor Simon O’Neill and NZTrio; Invicta, with text by Blackfoot Pikani spoken word artist Zaccheus Jackson (Signal Theatre and The National Youth Orchestra); Quarry for soprano Sarah Albu and Continuum (Touching Ground Festival);  Sweat, a cappella opera with writer Anna Chatterton (Bicycle Opera tour; Center for Contemporary Opera & National Sawdust, New York); Boots, an interactive boudoir opera (Opera Peepshow); Singing River, a site-specific performance at the Wonscotonach/Don River (Aanmitaagzi, Native Earth, Evergreen and Pan Am Path); and Voice-Box(Harbourfront World Stage premiere and Fresh Ground commission).

Upcoming: Secret Arnold (Vancouver Symphony), January 2018; Inside Us, installation and performance (Western Front, Vancouver), February 2018; piano solo for Stephen De Pledge (NZ Festival), February 2018; Morse for Marie-Annick Béliveau and Instruments of Happiness with text by Simin Behbahani (Canadian tour), March 2018; and a new work for the Detroit Symphony, June 2019.

Based in Toronto since 1997, Juliet’s work has been featured around the world with performances at: New York’s Lincoln Center, London’s Southbank Centre, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Bath International Festival, Voix Nouvelles France, Italy’s Angelica Festival, Evenings of New Music Bratislava, Musica Ficta Festival Lithuania, NYYD Festival Estonia, The Istanbul Festival, Soundculture Japan, the Adelaide Festival, the New Zealand International Arts Festival and Canada’s Sound Symposium.

Juliet was the 2011/12 Creative New Zealand/Jack C. Richards composer-in-residence at the New Zealand School of Music and the 2012 composer-in-residence of Orchestra Wellington. She is the winner of the Detroit Symphony’s Elaine Lebenbom Award and the recipient of a Chalmers Arts Fellowship 2018-19. She is currently Composer-in-Residence at Sunnybrook Research Institute, a position funded by the Ontario Arts Council.

Juliet holds a PhD in composition from Princeton University and an M.Mus in performance, composition and time-based art from Auckland University. Her teachers and mentors include: Louis Andriessen, Jack Body, Phil Dadson, Michael Gordon, Eleanor Hovda, David Lang, Paul Lansky, Annea Lockwood, Meredith Monk, Steve Mackey and Julia Wolfe.

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