Paul J. Gallagher (composer, vocalist, visual artist, poet)

Paul J. Gallagher (Photo: Debra Greenfield)


Paul J. Gallagher (1954-2012) was a master of numerous art forms, including music composition, vocal performance and visual art.

Paul Gallagher studied composition with Morton Feldman and Lejaren Hiller and voice with Heinz Rehfuss at the State University of New York at Buffalo.  He received his Ph.D. from SUNY/AB in 1984.

In 1980 Gallagher began composing exclusively in just intonation.  He developed his compositional language by applying relationships found in the overtone series to the realms of pitch, rhythm and formal design.  Dr. Gallagher described his unique musical syntax as a language in which he became so fluent, it allowed him complete freedom to create intuitively and poetically.

Dr. Gallagher received numerous grants, among which were a Fellowship Grant in composition from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to produce a new music radio program, and support from Meet the Composer.

When he was invited to lecture on micro tonality at the 1991 Young Nordic Music Festival in Copenhagen, Paul Gallagher’s works for specially tuned piano were presented by Erik Skjoldan, in concert at the Danish Radio.

In 1997 Paul Gallagher performed a number of his works for voice and electronics at The Kitchen in NYC, in a multi-media concert, which also featured projections of his colorful photo mosaics (a medium he referred to as “photo intarsia”).  One of his chamber orchestral pieces was mounted by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.  Gallagher had choral work presented in New York by Melodious Accord, and numerous vocal and chamber pieces were performed in New York and New Jersey by organizations such as Context, NYU, Composers Concordance, North/South Consonance, Composers Guild of New Jersey, The New York Open Center, Phoenix, Composers’ Forum, The Newark Museum, The NJ State Museum in Trenton and Triad Vocal Ensemble.

Three Pieces from THE WAY OF THE HOPI (an orchestral work) were premiered in New York City at Merkin Hall by the American Festival of Microtonal Music, the composer conducting.

In October 1998, Paul J. Gallagher’s mixed media opera SIX BLIND MEN AND THE MOON (a capella quartet, voice with electronics and modern dance) premiered at the Kraine Theater in NYC.  The dreamscape (with visual design by the composer) was choreographed and directed by Alexandra Itacarambi.  A virtuosic tenor, Dr. Gallagher performed the principal role before full houses.

… a brilliant young composer/singer (a rare combination in the world of serious music)…

… Don’t be put off by microtonal music, just relax and enjoy it. It will soon seem as familiar as John Cage and David Tudor.

Patrick O’Connor, WBAI NEW YORK 

… Like many of his fellow countrymen, Paul Gallagher has been inspired by the American Indian philosophy of life, manifesting itself in a spiritually and meditatively oriented music in just intonation. He must be a man with great ears; instead of the twelve tempered tones, he divides the octave up into thirty-two steps, in a consecutive sectioning of the natural overtone series..

… The relatively brief NIERIKA, for violin and piano, is almost formless in it’s lines’ tender liquid interlacing. [In] JUST PIANO, one experiences the sharpest use of just intonation as an entirely special exotic, enchanted atmosphere – “out of tune” in an evidently significant manner with a fascinating wealth of new, pure intervallic hues and a cooing and gurgling friction in the harmony. The task of the music is to articulate this richness of color as differentially as possible, to qualify the tonal space. Hence it’s meditative beauty.

Jan Jacoby, THE POLITIKEN, Copenhagen 

…Gallagher, a just intonation singer, will sign his THE KINGDOM OF MESCAL, a mellow jungle of electronic tones.


… Mr. Gallagher, who is also a tenor, is at his best in vocal music.  His ULMUS AMERICANA for tenor and taped voices – a melismatic setting of the title meant as a Paean to the elm – has a medieval flavor that gave it some charm.


… Paul Gallagher’s STATIONARY POINT, offering a quasi-impressionist, quasi-minimalist recurring reverie of quietly held chords in flugelhorn, clarinet and bassoon over a quietly malleted continuo, was dreamily attractive played in just intonation. The late Peter Yates used to say that when just intonation was used the wolves would howl, and indeed, there was an additional measure of pungency in the harmonies here.

Herman Trotter, THE BUFFALO NEWS