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Charlemagne Palestine (born Charles Martin or Chaim Moshe Tzadik Palestine August 15, 1945, or 1947, in Brooklyn, New York) is an American minimalist composer, performer, and visual artist. Palestine has studied at New York University, Columbia University, Mannes College of Music, and the California Institute of the Arts.
A contemporary of Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Phill Niblock, and Steve Reich, Palestine wrote intense, ritualistic music in the 1970s, intended by the composer to rub against Western audiences’ expectations of what is beautiful and meaningful in music. A composer-performer originally trained to be a cantor, he always performed his own works as soloist. His earliest works were compositions for carillon and electronic drones, and he is perhaps best known for his intensely performed piano works. He also performs as a vocalist: in Karenina he sings in the countertenor register and in other works he sings long tones with gradually shifting vowels and overtones while moving through the performance space or performing repeated actions such as throwing himself onto his hands.
Palestine's Strumming Music (1974) remains his best-known work. It features over 45 minutes of Palestine forcefully playing two notes in rapid alternation that slowly expand into clusters. He performed this on a nine-foot Bösendorfer grand piano with the sustain pedal depressed for the entire length of the work. As the music swells (and the piano gradually detunes), the harmonics build and the listener can hear a variety of timbres rarely produced by the piano. A recording of Strumming Music was also Palestine's second vinyl album in the 1970s, reissued on CD in 1991. Since then, several additional recordings (featuring Palestine on piano, organ, harmonium, and voice) from the 1970s—including new recordings of more recent works such as Schlingen-Blängen—have become available.
Palestine's performance style is ritualistic: he generally surrounds himself (and his piano) with stuffed animals, smokes large numbers of kretek (Indonesian clove cigarettes), and drinks cognac.
Music critic and scholar Kyle Gann named Palestine composer of the month in June 2005.
Selected Discography: Solo Works
- Karenina. 2 CDs. Solo performance with Indian harmonium and falsetto voice, rec. March 1997 in Paris. London: World Serpent Distribution.
- Schlingen-Blängen. Solo performance for organ. US: New World Records.
- Four Manifestations on Six Elements. Solo pieces for piano and for electronics. Belgium: Barooni Records.
- Godbear. Solo pieces for piano. Belgium: Barooni Records.
- Strumming Music. Solo piece for piano. Felmay, San Germano, Italy, 1995; reissue of New Tone recording nt6742
- Three Compositions for Machines. Staalplaat, 1997.
- Schlongo!!!daLUVdrone. Organ of Corti, 2000.
- Jamaica Heinekens in Brooklyn. Piece for found sound and electronic drones. Belgium: Barooni Records.
- Alloy. Alga Marghen, 2000.
- Continuous Sound Forms. Alga Marghen, 2000.
- Charlemagne at Sonnabend. 2 CDs. CP, 2001.
- Music for Big Ears. Staalplaat, 2001.
- In Mid-Air. Alga Marghen, 2003.
- Old Souls Wearing New Clothes. VPRO, 2003.
- A Sweet Quasimodo between Black Vampire Butterflies: For Maybeck. Cold Blue, 2007.
- The Apocalypse Will Blossom. Yesmissolga, 2008.
- Voice Studies. LP only. Alga Marghen, 2008.
- From Etudes to Cataclysms. 2 CDs. Sub Rosa, 2008.
Selected Discography: Collaborations
- Pan Sonic and Charlemagne Palestine. Mort aux vaches. Staalplaat, 2000.
- Charlemagne Palestine, David Coulter and Jean Marie Mathoul. Maximin. Young God Records, 2002.
- Charlemagne Palestine, David Coulter , Michael Gira and Jean Marie Mathoul. Gantse Mishpuchach / Music in Three Parts. Fringes Recordings, 2004.
- Charlemagne Palestine and Tony Conrad. An Aural Symbiotic Mystery. Sub Rosa, 2006.
- Charlemagne Palestine, Terry Jennings, Tony Conrad, Robert Feldman, Rhys Chatham. Sharing a Sonority. Alga Marghen, 2008.
- Charlemagne Palestine and Christoph Heemann. Saiten in Flammen. Streamline, 2009.
- Johnson, Tom (1989). The Voice of New Music: New York City 1972–1982: A Collection of Articles Originally Published by the Village Voice. Eindhoven, Netherlands: Het Apollohuis. ISBN 90-71638-09-X. Available for free download at: 
- Palestine, Charlemagne (2004). Sacred Bordello. Book with CD. Milan: Alga Marghen.