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Image by Laura Smetsers



A taste of acid-sweet harmonies


OCT 3, 2022

The concert had opened with the premiere of White Horses by New Zealand composer Gemma Peacocke.

Inspired by a 1937 incident in which a woman plunged from an aeroplane into a choppy Cook Strait, Peacocke used a finessed orchestral palette to lay out an almost cinematic experience.

A mood of tragic inevitability was caught and sustained, from sinister low-register churnings to cascading swoops and cries.

Drums thundered ominously between unsettlingly eerie sonorities in a score that well merits further programming.

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Nevermore Festival takes first flight with joyful ~Nois


may 20, 2022

Peacocke’s Hazel offered a spot of sunlit warmth to close the program. There’s nothing particularly revelatory about the piece’s harmony, which employs popish chord progressions to pleasing effect, but one can’t help but admire the terrific sense of architecture and pacing in Peacocke’s writing. Hazel unfurled with cinematic color and drama, and barring some intonation issues, this soaring, resplendent music sang in ~Nois’ capable hands."

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Touching song cycle takes an emotional toll


MAY 2, 2022

GEMMA Peacocke’s song cycle “Waves & Lines”, a look into the lives of Afghan women through a stunning and captivating web of deeply personal poetry, was intensely performed at the Canberra International Music Festival.

Iranian-born musician Gelareh Pour, who here assumed the role of soprano voice, alongside Kaylie Melville (percussion), Hamish Gullick (bass) and Jacob Abela (piano) of Melbourne-based chamber group Rubiks Collective, brought the performance to life.


Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's ‘Symphonie fantastique’ electrifies


MAr 27, 2022

“Nine Mothers” [...] opened with a flourish for cello that soared high into the stratosphere. It soon became a glimmering palette colored by treble piano and marimba. This movement was calm, atmospheric and lyrical, anchored by lush piano chords. The orchestra took up the sounds and motives intermittently and seamlessly. The calm section segued to a driving counterpoint for mallet instruments and drums between Duvall at the front of the stage and the orchestra’s percussion section in the back.


Lavena: in your hands

Thomas may, Gramophone

JUNE 9, 2021

“An enigmatic soundscape shivers into being in Gemma Peacocke’s Amygdala for solo cello and fixed electronics. The cellist wends her way, tentatively, towards acoustic clarity, playing richly expressive double-stops as if coming up for air. Vaguely rising currents suggest an attempted ascent towards liberation from a persistently unsettling memory; the enveloping fog keeps pulling her back. From the start, Lavena’s debut album casts the young cellist not just as an intrepidly curious adventurer but as a deeply mindful musician.”


In Your Hands (Lavena)


may 13, 2021

"The disc opens with Amygdala, an arresting new work for cello and electronics by Gemma Peacocke. Referring to the part of the brain responsible for the experience of emotion, the piece thrums and shivers with a rare beauty and features a commanding performance from Lavena. Other highlights include Jessie Montgomery’s surging and intricate Duo for Violin and Cello (with the excellent William Herzog on violin) and the album’s title work in manus tuas by Caroline Shaw. This glorious piece is based on a motet by Thomas Tallis, and reframes slivers of the original score as a slow meditation for solo cello ‘to capture the sensation of a single moment of hearing the motet’."

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songs of love and suicide

miyuki jokiranta, Earshot, Australian broadcasting corporation

3 October, 2020

"Traditionally, in rural Afghanistan landays are performed by women who’d be at risk of punishment if the poems were attributed to them.

They're made up of two-lines. Every poem has 22 syllables, 9 in the first line and 13 in the second.

They’re oral. They’re improvised. And they're part of a powerful folk culture. When spoken aloud, they lilt from word to word in a way that belies the sharpness of their content. They speak of war, love, death, beauty, grief, separation and homeland. They describe life when reading and writing are not an option.

But for the women who give voice to these ideas, there's a price to pay."

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Composer experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic from around the globe


8 april, 2020

"Many composers from Aotearoa New Zealand live abroad, and we’re checking in to ask how the COVID-19 Pandemic is affecting them in their country of residence. Keep an eye on this space as more composers share their experiences.

The composers currently featured include Maria Grenfell, Fritha Jameson, Gao Ping, Mark Smythe, Miriama Young, Nigel Keay, Kit Powell, Richard Bolley, Neville Hall, Gemma Peacocke, Annea Lockwood, Lyell Cresswell, Juliet Palmer, Celeste Oram, Jeroen Speak."

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23 JULY, 2020

"Gemma Peacocke is a New Zealand-born, but usually United States-based, composer who’s recently come back home. Gemma has studied in New York with Bang on a Can founder Julia Wolfe, at IRCAM in Paris, and is a doctoral student in composition at Princeton University.

Her music combines acoustic instruments and voices with electronics. Her work often has a sociopolitical focus, a lot of it focusing on the marginalisation of women."

Gemma Peacocke RPO

RPO celebrating Susan B. Anthony, 19th Amendment in new showS

Fox Rochester

29 January, 2020

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) – The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) Music Director is back from the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles and already getting ready for new shows here in Rochester.

Four new shows will be celebrating Susan B. Anthony and the 19th Amendment.

Stare, as well as Mark Mobley, playwright, and Gemma Peacocke, composer, shared more on the shows on Good Day Rochester.

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Compelling gifts in small packages make for rewarding MusicNOW night

lawrence a johnson, chicago classical review

december 3, 2019

"Shudder was the first work Gemma Peacocke composed after coming to the United States from her native New Zealand. The single-movement work for string quartet was inspired by sleep myoclonus, the sudden twitches one can have when falling asleep. Beginning in hushed mysterious fashion with discordant textures, tremolos pass from player to player suggesting the title’s involuntary physical jerks. A more rhythmic section accelerates the tempo, leading to a furioso climax, and a slow, quiet fadeout, ending as it began.​ Shudder maintains a compelling atmosphere of unsettling tension in its brief span, and Peacocke’s quartet is crafted with impressive skill and string writing facility. Exploring a wide range of dynamics, violinists Yu and Dodge, violist Danny Lai and cellist Cook made the strongest possible case for Peacocke’s music."



Julie McErlain, limelight

december 9, 2019


"Gemma Peacocke, composer of Quiver, chose the title for its significant double meaning – “to tremble with fear or emotion, or a case for arrows” – tension and resolution. Hamish Gullick (double bass) entered as the musical protagonist, at first announcing a strong driving masculine sonority with solo jazz riffs, which built with short, sharp accents as tom-tom and piano added insistency from a driving pulse, until long sustained bass notes diminished the emotion. Both inside strings and outer frame of the piano became a percussion instrument, adding almost a metallic effect to the variety of colourful changing dynamic levels. With the increasing tempo and repetition of strongly accented drum rhythms and changes of metres, a threatening and primitive tribal atmosphere took control. This exciting jazz influenced work highlighted both the exceptional skills of the Rubiks soloists, and their brilliant and focussed teamwork, as precise timing was paramount in this exciting work."



elizabeth kerr, the listener

may 12, 2019

"Afghan women's folk poems have been given new life by a Kiwi composer.


New Zealand composer Gemma Peacocke, based at Princeton University, launched her song cycle Waves & Lines in New York on International Women's Day in March. For the remarkable composition, Peacocke has taken eight landays – folk poems from the secret world of Afghan women under the Taliban – from a collection of translations, I Am the Beggar of the World, by US poet Eliza Griswold. Landays are passed on through oral tradition, their creators often illiterate. These short, intimate verses brim with yearning, love, rage, resignation, and irony."


Peacocke sulauttaa tyylejä luontevasti

Aki Yli-Salomäki, YLE Klassinen (Finnish Broadcasting Company)

April 16, 2019

"Uusiseelantilainen säveltäjä Gemma Peacocke on omintakeinen tekijä, joka on luonut erilaisista tyylillisistä elementeistä luontevan synteesin. Lopputulos ei ole crossoveria tai edes jälki-crossoveria, vaan aito erilaisten tyylillisten elementtien sulautuminen. Sellaista voi syntyä niiden toimesta, jotka ovat aidosti kykeneviä herkistymään ja innoittumaan aikamme moninaisuuden ja alati hämärtyvien genrerajojen edessä."

Third Coast Percussion

Review: New Philip Glass commission presents a rhythmic perspective

Joshua Kosman, San francisco chronicle

April 4, 2019

"Most exciting, perhaps, was “Death Wish,” a piece for marimbas by the New Zealand-born composer Gemma Peacocke, in which repetitive rhythmic figures and minor-key harmonies grow increasingly off-kilter until seemingly anodyne material becomes urgent and a little menacing. Midway through, Peacocke conjures up a fierce but loving parody of Khachaturian’s “Saber Dance” that demonstrates exactly why that music is so irresistible."

New Souds Art Pop Song Cycles Gemma Peacocke

Art Pop Song Cycles


MARCH 7, 2019

"New Zealand-born Princeton-based composer Gemma Peacocke – wrote songs inspired by and using Afghan women’s folk poems called landays from the collection translated by Eliza Griswold, I Am the Beggar of the World. Peacocke set these texts – ranging from a collective rage, a lament, a filthy joke, a love of homeland, an aching longing, a call to arms. The song cycle, scored for voice and piano, percussion, bass, and electronics, features the use of fixed electronics and projections which hint at “the distance, anonymity and strange intimacy of phone calls, text messages, and radio broadcasts in which the poems are shared.” (Gemma Peacocke’s Bandcamp)"


Gemma Peacocke’s Waves and Lines Amplifies Stories of Afghan Women

Hannah Rosa schiller, i care if you listen

MARCH 1, 2019

"The evocation of place is central in Gemma Peacocke’s Waves and Lines (New Amsterdam Records). Her newest album, a multimedia song cycle for soprano, electronics, and chamber ensemble, sets two-line folk poems (landays) written by women in contemporary Afghanistan. The landays, translated by Eliza Griswold, reflect on life in Afghanistan and the impact that nearly two decades of war with the United States have had on the nation."


february new releases


february 28, 2019

"Waves & Lines is a remarkable collection of songs drawn on folk poetry from Afghanistan, but specifically from Afghan women, whose voices are not often heard."

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