Composing the Palindrome Canons

During March of 2011 George Bellas composed a large contrapuntal project yielding 108 minutes of new music. This body of work consists of 30 Palindrome Canons in a strict 18th century counterpoint style and contains one in every key, including enharmonic keys. Each piece contains a melody that is heard forwards and backwards simultaneously. Some consider palindrome canons to be an intellectual stunt that exhibits a composers technical prowess and ingenuity, but these in particular have real musical value with engaging melodic themes.

What is a Palindrome?

A palindrome is a word, phrase, number, sequence, or in this case, music that can be read the same way in either direction. The 30 Palindrome Canons are the same forwards and backwards. Each one is a single melody that is played in each direction at the same time. The melodies are thematic and the counterpoint sophisticated. A palindrome canon can also be referred to as an enigma canon or crab canon. Specifically, a palindrome canon is a form of imitative counterpoint, but being that the imitation occurs backwards, it is difficult if not impossible to realize that it is indeed imitative.

Instruments for Performance

The Palindrome Canons were written for the piano, but any G clef instrument, such as guitar, woodwinds, brass, strings, etc., can play them. To enable these to be played on certain instruments they will have to be arranged accordingly, as The Palindrome Canons have a wider range than that of the guitar and other G clef instruments.

Order of the Palindromes

Much thought was put into the order of how the palindromes would be released. After trying several different ordering scenarios, such as cyclic forms (5ths or 4ths), ascending chromatically and alternating between major and minor keys (of which neither worked perfectly due to the enharmonic keys), it was determined that the best order was the order in which they were composed. The reasoning being that after a piece was composed the subsequent piece's character and tempo was based on the previous piece's character and tempo, which yields the most natural and flowing order. Thus the order in which is presented is the order in which these pieces were composed.

"I have always been fascinated with symmetry and very passionate about counterpoint, so composing these palindromes was a great and very intellectually stimulating way for me to combine the two." - George Bellas

  • The Palindrome Canons
  • Composed by George Bellas
  • Published ℗ Bellas Tune Factory, BMI
  • Copyright © George Bellas. All Rights Reserved.