Yes and Nose: A Performance of the Overlooked

On 1 June 2024, joined by special guests, artist Junshu Gu and dancer Hari Krishnan, the Vocal Constructivists offer innovative musical explorations of the sense organ we overlook: our nose. Their performance will take place in the architecturally stunning St Paul’s, Bow Common. Young and old are invited to submit single words related to scent, nose shape, or function, which will be included in the concert, alongside operatic extracts, advertising slogans, music hall songs, and contemporary compositions, featuring premieres of new commissions.

Saturday 1st June, 2024, St Paul’s Bow Common, London E3 4AR, 7pm (doors open at 6:30). Free Admission.

Living Tones and Musical Objects: A Sonic Celebration

We perform works by US Artist Fellow Jin Hi Kim, Scratch Orchestra founder Michael Parsons, the inimitable Linn D., voice expert and poet Barbara Alden, visual artist/musician Alison Cross, the mercurial Kurt Schwertzik, Fluxus artist and poet Nye Ffarrabas, movement transcriber Simone Forti, the balletic Constant Lambert, Deep Listening proponent Pauline Oliveros, her Swiss collaborator Margrit Schenker and electronic pioneers Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky. We are honoured to be joined by dancer and educator Hari Krishnan and the creative observer of Living Tones, Jin Hi Kim herself.

In memory of Tom Phillips

The Vocal Constructivists are extremely sad to learn that the artist Tom Phillips CBE RA, ‘the most literal man’, died on 28 November 2022. Climbing through the window to get acquainted with Irma, Grenville, the Nurse, Toge and all his friends, has been a pivotal experience on the VC journey. We continue to ‘stir the violet notes’, as the words that Phillips revealed and concealed resound and shape our ongoing collages of sounds and syllables. It was ‘an unbelievable dream’ to prepare and perform Irma in his presence, both in person and online. 

1952 at 70

The Vocal Constructivists returned to Pentameters Theatre on 20 December 2022 to perform 1952 at 70, in celebration of the 70th birthday of landmark experimental pieces. VCs offered fresh interpretations of Earle Brown’s December 1952 and John Cage’s 4’33”, alongside works by Morton Feldman, György Ligeti, Otto Luening, Władysław Szpilman, Vladimir Ussachevsky, and a premiere by founder member artist Alison Cross (b. 1952).

Scratch and the Sequence

Following a busy two years online, the Vocal Constructivists resumed live performance in summer 2022 with a sell-out show at Pentameters Theatre, London. The programme revisited groundbreaking works of past decades and premiered several new pieces. Scratch and the Sequence questioned the contents of Linn D’s Nothing in Nothing, explored being Half Rite, listened to Barbara Alden’s Inner Word, chased Ben Zucker’s Wolffs, crumpled Nye Ffarrabas’s paper concerto with eggs, buzzed after Simone Forti, vibrated Daniel J. Wolf’s spectral madrigals, woke up Jin-Hi Kim’s Living Tones II, and it was back to the board with Cornelius Cardew’s Schooltime Compositions and Alvin Lucier’s Opera with Objects.

Online Festival, June 5-6, 2021

To celebrate their tenth anniversary, the Vocal Constructivists are hosting a series of events that invite you to listen, learn, share, and perform with us. The festival, through the square window playfully sequences through these activities over two days. With no entrance fees, no mud, and enough space for all who want to pitch their virtual tents (for brief or longer stays), this festival offers opportunities for creativity, participation, reflection, Q&A, and lively engagement with music-making. There are three structured “events” each day: the first involves a choice of seminars, the second features guest speakers, and the third presents Vocal Constructivists in performance. There are additional opportunities for discussion. This festival is offered in memory of Scratch Orchestra pioneer and broadcaster Carole Finer († March 2020).

Further details and schedule here

SCALA: Installation at the Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture, Spain

Pauline Oliveros leading a deep listening practice at the Incubate festival. Photo by Incubate.

The Vocal Constructivists’ recording of Pauline Oliveros’ Sound Patterns (a track from our 2014 album Walking Still that now has over 29,150 listens on Spotify) finds a new life in SCALA, a purpose-made sound installation at the Tabakalera International Centre for Contemporary Culture in San Sebastián, Spain. SCALA recontextualizes the Vocal Constructivists’ recording, adapting it for a three-dimensional architectural space. Spanish sound artist Xabier Erkizia used tracks mastered by our producer Antony Pitts to create a sophisticated audio system that spatializes the original recording across eight speakers, placed at various levels in a stairwell. The depth of the space, and its resonant acoustics, allow the stereo image to explore stereophonic verticality as well as horizontality. SCALA will play every 30 minutes for five months (from December 2020 to May 2021). A brief excerpt of the installation can be heard here. Preceded by our sound, the Vocal Constructivists look forward to performing live at Tabakalera in the future. Watch Oier Etxeberria, Head of Contemporary Art at Tabakalera, discuss SCALA and the legacy of Pauline Oliveros here with Vocal Constructivist director Jane Alden here: 2021 towards a new listening. (Scroll all the way down to below the second picture of Pauline for the play button).

Invitation to join the Virtual Metaphysics of Notation

From Mark Applebaum’s Metaphysics of Notation

The Vocal Constructivists invite all interested singers to join Constructing Infinity, a collaborative series of realizations of Mark Applebaum’s Metaphysics of Notation. Go to to register. You will then receive a login and the means of contributing to infinite variety.

Use #VCLegacy2020 on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook to connect with the Vocal Constructivists about Building A New Legacy.

In Memoriam: Carole Finer

Carole Finer on a Scratch Orchestra tour in Hall in Tyrol, Austria. Photo by Frank Abbott.

On 20 March, 2020, our beloved friend and collaborator Carole Finer passed away. In addition to being a founding member of the Scratch Orchestra, Carole was an extraordinary musician, composer, musicologist, and radio broadcaster. Her radio show Sound Out on Resonance FM explored a wide range of musical genres, from experimental to bluegrass to musical samples that she collected in her travels around the world. We will always be grateful to her for sharing her mentorship, musicianship, and unbridled creativity with us.

News, Summer 2020

  • In response to the current restrictions on in-person choral activities, the Vocal Constructivists are launching several new initiatives: a youth participation scheme, multiple fragmentary interpretations of Tom Phillips’ Irma, and a remote performance of a graphic score that will grow incrementally and change infinitely.
  • 7 August 2020 marks the launch of a new 7-month project, Building a New Legacy. Join us online for the premiere screening of a new interpretation of our performance of Irma, Tom Phillips’ 1969 opera, discussion of a new computer-assisted realization of open notation, and reflections on the youth project as part of building new audiences for experimental music.
  • Join us for the two-day festival that marks the culmination of this project, 6–7 March, 2021.
  • The Vocal Constructivists were scheduled to perform Treatise and lead an interactive workshop on the music of Pauline Oliveros at the Donostia-San Sebastián Musical Fortnight in August. While we had to cancel our trip due to Covid-19, we were honored to be included in one of Europe’s most renowned classical music festivals, and we hope to participate in Musical Fortnight in the future.

Vocal Constructivists

THE VOCAL CONSTRUCTIVISTS perform text and graphic scores, alongside works that extend ‘traditional’ notation, bringing a sense of play to their interpretations of experimental music. Coming from diverse backgrounds, with ages ranging from 19 to 79, the Vocal Constructivists draw on an eclectic variety of artistic influences—classical, global, avant-garde, and theatrical. In addition to performing original interpretations of experimental classics such as Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise, they have commissioned and premiered 22 works, establishing themselves as an important force in new music-making. Read our full bio here.

“a group of exceptionally gifted singers who are at one with each other” – Choir and Organ