“a group of exceptionally gifted singers who are at one with each other” – review from Choir and Organ
Founded by Jane Alden in 2011 to give the first all-vocal performance of Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise (1967), the Vocal Constructivists now have an established reputation for offering adventurous performances, live and online. Coming from diverse backgrounds that include classical music, dance, mime and noise art, they specialize in the realization of works in open notation. Featured composers include Barbara Alden, Mark Applebaum, Robert Ashley, Wojtek Blecharz, Anthony Braxton, Neely Bruce, Zeynep Bulut, Jan Duszyński, Nye Ffarrabas, Carole Finer, Jin Hi Kim, Ron Kuivila, Paula Matthusen, Meredith Monk, Pauline Oliveros, Michael Parsons, Tom Phillips, Lauren Redhead, Bogusław Schäffer, Margrit Schenker, Tomasz Sikorski, Daniel J. Wolf, and Christian Wolff. Vivid concert presentations have led to invited performances at Arcola Theatre, Café Oto, The Forge, Jack (NYC), Peckham multi-storey car park, St John’s Smith Square, South London Gallery, V22 Summer Club, and festivals in the UK, Ireland, and the US. Following a new staging of Tom Phillips’ 1969 opera Irma, the Vocal Constructivists were invited to the British Library’s Knowledge Centre to showcase the Scratch Orchestra’s contribution to the history of writing.
Committed to cross-generational work, the Vocal Constructivists adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic by launching a youth participation scheme and a collective performance curated by a cyborg editor. They commissioned a new piece by Swiss composer Margrit Schenker that intersperses recordings of endangered birds with music for harpsichord, flute, accordion, electronics, and voices and were featured in an installation at Tabakalera Contemporary Art Centre in San Sebastián, Spain, where their recording of Oliveros’ Sound Patterns played every 30 minutes for five months (December 2020–May 2021). The Vocal Constructivists also hosted a two-day online festival, Through the Square Window, which included workshops, live concerts, and film screenings.
Experimentalism is a primary motivation, propelling the group away from an expected sound world. Coming from diverse backgrounds, with ages ranging from 20 to 80, the Vocal Constructivists draw on a variety of artistic influences—classical, global, avant-garde, eclectic, and dramatic. All interpretative decisions are made by members of the group, worked out in collaboration. The Vocal Constructivists’ album Walking Still is available on the Innova label (#898). You can follow and contact us at www.vocalconstructivists.com, on Facebook, on Twitter @constructivists and @vocalconstructivists on Instagram.
Jane Alden is a musicologist, performer, and director with expertise in scribal cultures, manuscript studies, and performance practices of the medieval and modern eras. A Professor of Music and Medieval Studies at Wesleyan University, her publications include the monograph Songs, Scribes, and Society: The History and Reception of the Loire Valley Chansonniers (Oxford University Press, 2010) and a number of articles on medieval and contemporary topics. Jane is currently working on a book entitled Inscribed Experimentalism: The Music of the Scratch Orchestra, which examines the impetus behind Cornelius Cardew’s notational innovations.
PHOTOS of PERFORMANCES
Wojtek Blecharz’s Three Sound Sculptures for Choir at the JEMP: Mechanical Festival (December 2019)
Tom Phillips’ Irma at Lumen Church (June 2019)
Rehearsing for Cambridge (January 2018)
Deep Minimalism at St John Smith Square, London (June 2016)
Drawing Towards Sound at the University of Greenwich (March, 2015)
Medium City at JACK, Brooklyn, NY (April 2013)
Lektura at The Forge, Camden (November 2012)
V22 Old Biscuit Factory before the Vocal Constructivists
Medium Rare at The Old Biscuit Factory (July 2012)
Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise at the South London Gallery (September 2011)