Wesleyan portrait of Jane  Alden

Jane Alden

Associate Professor of Music

Music Studios, 310

Associate Professor, Medieval Studies



Visit Professional Website

BMU Manchester University
MMU King's College
PHD University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jane Alden

Jane Alden's research addresses musical notation and visual culture in the medieval and modern eras, language and translation, experimental music, and public engagement. 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. She is currently writing a book on the Scratch Orchestra and participatory music-making in London since the 1970s. With degrees from Manchester University, King’s College, London, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she is active as a singer and conductor, seeing performance as the most effective way to reach out beyond academia to communicate with the wider public. In 2011, she formed the Vocal Constructivists, a London-based group of singers who specialize in performing graphic and text scores. Their first album, Walking Still, is available on the Innova label (CD#898).

At Manchester University (UK), where I did my undergrad, I couldn't decide if I wanted to write about music or perform. I feel very lucky that by the time I became a musicologist, the field of research had expanded to include practice-led scholarship, enabling me to continue with both activities. My doctoral work introduced me to paleography, codicology, art history, and cultural history. My interest in the visual aspect of notation first led me to Beneventan exultet rolls and later to 15th-century chansonniers--perhaps the earliest pocket-sized books to encapsulate the pleasure of owning music. I account for the resurgence of interest in visual music that took place in the late 20th century as the result of a shift in the roles of performers, showing the influence of vernacular musics and improvisation. My research is a way for me to share how music is meaningful, inviting, inspiring, and provocative. I see music as existing outside of as well as moving through time. I formed the Vocal Constructivists, an experimental choral ensemble, in 2011 to work on graphic and text scores. They were the ensemble in residence for a conference I organised at Wesleyan in 2013 called "Time Stands Still: Notation in Musical Practice". Alongside scholarly presentations, workshops, and roundtable discussions, we presented four concerts in conjunction with a number of composers: Mark Applebaum, Anthony Braxton, Ron Kuivila, Paula Matthusen, Pauline Oliveros, Lauren Redhead, and Christian Wolff. This conference also witnessed the beginning of an artistic collaboration with Nir Bitton, a New York-based graphic designer. We are collaborating on an essay entitled “The Great Learning Redigested”, for a special issue volume on Nonsense, Madness, and the Limits of Translation, in Translation Studies, anticipated publication in 2018.

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

M/W, 2:40-4pm


Fall 2020
MUSC 116F - 01
Visual Sounds (FYS)

MUSC 248 - 01
Music in Outer Space

MUSC 530 - 01

Spring 2021
MUSC 201 - 01
Tonal Harmony

MUSC 438 - 01
Collegium Musicum

MUSC 530 - 01