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Artists Paul Dutton

Ranked among the world’s leading exponents of vocal sound art, soundsinger Paul Dutton has been working with the extensions of human utterance for over thirty years, in ensemble and solo contexts, in concert and on recordings. He has appeared in music and voice festivals, in clubs and concert-halls, across Canada, Europe, and the United States of America. His principal collaborators are pianist Michael Snow and saxophonist John Oswald in the free-improv trio CCMC; and fellow vocal sound artists Jaap Blonk, Koichi Makigami, Phil Minton, and David Moss in the group Five Men Singing. His more occasional collaborators have included such musicians as John Butcher, Bob Ostertag, Dominic Duval, Phil Durrant, John Russell, Lee Ranaldo, Christian Marclay. Günter Christmann, and Alexander Frangenheim.

Dutton’s soundsinging has been called “fascinating, inventive, grippingly obsessive" (The Wire), “astounding and witty" (Winnipeg Free Press), and rivetting vocal pyrotechnics (Chicago Tribune).

With an early background in choral singing, traditional British folk music, blues, and creative writing, Dutton first began exploring oral sound art as one of The Four Horsemen, a group that worked with self-generated textual material and improvisational vocal sound. The group achieved legendary status in the ’70s and ’80s among literary, music, and theatre audiences in Canada, Europe, and the USA, through extensive touring and releases of two LPs, a cassette, and a book of performance scores.

Throughout The Four Horsemen’s eighteen years of activity, Dutton continued his solo career as a writer and vocal virtuoso. His first solo sound recording was released in 1979, and since then he has issued two audiocassettes and a CD, and has been included on numerous CD compilations. In 1989, Dutton joined the Toronto free-improvising band CCMC, with whom he has issued four recordings-an audiocassette and three CDs. The band has been a trio (Dutton, Snow, and Oswald) since 1994. In 2003 Dutton formed the voice quintet Five Men Singing, with Jaap Blonk, Koichi Makigami, Phil Minton, and David Moss.

In addition to his musical activities, Paul Dutton is the author of six books of poetry and fiction, and of numerous essays on music and musicians.


Paul Dutton

Toronto (Ontario, Canada), 1943

Residence: Toronto (Ontario, Canada)

  • Composer
  • Performer (voice)
  • Improviser
  • Sound artist

Associated groups

On the web

Paul Dutton

Main releases

Ambiances Magnétiques / AM 130 / 2005
Victo / VICTO 092 / 2004
OHM / Avatar / AVTR 021 / 2000
Victo / VICTO 063 / 1998


Various artists
DAME / DAME 2001 / 2001
  • Out of print

In the press

  • Eric Normand, JazzoSphère, no. 23, October 1, 2004
  • Karl E Jirgens, Rampike, no. 12:1, April 1, 2001
    Paul Dutton soars to sublime heights in this extraordinary soundworks collection.


Eric Normand, JazzoSphère, no. 23, October 1, 2004

Parmi les improvisateurs, il y en a pour qui l’instrument est le corps: chanteurs, poètes sonores, bruiteurs, etc. Malheureusement, il est plutôt rare de les voir se réunir, travaillant souvent des projets solos difficiles ou s’intégrant à des ensembles instrumentaux. C’est donc une excellente idée qu’a eu Michel Levasseur de réunir sur scène (et sur disque) ces cinq virtuoses de la bouche et de l’appareil respiratoire. Five men singing est un véritable festin pour les oreilles, un moment rituel fantastique rempli d’émotion et de poésie. Force est de constater que le tout diffère de la somme des parties: la musique du groupe est plus accessible que celle des individus pris un à un. Elle donne l’impression d’une grande écoute mutuelle, de constructions très précises, et puissantes. Les possibilités quasi-illimitées de ces voix nous font songer à certaines musiques électroniques, tant la diversité des textures sonores est grande. Ici, la musique se développe autour de mantras, saccades ou chants de gorge, physique, prenante et inventive. Après tout, l’improvisation n’est-elle pas une musique de tradition orale?

Ce disque que l’on pourrait considérer comme une «bizarrerie» se révèle comme l’un des plus beaux et des plus touchants disques que Victo nous ait offert dans les dernières années. Ce qui n’est pas peu dire.


Karl E Jirgens, Rampike, no. 12:1, April 1, 2001

Mouth Pieces is a superb compilation of acoustic oral soundworks by Paul Dutton. Dutton’s meticulous renderings of these works are cleanly recorded and offer an engaging crosssection of his repertoire. Dutton’s live soundworks are frequendy presented either solo or in the company of other artists and groups including individuals such as Holland’s Jaap Blonk, or groups such as Toronto’s superlative free improv band CCMC, or, the legendary The Four Horsemen poetry perfonnance group (1970-88). Dutton works partly in the tradition of early Dadaists or more recently established pioneers such as Bob Cobbing, and partly in the traditions of Jazz, Blues or Doo Wop, but, he goes beyond all of these precedents to develop his own performative style. This CD, sub-titled Solo Soundsinging traverses the conventional borders of music and poetry to anive at a new auditory frontier. Dunon’s piece Hiding approximately 6 minutes long and printed in colour on the CD itself, is a true masterwork. If you get the opportunity be sure to see Dunon perform this or his other works live. In the meantime, this CD offers a true artistry through jazz changeups, phonetic and resonant phonemics, tongue-pops, mouth percussions, forced-air effects, overtone and pitch modulations, all the more remarkable when you realize that this is all done by human voice only, and without electronic processing of any kind! Paul Dutton soars to sublime heights in this extraordinary soundworks collection.

Paul Dutton soars to sublime heights in this extraordinary soundworks collection.

More texts

The Wire no. 209

Articles written

  • Paul Dutton, Musicworks, no. 68, June 1, 1997
    The main thing is the music and the music, in the main, is of high quality.


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