top of page
MVFO Press Image 1 - Credit - CHENPENG.jpg




Where: Dragon City, Decentraland, The Metaverse


When: 28th March 2023


For Metaverse Fashion Week 2023, the immersive, reality-bending imagination of China’s first metaverse platform Dragon City is to host Alastair White’s latest fashion opera (“a whole exciting new genre of art” — BBC Radio 3): #CAPITAL.


Led by the fashion week’s ambassador Gemma A. Williams and Dragon City’s Roy Zhou, a collective of artists and designers will collaborate to excavate the history of the metaverse, telling its story from the very beginning of human experience to its realization in MVFW23. 


#CAPITAL is a tale of dematerialization and symbolism: from the first time someone exchanged a token for an object, or a symbol — a word — for a being in the world — all the way through gold bars and bank notes, or the virtual reality of art— to bitcoin, avatars and Dragon City itself. It is the story of becoming something else — where everything is always possible.  


The work, scored for soprano and drum machine, is performed by the award-winning Kelly Poukens (“a soprano in a thousand” — Klassiek Centraal).


It features — and is inspired by — the designs of Chenpeng, a brand that sees no boundary between the possible and the impossible, and which has been characterized as both “anti-tradition and deviant” (Antidote magazine). Danced and choreographed by Zara Sands, the piece will be performed in a specially designed “fashion opera house” within Dragon City.

What Is Fashion Opera? 


Fashion Opera is a discipline proposed by Alastair White and Gemma A. Williams under the banner of their collective UU Studios. Over the past four years, five works were produced that explored synergies between fashion and music: WEAR, ROBE, WOAD, RUNE, and Hareflight. These featured contemporary dance, immersive theatre, experimental music, and a range of collections: from a bespoke capsule by London-based brand KA WA KEY to a re-presentation of archive work by Issey Miyake.


Fashion Opera has been described as “a groundbreaking new genre” (Classical Music Magazine), and “a perfect combination of show and costume” (Vogue Italia). The methodology behind these, proposed by Alastair White in a recent PhD, concerns a reimagining of the relationship between garment and music. This is based on ideas drawn from contemporary mathematics and quantum mechanics: that is, the existence of multiple infinities and universes allows for the existence of an artform in which each constituent — fashion, music, drama, dance — is both central and absolute. The individual works often explore themes of groundbreaking technology and or recent cosmological discovery: including virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the multiverse. 

RUNE - Out now on Métier Records. Stream/order the album here.

RUNE was unquestionably my highlight...glittering, lyrical, highly logical, yet capricious...a melding of physical and metaphysical, of quantum mechanics and spatial manifestation. It was as if those numerical relationships that formed the walls of the universe itself had become sound, movement, and much else, as if the sounds that did likewise had become words, numbers, movement, and so on. Asking what came first was less beside the point than a question that never arose. Such, I think, was testament to the quality both of work and performance. - Mark Berry, Seen and Heard International

Spectacular in every sense of the word. - Caroline Potter

A perfect combination of show and costume. - Vogue Italia

Re-opening theatre doors with a grand fashion-opera spectacle, RUNE is a vast cosmological fantasy from the team behind the award-nominated ROBE (“excellent” – BBC Music) and WEAR (“spellbinding” – Boulezian) — featuring an ensemble of three grand pianos, contemporary dance with interactive sculpture, and high fashion by Ka Wa Key. 

On a planet where history is forbidden, a young girl dares to tell her story. A voyage across galaxies and millennia, hers is a tale of the archipelagos of Khye-rell and their matterwork, through transdimensional canals and sealanes to the RUNE of the universe’s origin. This song, her story — through the very act of being told — will have consequences beyond imagining…

ROBE is out now. 'Highly poetic...the music is excellent' - BBC Music Magazine. Buy it here. Stream it here

'If Rousseau, Marx, Einstein, Lacan and Bill Gates were to collaborate on an opera, what would they create? Perhaps something not unlike ROBE, which clearly aims to challenge long-held assumptions about the material world and to illuminate the performative nature of matter itself. - Opera Today

Alastair White (b.1988) is a Scottish composer and writer. His work is characterised by a lyrical complexity which draws influence from technology, science, politics and materialism, and has been described as "a whole exciting new genre of art" (BBC Radio 3), “spellbinding” (Boulezian), "perfect" (Vogue Italia), "genuinely original" (TEMPO), “highly poetic...excellent” (BBC Music Magazine), "deftly manic" (American Record Guide) "passionately atonal" (Gramophone) and "the height of compositional magnificence" (Fanfare).


Recent projects include the fashion-opera cycle of WEAR, ROBE, WOAD and RUNE; a string quartet for the Altius Quartet’s album Quadrants Vol. 3 (Navona Records); the documentary opera A Boat in an Endless Blue Sea; and The Drowning Shore, a Scots-Yiddish cantata. Full-length studio recordings of ROBE and WOAD were released by Métier Records in 2021, with RUNE due out in Summer 2022. He is currently composer-in-residence for the Ljubljana-based .abeceda [new music ensemble] with several major collaborations planned, beginning with the premiere of his Anti-Music at the Cankar Hall.


Recipient of a Tait Memorial Trust Award (2021), and shortlisted twice for a Scottish Award for New Music (in 2019 and 2020) and Creative Edinburgh Award (2019), Alastair has created work for the opera festivals Tête-à-Tête and Opera in the City, the international poetry festival STanza, FASHIONCLASH, Tsitsit, UKNA, The Scottish School of Contemporary Dance and The Scottish Poetry Library. Through his production company UU Studios, he has collaborated with brands such as Derek Lawlor, KA WA KEY, Michael Stewart, Renli Su and Tommy Zhong. His music has been featured on Radio 3 and Klara Radio, and is supported by Help Musicians UK, The Hinrichsen Foundation, The Hope Scott Trust, The Marchus Trust, The Royal Musical Association, The RVW Trust, The Sarah Caple Scholarship, The Tait Memorial Trust, and The Goldsmiths Graduate School Fund and Music Research Committee. His scores are published by UMP. 


Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, Alastair grew up in Perthshire and originally studied literature at the University of Edinburgh, where he was a founding member of the bands White Heath (Electric Honey) and Blank Comrade (Red Wharf) and worked as a session pianist, producer and sound technician. He has scored a variety of media, including the feature film Treasure Trapped, as well as TV campaigns for the Scottish Green Party and the NCCA UK.  Often using his own texts for opera and song, he has had poetry featured in journals such as Lallans, Pomegranate and DIN, and created original installations for festivals on the relationship between music and language. He teaches composition at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is completing his PhD (supervised by Roger Redgate and Lauren Redhead.) Alongside this, he publishes and speaks internationally on his research interests, which include the theory of contingency dialectics and its methodological implications in fashion-opera, as well as musicological studies of contemporary composition. Recent publications include work on Carter and Jameson (Società Editrice di Musicologia) Finnissy and Lacan (Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre) and Ferneyhough (Göttingen Studies in Musicology). 

  • Spotify
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Facebook


Accomplishment in both musical writing and performances was undeniable, even spellbinding. Had this been a song-cycle – or cantata – I should have been gripped, but staging...left one in no doubt that this was not only an opera, but an opera of rare imagination – and success. I am keen to hear more. - Mark Berry, Boulezian

Undeniably, WEAR is a beautiful show...I wholly look forward to what this talented company conjure up next. - Sam Lawrence, The 730 Review


WEAR is not only an opera or a fashion exhibition but a genuine show of rare imagination and experimentation...the creative spirits of Alastair White, Gemma. A. Williams, designer Derek Lawlor, and choreographer Max Gershon shine bright as they explore the physical and emotional repercussions of the works we produce, the ties we have with others and the strength that lies in between. - Hugo Scheubel, Schön! Magazine

He has invented a whole exciting new genre of art. Sarah Walker, BBC Radio 3

A groundbreaking new genre. - Florence Lockheart, Classical Music Magazine

Fashion-opera offers a new artistic form, more total, more immersive, full of meaning and connections. - Maxime de Brogniez, Forum Opera

Fantastical, dystopian, highly poetic. The music is excellent. The limited textural palette is used with intelligent frugality. The entire cast has a firm grounding in contemporary music and it shows. Given ROBE's commitment to visual and musical integration, the next staging is anticipated with interest. - Claire Jackson, BBC Music Magazine

[ROBE's] combination of quasi-Symbolist excess, complex wordplay and the classical poise of ancient Greek tragedy makes for a heady mix. So dense is the imagery that it’s hard to separate shape from sound from smell from texture.  At times, words seem to literally transform before one’s eyes, like physical matter, archaeological relics, unearthed, becoming something new...If this sounds somewhat schematic, the sonic experience of the score is anything but.  There is simplicity – a single, angular vocal line, fractured by explosive percussive piano stabs, for example – and complexity, with melodies leaping high and low against hyperactive piano kaleidoscopes.  There is stillness – a repeating piano tone chaining the voice – which is fraught with restlessness, as a flute gabbles and gibbers, slithery yet spiky, around the vocal line.  The storyteller’s mythic tale has a folksy lyricism at times, the sense of the ‘antique’ enhanced by the flute’s discursive elaborations.  When the Storyteller sings of the Warlord Q-el, “upon the battlefield … knackered and filthy”, the musical and verbal images of violence have a strange beauty.  Voices occasionally elide in expected harmonic sweetness, only to be abruptly rent apart as the circles keep turning.  EDINBURGH’s depths of data and abstraction are rendered by the voices of Beira and Neachneohain which come together, cohere and pull apart.  At the close, Beira’s vision – a stratospheric beam of vocal light which arches, ducks and weaves – is followed by Rowan’s epilogue, in which the hint of a chronological tick in the piano’s low ostinato thud is challenged by the meandering monotones of voice and flute.  Rowan finally realises that what she had created was not a map but a city, human, pulsing, real.  Herself.  Quietly but surely, her unaccompanied voice invites us to “look – closely,/ Out of the corner of your eye … and the sky is red, red,/ Edinburgh-red”.  It feels both cathartic and complete. - Claire Seymour, Opera Today

White favors an embodied lyricism, and his vocal writing flexibly feeds a number of solos, duets and trios often treated a cappella or with the complicity of a flute which Jenni Hogan manages in a controlled way to make a character in its own right. The female quartet undoubtedly plays in favor of this beautiful musical homogeneity. With the help of the performers, Alastair White infuses this virtual dramaturgy with a musical intensity that succeeds in giving it substance, a feat that could not better correspond to the theme of this opera. - Pierre Rigaudiere, Avant-Scène Opéra

White's music has an intriguing elaboration to it, with instruments and voices executing striking arabesques, jagged and angular, and the resulting textures successfully evoked the strange abstract world of cyberspace, creating a real sense of non-reality…The performances from all concerned were excellent. - Robert Hugill, Planet Hugill

White's libretto is highly imaginative as you would expect it to be - I was moved. Some duets were wonderfully original. Notable too was the quality of singing - the whole cast of singers quite brilliantly navigated a complex atonal vocal landscape. - Karine Hetherington, Artmuse London

White is developing an intriguing new sub-genre that he refers to as ‘fashion-opera’. This is much (much) more that fancy threads on stage: White has a particular interest in the theory of contingency dialectics and new materialist philosophy. No, I’m not entirely sure what that entails either, except that its musical application is strangely captivating…Poukens fully inhabits this complex score, trampolining fragmented melodies and lyrical quasi-arias. White’s intelligent use of the saxophone’s wide-ranging palette means that the scoring never feels under-nourished. - Claire Jackson, BBC Music Magazine

The height of compositional magnificence. - Colin Clarke, Fanfare

RUNE was unquestionably my highlight...glittering, lyrical, highly logical, yet capricious...a melding of physical and metaphysical, of quantum mechanics and spatial manifestation. It was as if those numerical relationships that formed the walls of the universe itself had become sound, movement, and much else, as if the sounds that did likewise had become words, numbers, movement, and so on. Asking what came first was less beside the point than a question that never arose. Such, I think, was testament to the quality both of work and performance. - Mark Berry, Seen and Heard International

Spectacular in every sense of the word. - Caroline Potter

A perfect combination of show and costume. - Vogue Italia

There are some real gems here...Alastair White’s Two Panels for String Quartet deftly switches between two wildly different sound worlds in a manic, musical dialog. - American Record Guide

A passionately atonal essay about time. - Gramophone

A virtuosic showstopper. - Winnipeg Free Press

Alastair White’s Two Panels is conceived around polar opposities related to the sense of chaos or line, as well as components of time and space (which may also connect to registral considerations).  Harmonically we move toward a more atonal expression...Certainly, this is another fine exploration of modern writing for string quartets that should be of interest to fans of this genre.  The music is certainly quite engaging throughout. - Steven A. Kennedy,  Cinemusical

Completely atonal but not necessarily 12-tone, and I was very happy to hear that he knows how to use this technique to create music and not just a labyrinth of sound that confuses the listener. Complex and modern as it is, it also has good form and structure and, in places, shows a sense of humour. - Lynn René Bayley, The Art Music Lounge.

An intricate, atonal dance...a surrealist poem on the subject of transformation and the difficulty of differentiating real reality from transformed reality - appropriately enough for a piece conceived and executed in 2020, the year in which everything around and within us was transformed. - Records International

An amazing project. - Sonograma Magazine

A work that would obliterate all artistic boundaries...highly philosophical, creative and experimental. - Harriet Clifford,  Drama and Theatre Magazine

Breathtakingly beautiful and rather haunting. - The Shmooze

Very well done...and like nothing else I've seen. - John Gilks, Opera Ramblings

The Drowning Shore is a gorgeous act of ghosts and limits and liminal remembrance, a 14-minute cantata in Scots and Yiddish reaching through water and time to speak of marginalized languages and imperial borders and once again the love between two women that is the heart of Sholem Asch's God of Vengeance, the playwright's great-great-granddaughter now the performer in her bird-of-paradise brilliance, in ancestral tartan, in frum-black silk that made me think, intended or not, of Hanna Rovina's Leye in The Dybbuk, crumbling earth between her fingers, writing holy letters on the air. I managed to watch it this afternoon for its streaming premiere, no less haunted for being digital...I commend it highly to your attention. - Myth Happens

The ideas and dynamics, the go-for-it approach, the instrumentation, the fearless and erratic arrangement of each song was refreshingly new, daring, and immediate in its impact. After a lifetime in and around the music industry and having become numb to the never ending cart loads of re-shaped, re-fashioned, re-visited, and regurgitated plagiarisms from the musical mountains of the past's 'golden age', hearing their work was an absolute delight. - Graham Bowers


Music of Philosophy: Re-reading Badiou's Logics of Worlds through Berg's Wozzeck (2022). Presented at the 29th Annual Conference of the Società Italiana di Musicologia University of Pavia, Cremona and the Annual Plenary Conference of the Society for Musicology in Ireland. 

The Contingent Dialectic (2021). Guest lecture at Winchester College of Art.

Contingency Dialectics in Fashion-Opera (2021). Presented at the 57th Annual Royal Musical Association Conference at the University of Newcastle. 

Composition and Practice as Research (2021). Joint talk with Hardi Kurda. Presented at the Online Postgraduate Research Forum at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Music of the Spheres: Quantum Computers and the End of Newtonian Realism (2021). Presented at The Annual Plenary Conference of the Society for Musicology in Ireland and the Irish Chapter of the International Council for Traditional Music at Trinity College Dublin.

An Embodied Critique of Contingency Dialectics (2021). With Jenni Hogan. Presented at Vibrant Practices at the University of Leeds with The Snake That Eats the World.

Material Music: Reclaiming Subjectivity in Spatialised Time (2021). Presented at Music in the Body 2019 and the Royal Musical Association Annual Conference 2020. Published in Goettingen Studies in Musicology (2021).

ROAD (2020). An audio paper featured as part of Drifting Bodies / Fluent Spaces - Lab2PT & Made of Walking (VII) -  in Guimarães, Portugal.

Vocal Writing in Fashion-Opera (2020). Presented at Spheres of Singing 2020 at the University of Glasgow. 

'Heaven’s Rose’: ROBE and the Philosophy of Fashion-Opera (2020). Published in Sonograma Magazine.

Futures of the Real (2019). A conference organised at Goldsmiths, University of London.

View the Programme and the Call for Papers.

“For me the greatest measure of a work of art is if it makes me feel uncomfortable or excites me sexually”: a Lacanian reading of Michael Finnissy's Verdi Transcriptions (2018). Presented at the 19th International Music Theory Conference at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. Published in Principles of Music Composing (2019).

The Spatialisation of Music (2018). Presented at Intersections 2018 at Kent State University, Florence.

Postmodern Hyperspace in Elliott Carter's String Quartet No. 4 (2017). Presented at YMEIC 2017 at the University of Rome. Published in Dialectical Interactions: Individuals and Contexts (2019).

bottom of page