Immunophonology Top Score (Resolution) >

Immunophonology was composed in 2013 by Joanna Lee as part of BCMG's Resolution project funded  by the Wellcome Trust. The piece is written for a mixed ability, mixed range vocal ensemble featuring one solo voice.The piece's structure is derived from the way in which the human body develops an immune response.

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The Resolution project brought together composers and biomedical scientists from the University of Birmingham's Rheumatology Research Group, part of the Centre for Translational Inflammation Research based in Queen Elizabeth Hospital to work with young people to create new music around the theme of auto-immune disease. Funded by a Wellcome Trust Small Grants Award, the project ran in three secondary schools: Turves Green Girls School and King Edward VI Handsworth Girls School in Birmingham and Light Hall School, Solihull. The project was led by composers Fraser Trainer, Liz Johnson, Jackie Walduck, Jeremy Clay, Joanna Lee and Ruta Vitkauskaite, scientists Beth Clay and Rachel Bayley and Hannah Hope, Education Officer at the British Society for Immunology. The project culminated in an evening of music and science on 22 March 2013 which included the music composed by and for the young people. You can listen to recordings of the music on our main website. As part of the project three pieces were composed for the young people to perform:

  • Immunophonology by Joanna Lee is a vocal piece which explores both the process and the terminology associated with an immune response.
  • Molecular Mimicry by Jeremy Clay is a piece for flexible ensemble depicting the process of the body’s immune system mis-recognising its own antigens (particular proteins which live on the surface of cells) for those of a foreign pathogen and attacking itself.
  • Fairies and Elephants by Ruta Vitkauskaite is a piece for flexible ensemble inspired by the process of protein creation and the score reflects a scientific image which shows how a protein is created. This resource will be added in the next month.

Science lab

The scores are free to download from the links below. If you perform any of the pieces, please let us know. If you have any questions regarding performing the pieces or about any other aspect of the project please email

Below is a recording of the premiere performance of Immunophonology by King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls:



Wellcome Trust supported by     Birmingham University small    British Society for Immunology logo

Programme Note

The structure of Immunophonology follows a 'normal' immune response or, its alternative, an autoimmune response:

  1. Pathogen attacks host OR
  2. An auto immune response triggered
  3. Innate immune response
  4. Dendritic Professional Antigen Presenting Cells
  5. Adaptive immune response

The terminology used in immunology provided the text for the piece and leading on from this, the phonetics and vocal sounds. The chosen words also link to groups within the International Phonetic Alphabet and vocal techniques (see below).


IPA group

Vocal technique

Pathogen, Infectious, Virus, Disease

Fricatives: th, ff, sh, vv, zz


Immunology, Rheumatology, Inflammation, Autoimmune

Vowels: ih, oo, aw, ee, ah 

Nasals: mm, nn

Chanting and humming

Examples: Gobble, Gulp, Sizzle, Zap

Plosives: d, t, p

Eating sounds

Dendritic Professional Antigen Presenting Cells


Percussive sounds

T Cells; Cytokines; B Cells; Antibodies

Beatboxing sounds: bm – bass drum, ts – hi-hat, zz – interference, kk – crash cymbal, brrr – bass drum


Connected to this, different characters of cells and processes were also conveyed through the music. For example, a section about macrophages, which digest foreign bodies, involves eating sounds and onomatopoeia and, a section about pathogens, which cause illness and instigate the immune response, involves haunting and menacing whispering.The work uses small musical cells that layer-up and come together to give an overall picture; this parallels with science (small molecules and cells working together to form something on a grander scale). Above the small musical cells, a linear text occurs providing a narrative of what is happening in the immune response. Thus, the work acts as a teaching tool that verbally tells the story and information about the science.

Immunophonology 3 - Score page 1

Immunophonology 4 - Score page 2

Immunophonology 5 - Score page 3

Immunophonoly 4

Immunophonoly 6

Immunophonoly 7

Immunophonoly 8

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