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Vanessa Tomlinson : Associate Artist

Random Audio Sample: Practice : piano and percussion duo by Vanessa Tomlinson, from the CD Every night the same dream

Vanessa Tomlinson is a percussive artist dedicated to exploring how sound shapes our lives, awakening our ears to new sounds, in new spaces, with the hope that attentive listening will lead to attentive custodianship of place. With a long history in experimental music, Vanessa uses this body of knowledge to consider how we listen through site-specific explorations, and to explore new collaborative sonic ideas. Trained as a percussionist in Australia, Germany and the USA, Vanessa relies on this sonic investigation of objects to build compositions, create contexts for improvisation, interpret the voices of other composers and collaborate across art-forms and disciplines. She has toured the world for 25 years, premiering over 100 works by significant national and international composers, presenting work at major international festivals, and collaborating with improvisers, dancers, artists and more.

Key projects include The Piano Mill (a purpose built structure in the Australian bush), Sounding the Condamine (examining the history of the Condamine Bell in outback Queensland), Water Pushes Sand (examining intersections between Sichuan Opera and improvisational practices with Australian Art Orchestra), Sonic Dreams (a series of compositions about extinct and imaginary sounds) and Here and Now (her first book, examining approaches to music making in an Australian context).

Vanessa demonstrates leadership as a Music Curator and Artistic Director including Festival Director of Tyalgum Festival (2017 onwards), Easter@Harrigans Lane (2015-20), the Australian Percussion Gathering (2010/2016), Transplanted Roots International Percussion Symposium (2017), 100 Ways to Listen at World Science Festival (2017), New Sounds Brisbane (2017), Sounding the Smithsonian (2019) and Co-Director of Clocked Out (2000 onwards). She has received recognition through APRA/AMC Awards in Experimental Music, Excellence as an Individual, and Excellence by an Organisation (Clocked Out), Green Room Awards (Dada Cabaret), Aria nomination (Water Pushes Sand), and prestigious opportunities including Civatelli Ranieri Residency in Italy, Banff Residency in Canada, Australia Council Project Fellowship, and Asialink Residency in China.

She studied at the University of Adelaide, Hochschule fur Musik in Freiburg and received her Master's and Doctorate from the University of California, San Diego, where she worked closely with Steven Schick and George Lewis. In addition Vanessa has studied Sichuan Opera with Master Zhong Kaichi in Chengdu, China. She has been on the faculty of the Queensland Conservatorium of Music for 16 years, transforming the field of percussion in Australia, helping to define the field of Artistic Practice in music internationally, and pioneering the performer/composer, interpreter/improviser pathway for students. As Deputy Director of the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, chair of Artistic Research, she drives research projects and helps define the agenda for performing artists in the academy.

​Vanessa can be heard on Innova, Immediate, Room40, Etcetera, Jazzhead, Mode, Tzadik, Hathut and Clocked Out labels, and her articles appear in Leonardo, Contemporary Music Review, Intelligent Arts and World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. She has performed widely across four continents including Wien Modern Festival, London Jazz Festival, Beijing Festival of Modern Music, Green Umbrella Series, Bang-on-a-Can Marathon, Sydney Festival, Melbourne International Festival, Vancouver Jazz Festival and many more.

https://www.vanessatomlinson.com/ — current to 2020

Awards & Prizes

Year Award Placing Awarded for
2017 Art Music Awards: State Awards Winner: QLD State Award for conceiving and curating the 2016 Australian Percussion Gathering

Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
Digital sheet music sample The Imaginary Aviary : flexible instrumentation (2023) Commissioned by Bleach Festival .
Sonic Dreams : flexible instrumentation (2017) Commissioned by Grey Wing Ensemble.
Digital sheet music sample Still and Moving Paper : flexible instrumentation (2014) Commissioned by Australia Council for the Arts as part of 2014 Project Fellowship.
Digital sheet music sample Static : for percussion quartet (2014) Commissioned by Early Warning System.