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Josephine Truman : Represented Artist

Photo of Josephine Truman

Photo: Alia Grinvalds

Josephine (Jo) Truman is a singer, composer and performer interested in exploring the voice and all its potentials.

Commencing classical piano studies at five, already an enthusiastic improviser, she created narrative-driven improvisations on the piano and mimicked birdsong and other sounds around, laying the foundations for her special capacity in microtonal singing and extended vocal techniques and herr 3.3 octave vocal range. Truman studied art at Hornsby Technical College and Alexander Mackey College of Fine Arts. She collaborated with improvisers such as Jon Rose, Jim Denley and Sandy Evans. Her special awards include Special Purpose Award from the Australia Council's Music Board ('83) and an International Study grant from the Music Board ('85) to continue rearching voice and improvisation in England and Holland, studying voice with David Mason in London and working with British improvisers such as Phil Minton, Maggie Nicols and Sylvia Hallet. Moving to Amsterdam, Holland, she became involved with European new music, jazz and improvisation, studying jazz vocals and counterpoint with Misha Mengelberg at the Sweelinck Conservatorium and was guest student for one year at the Royal Conservatorium of Den Haag, studying composition with Dick Rayjmakers and Gilius Van Bergeijk where she she also worked with John Cage on his Song Books, this version being broadcast on VPRO radio. Truman worked as a vocalist in new music, jazz and improvisation, including Phil Minton in Songs From A Prison Diary, Le Mans Jazz festival and the Musica Festival (Strasbourg), Tony Buck (Fiets Festival), Vladimir Tchekasin and Vladimir Tarasov (1st Int. Jazz Festi. Vilnius), Fred Frith (LMC Festival), Peter Kowald and Gunda Gottschalk & Global Village and Bull's Eye Orchestra, Lindsay Cooper & Robyn Schulkowsky, George Lewis, Fred Van Hove and Johannes Bauer; Jon Rose, Joe Sachs (DDR), and Amanda Stewart (Voices Unvoiced).Truman composed and performed work for various ensembles and festivals, including Ways and Meanings (The Eareye Seeshears). She was commissioned to record a CD Sdreamings, by Staalplaat records, Amsterdam which received a four star review by John Shand in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Truman's radio commissions enabled her expression in sound, music and writing and include Cell Songs (ABC Classic FM), Sdreamings (AudioAkustisches Kunst,WDR3 Koln), The Mirrored Cry, The House In the Sky (a suite of her poetry and prose with music) for The Listening Room (ABC Classic FM), Transparent Messenger (The Europeans program on ABC Radio National) and Deprem (Radio Eye, ABC Radio National), and the mini-series Extreme Throats (ABC Classic FM) based on her MMus research. Her works for voice have been broadcast on the ABC and local radio, including Singing In Tongues, Keening Raga, Flock, Call and Response and Sdreamings.In 1993 she was awarded a live-in stipend at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany where she conceived and directed her work A Bite In Time - a three-part sound/music installation multimedia work. In 1995 she returned to Australia and completed her BA (Comm) at UTS in 1998.Truman graduated with a Master of Music (HD) in Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (USyd), having studied composition with Bill Motzing and with Richard Toop as thesis supervisor. Her thesis, "EXTREME THROATS; Extended Vocal Techniques in Contemporary Music of the 20th & 21st Centuries" is in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Library. She travelled to New York on PRSS grant form the Sydney Con and performed at Phil Niblock's Experimental Intermedia festival, and conducted thesis research.In Otober 2012 Truman's WDR radiophonic commission The Bridge to Otherness was broadcast on WDR3 AudioAkustisches Kunst. This work draws on themes and narratives of 'Self/Other/Place', focussing on the region of the Blue Mountains. and features commentary and interviews of locals, including Gundungarra Tribal elders, anthropologists, writers and artists and immigrants to the mountains, as well as native birdsong and other local environmental sounds recorded by Truman.Truman was commissioned by the curator of MONA FOMA, Brian Ritchie to compose and perform two works at the MONA FOMA 2013 festival in Hobart. She performed Dream Slash Nightmare at the Princes Wharf in Hobart a 30 minute structured vocal improvisation as a singer an pianist in collaboration with Lennie Marks (electric guitar) and Daniel Grinvalds (electronics). Elements (inspired by the themes of earth, fire air and water) was performed as part of the Morning Meditation series at the St Mary's Cathedral Centre in Hobart, followed by a vocal workshop at the Bahai Centre. She was an invited performer for seven 30 minute performances over a duration of a week at the "This is A Voice" exhibtion at the Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo in 2018.

In 2014 Truman received a new work grant from the Australia Council of the Arts to collaborate as librettist on the creation of 'Traversing The Void' a new chamber opera for solo voice woodwind and strings in eight movements, with the Icelandic composer Hildigunnur Runnardottir. Mezzo soprano Halveig Runarsdottir performed the solo vocal part at the world premier earlier this year on 21 February 2021, with the Camerartica Quartet at the Harpa theatre in Reyjkavic. It received a standing ovation and broadcasts by RUV (Icelandic state broadcaster) and appeared on the arts program 'Menningin'.



During a window of respie of Covid restrictons there was an opportunity to perform a solo work for SIMA's Sydney International Women's Jazz Festival '21, as support for Elysian Fields at Mary's Underground, Circular Quay Sydney. This involved structured piano and voice improvisations responding to recordings she made around her home during lockdown.



Josephine Truman — current to September 2021

Studied with

William Motzing

Richard Toop


Selected Commissions

  Work Commission Details
The mirrored cry (radiophonic music) (1999) Written for The Listening Room, ABC Radio
The house in the sky (radiophonic music) (1998) Written for The Listening Room, ABC Radio
Sdreamings (radiophonic music) (1991) Audio Akustisches Kunst, West Deutscher Rundfunk, Koln
Black cockatoos : voice (1991) Commissioned by Staalplaat Records
Oriental mix : voice with accompaniment (1991) Staalplaat records
Cell songs (radiophonic music) (1991) Commissioned by Australian Broadcasting Corporation.