Amanda Stewart and Jo Truman

Voice Unvoiced
voice performance

Entarctic Shelf Festival: 23 June – 3 July, 1995


Voice Unvoiced was a joint project of two of Australia’s most innovative vocal composer-performers who have come together from divergent background and interact to create new contexts which define constantly evolving and changing parameters for the performance of texts and voice. The very diversity of their fields of reference and experience weave, collide, contradict and coexist as the cross thresholds between predefined and improvised material. Through solos and duos they develop a unique combination of a singer’s approaches to the voice, text, sub-texts, utterances which are abstracted fragments from textual sources or spontaneous “inventions” spoken, wailed, groaned, whispered, screamed, laughed, lamented, and celebrated.

J. Truman/A. Stewart 1995

Josephine Truman (1958) is an Australian singer, composer and performer whose focus is the voice and its ultimate potentials. Truman has a background in classical piano and singing and has been improvising since a young child and also studied art at Hornsby Technical College and Alexander Mackey College of Fine Arts (COFA). In 1993 Truman received a Special Purpose Award from the Australia Council's Music Board. In 1985, she was awarded an International Study grant from the Music Board to continue her study and performance of vocal improvisation in England and Holland. She was based in London, studying voice with David Mason and working with British improvisers. Later, she moved to Amsterdam, Holland, and became involved with European new music, jazz and improvisation. She studied jazz vocals and also counterpoint with Misha Mengelberg at the Sweelinck Conservatorium. Following this, she was guest student for one year at the Royal Conservatorium of Den Haag. During this time she also worked with John Cage on his Song Books, this version being broadcast on VPRO radio.In Europe, Truman worked as a vocalist with leading lights in new music, jazz and improvisation. Truman has also worked as a freelance radiophonic feature maker, producing many audio art programs and horspiel commissioned by the ABC and WDR (Koln), which feature her music, texts and original concepts and compositions. She has competed an MMus at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with High Distinction with her thesis "Extreme Throats: extended vocal techniques in Contemporary Music of the C20 & C21".

Truman integrates her drawing and painting skills into her multimedia work in an ongoing exploration of the relationship between visual and sound arts. She conducts vocal workshops, teaches piano and voice privately, and drawing and painting at Sydney and regional community colleges. Jo Truman’s remarkable voice exceeds three octaves, from dark mezzo to high soprano, improvising flights of song, birdcalls and didjeridu cries, resonant with microtonal complexities and haunting overtones.

Amanda Stewart (b. 1959) is a contemporary Australian poet and sound/performance artist. She began writing and performing poetry in the 1970s and has since produced a wide array of sound, video and multimedia work. In the 1980s she worked for ABS radio as a producer. In 1989 she co-founded the performance ensemble Machine for Making Sense with Chris Mann, Rik Rue, Jim Denley and Stevie Wishart, and in 1995 started the trio Allos. She has toured Europe, the United States and Japan. She co-wrote and directed the 1990 film Eclipse of the Man-Made Sun about nuclear weapons in popular culture. Her opera The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, written with the composer Colin Bright, was performed as part of the Sydney Festival on Sydney Harbour in 1997. It has since been produced for radio by the ABC. Her collected works book and CD entitled I/T won the 1999 Anne Elder Award for poetry.