Josephine Macken is a composer and improviser who lives and works on unceded Gadigal – Eora land (Sydney, Australia). Her practice centres on the concept of ‘interference’ as a tool for music making and an aesthetic framework for articulating the processes which underpin her music. This materialises in her work through mediations of disclosure and secrecy, disturbances unfolding within and across modes of sound production, feedback loops, subversions of agency hierarchies and an unyielding preoccupation with the uncanny.

Her research and its practical basis follows the fault lines of resistance patterns and draws from the kinds of translations across expressive modes (notation, sound, text) afforded by the cracks that form. This is the case most recently in her completion of a Masters of Music (composition) on scholarship under Prof. Liza Lim at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music as a participant in the 2018–20 award-winning Composing Women Program.

Read: An Aesthetics of Interference in my Composition Practice
M Mus (composition) – Doctor of philosophy
Awarded by The University of Sydney, 2021

Josephine has presented her research at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music (2017), Fujian Normal University (2017), Darmstädter Ferienkurse (2018), Harvard University (2019) and Columbia University (2019), the latter two as part of a delegation from the Sydney Conservatorium.

In 2021, Josephine’s first opera ‘The Tent’ was nominated for an APRA AMCOS Art Music Award in the ‘Work of the year: Dramatic’ category.

“Macken created a world of beautiful chaos in this work, using haunting electronics and the human voice to explore a technological dystopia. …Very engaging in its slow-moving narrative, the dreamlike, almost entirely wordless score invites us to contemplate mythologies of presence, absence, loss and consciousness.”

2021 APRA AMCOS Art Music Awards judging panel

Josephine’s music has been featured on ABC Classic’s ‘New Waves’ podcast in conversation with Stephen Adams and Ian Parsons’ ‘The Sound Barrier’ on PBS.

Listen: ABC New Waves Podcast
Josephine Macken: The Tent

Listen: The Sound Barrier – PBS FM
Speaking percussion with Kaylie Melville and Josephine Macken

[on ‘The Tent’ (2020) for chamber opera] it’s a stunning work, there being performed by Sydney Chamber Opera… some really marvelous music. 

[on ‘Still’ (2019) for alto flute, voice and electronics] It was really transforming [of] the sound of the flute, and the synthesis of voice, flute and electronics is just magical throughout. That is really just sublime music.”

Ian Parsons, The Sound Barrier – PBS FM

Her work has been performed internationally by artists and ensembles such as Claire Chase, Elision Ensemble, Speak percussion, Sydney Chamber Opera, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Offspring, Ensemble Noveau and the Mivos quartet.

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