srijeda, 30. siječnja 2013.

Jon Rose - Rosin (2012)

  CD Cover - Rosin

Violinska muzika u doba shoppinga. 
Violinist ulazi u shopping-centar i stvara violinsku pošast, zvukovnu satiru, violinsku pornografiju; ubacuje u mozgove pokvarene kompjutorske programe i pripitomljene muhe-samoubojice, dirigira orkesttrom aboridžinskih motornih pila, potpaljuje interaktivni crno-bijeli požar a sporu kišu u teatru života polijeva kantom šarene nafte.

Probably the last CD offering from Jon Rose on ReR and so it's a mega issue with 3 hours 45 minutes of music and one hour twenty minutes of video; violins colliding with orchestras, freaks, choirs, barbed wire, a singing dingo, interactive violin bows, talk back radio, fire, chainsaws, bowed saws, brass band, suiciding flies, broadband feedback, aboriginal gum-leaf playing, department store pianists, high voltage sparks, slow rain, virtuoso whips, corrugated iron, the internet, musical ball, a lyre bird called George, mobile bicycle instruments, Tchaikovsky, and the proverbial kitchen sink. (2004-2010)

Jon Rose is one of the most productive, original and focused people I know; he’s also an extraordinary musician and an inspired composer. To mark his 60th anniversary we are releasing this 3 CD box of previously unreleased works ranging from radio documentary and radio fiction, virtuoso performances - taken from all manner of contexts, using both the acoustic violin and the hyperstring interactive bow system. There’s a remarkable improvised violin concerto (the rest of the mini-orchestras’s parts are written out), as well as collaborations with Australian locals (multiple brassbands, musical whips, lounge pianists, aboriginal choirs, orchestrated corrugated iron, musical gum leaves, auctioneers, chainsaws, singing dingos, bowed saw orchestras, and so on). There’s a duo with George - an Albert’s Lyrebird, and concerts with contemporary ensembles and heavy earthmoving equipment. Accompanied by a great deal of extraordinary visual and some purely audio material collected together on a supplementary data disc. Comes with a generous booklet of texts, documents and photographs and, of course, a souvenir sample of bow-hair.

As this four-disc retrospective shows, Australian violinist Jon Rose has done more than any musician to revolutionise the approach to his instrument, with technical developments and radical performance strategies.

"Digger Music" is a duet for violin and mechanical excavator; and "Sphere" uses an interactive electronic ball to determine the organisation of various keyboards, multiple violins, choral chants and whiplashes. But it's his Fence Works for which Rose is best known, using the endless outback fences of Australia like enormous sub-bass cellos: the more portable "Garage Fence" included here sounds variously like the swarming of hornets, the screeching of train wheels, and the keening of angels. Remarkable stuff. - Andy Gill

CD Cover - Futch
First album from the strikingly original and deeply satisfying combination of analogue synthesizer, trombone and violins in the hands of three masters of improvisation. The live concert recordings from FUTCH demonstrate a wide range of musical expression, from the interpolation of common timbral materials to a finely balanced rhythmic and melodic counterpoint

CD Cover - Artery
A Sydney based phenomenom that bows, plucks and hammers strings found on instruments as rare as the tenor violin and the Walter forte piano. On this track however they utilise a positive organ and the skills of guest concert harpist Clare Cooper.
 CD Cover - People's Music
 Mao's embalmed left arm conducts massed violin players, with encouragement from a screaming red guard, in a display of generic string power and anti globalisation rhetoric.
CD Cover - Fleisch
The second Hyperstring CD featuring more high wire counterpoint from the interactive MIDI bow. Warning! This Album also contains musical complexity which some may find offensive.
CD Cover - Great Fences of Australia
Revealed by the bowing of Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor in conditions of extreme heat, high winds, millions of flies and deadly snakes, the fences of Australia become vast string instruments. The electrified fence you are now hearing has the added attraction of providing regular painful shocks up your bowing arm.
 CD Backcover - Temperament
A selection of improvisations using different tunings derived from science, history, and the imagination.
 CD Cover - Transgenic Nomad
21st century global noise, linking Japan and Europe in a high velocity collision.
 CD - Strung
This music has been described as the Kronos quartet meeting Naked City, except they are improvising.
 CD - The Kryonics
The ear bending world of acoustic weirdness that combines Stroh violins with virtuosic improvisation.
 CD - Violin Factory
Massed string orchestra, Chinese violin making, live sampling in a crazed and hypnotic industrial process.
 CD - The Hyperstring Project
The unique world of violin and bow pressure powered interactive electronics, intense and complex.
 CD Cover - Fringe Benefits
Fascinating archives of experimental relative violins, environmental recordings and improvised music from Australia 1977-1985.
 CD - The Fence
 A radiophonic version of the fence project, documenting borders and political stupidity in an atmospheric mix of long bowed fence wires.
CD - China Copy
 The streets of Beijing sampled and brought into the world interactive computer programmes and high speed violin.
 CD Cover - Exiles 1.
 The high energy band that'll blow all and sundry off the stage, if you can't hear it live, get this CD.
 CD Cover - Fringe Benefits
 The alarming, comic and disturbing interactive badminton game that exposed the genius and horror in the mind of Australian composer Percy Grainger.
 CD Cover - Eine Violine für Valentin
Cabaret music, satire and live radio sound affects from pre-war Berlin are updated to challenge a unified Germany in the hands of dadaist icon Karl Valentin.
CD Cover - Fringe Benefits
Otomo's manic addition to the shopping project with celebrities from the Tokyo underground and a door knocking pervert of a salesman.
CD Cover - Violin Music in the Age of Shopping
All star cast delivering bent versions of truely awful songs amidst the noise of commerce. Get the book, see the film, buy the T shirt.
 CD Cover - Violin Music for Supermarkets
The violinist enters shopping world and unleashes musical mayhem, satire, pornography, sonic theatre, corrupt computer programs, and a basket full of bargain strangeness.
CD Cover - Brain Weather
The psychotic world of the rosenbergs with violin music from the dentist, the shrink, the surgeon and other split personalities.
 CD Cover - Violin Music for Restaurants

JR's most successful album ever; the ultimate selection of music for the giging musician with every kind of request firmly but imaginatively dealt with.

the relative violins questions and answers 
jon rose in conversation with hollis taylor

The frontier is where he likes to be, deploying his gifts and skills in the tactical emergencies of a perilous quest. To guarantee surprise, he regularly sabotages his own facility as a violinist. His twenty plus home-made Relative Violins stand as a testament to this bent.

His direction is not so much forward, from one thing to the next, as incessantly sideways, from one thing into another. This helps to explain the longevity of his muse: he doesn't have to remember what he is about. Through his routines of serendipity, his art can more or less keep track of itself.

How did you come up with the name for your home-made instruments, The Relative Violins?

There are two famous images of Einstein which I have always loved: one where he is playing the violin and one where he is sticking his tongue out. The violin, like Einstein, is an icon, even if a little dated relatively speaking. The violin, space, and time--it's a heady mix.
Someone sent me a postcard with a convoluted string instrument on it, and he wrote "This is another one of the violin's relatives." That fit in with the notion of the violin as a generic term for my string instruments, all the experimentation, and an extended family of relatives.

My work still is an ever-expanding family of relations. I wasn't planning a big collection of deconstructed violins but once it got going, I began to see them as extensions of the family. They each had a story, too. With the Double Piston, Triple Neck Wheeling Violin, for example, each revolution could measure the distance that you were traveling and the amount of arpeggiation per meter, measuring music in distance rather than in time. If you can say how long a piece is then you should be able to say how wide it is, right?

You seem to have gone out of your way to undermine the set assumptions of shape and sound associated with the violin. Where are you coming from?

There is the western experimental music tradition as exemplified by the work of Harry Partch or Percy Grainger, making instruments that your own personal vision demands. Then there is the folk tradition in Europe of the do-it-yourself, string up a box or a door, tune it up and off you go.

I am old enough to remember the skiffle groups of late 50's Britain with the tea chest one string bass and the washing board percussion. The notion of home-made instruments is as old as music itself, of course. It is sobering to note that the violin in its first hundred years of existence was very much the poor relation to the aristocratic viol.

There are the home-made folk violins of Mexico, the pan European bumbass tradition, and I have this photo of a 'Violon a Rolettes' made in 1946 in Belgium of two violins with shakers with coca cola tops attached. My own collection includes an Apache violin made out of agave stalk, an Ethiopian violin made from a coconut, and several Turkish ones made from gourds, but everyone's favorite is the Cracker Jack box violin with the fishing rod bow made for me by a trucker from the American West.

In 1975 there was an exhibition of Islamic music in London which included many instruments recently collected from the Sahara Desert region. They had a range of string instruments with resonators made out of petrol cans, out of bottles, trash, out of what they could find. These makers were improvising with materials to hand. It was very inspirational to me.

In terms of the folk tradition, it's called bricolage in French, and the Germans have the verb bastler. In English, we have no word for it except in the realm of computers, and with that we get the word hacker. But really I didn't think the violin could be touched, especially with the education that I had received. I had a good instrument but once I bought my first cheap Chinese violin and took it apart, I realized it was just 70 pieces of wood put together by a man's hands. After that, there was no stopping me.

Once you start looking at the western pre-violin tradition, you realize the huge variety of string instruments, such as the rebecs, the lyra, the crwth, the hurdy gurdy. These lead to the more Islamic-like worlds of the viola d'amore or the extraordinary baryton. A bizarre archaic instrument fancied by an Esterhazy prince Nikolaus, the baryton was like the six-string viola da gamba but with a chromatic octave's worth of extra strings that could be plucked by the thumb behind the fingerboard. Haydn wrote several hundred trio sonatas during his thirty-year career with the decadent Esterhazys. In 1974 I wrote a piece for Ricky Geraldi, who was one of the first musicians since the eighteenth century to get this instrument out of the museum and onto the concert stage. More importantly, the baryton was without doubt the main influence on my 19-string cello construction.

In the early 70's I also studied sitar for a couple of years and taught myself how to play the Delruba, a fretted version of the better known Sarangi which is a killer on your finger nails. I was not interested in learning how to play Hindustani music per se but how to bring this sound world into a western contemporary music aesthetic. In other words, I wanted all that overtone resonance, buzz, string bending, and metal sound without always being constricted by a new age drone. Money was short, as in none, so I was pointed towards cheap junk instruments.

Every low-grade instrument I made was an improvisation, although I usually had some drawings. Once it was even half ready, I would put strings on immediately, and each instrument became an improvisation. The 19-StringCello was an organic improvisation--the building and the playing wereinterchangeable and never stopped until I put if off the road in the early 90's.

The 19-String Cello exemplifies how Rose's level of experimentation caused him to approach tuning in a more sculptural way. His idea was that any string should be playable with a variety of techniques--plucked, bowed, and by various objects applied to excite it. On the cello, even the sympathetic string groups (three departments of that) were designed to be bowed. They were tuned in simple chords or microtonally. A Ligeti cluster was available on one instrument, and suddenly one didn't need a whole string section.

The widened fingerboard took five strings, four tuned in fifths the standard way and another which was interfered with, scordatura-style, from performance to performance. On the duo LP 'Les Domestiques' (1987) with French double bassist Jöelle Léandre, the extra string is tuned to a minor sixth above the adjacent bottom C. Rose's notebooks contain various examples of tuning strategies.

String players in the western tradition have been tuning their instruments in fourths or fifths for a few hundred years, and very successful it has been. What was your criteria for moving away from that?

I found that the instrument itself 'chose' for certain pitch relationships, that the number of strings and amount of tension on the instrument gave rise to their own 'physics.' If I used my ears, there was always some strange combination coming up. Also important to the idea of tuning is that you don't just tune a string to a pitch--you tune a string to a function. If it is very slack, you can grab it from behind the bridge and pull it up to a fifth above the original pitch. Tuning became more like intuitive orchestration. It struck me as absurd to suggest that a thick gut string wound really tight, say a middle C, had the same tuning as a slack thin metal wire ringing its fundamental at the same pitch; the sounds emanating from each string gave rise to completely different sound palettes.

Then, add that to all the mysterious sympathetic resonances that suddenly appear out of nowhere---yes, tuning took on another meaning. In Western music these concepts still don't exist. A pitch is a pitch is apitch. Other traditions understand the totality of these relationships better than the Occidental one. The very first scales I learned to play on the sitar had you pulling the strings up to the next consecutive fretted pitch rather than jumping from note to note.

What about the Australian landscape, the region's numerous, unexpected, ancient, ungovernable eccentricities. How have they made their impact on you?

The classic white composer's view of the Australian landscape is a romantic one, that it's nice and big and spacey, and everything happens really slowly in some kind of new age dream time. When I first heard Aboriginal music, I was struck by the fact that it is anything but that. It's fast tempos, intense and vital rhythms, high energy singing--in other words, it's music to keep yourself going with, quite apart from the vehicle for transmission of oral culture.

If you look in detail at the landscape, it's anything but easy listening. It's a turmoil. The landscape is expressed most by the stuff sticking out of it, like the trees, which seem to be having a nonstop bad hair day!

So, The Relative Violins owe a debt to the Australian landscape?

I would never have done anything like the Relative Violins elsewhere--that notion comes through a kind of frontier approach to music that doesn't exist in Europe. They have the tradition of culture, they think they have culture, but if you start pulling down the Leaning Tower of St. Peter's in Paris, that's the end of Europe. Violin iconography is in there with it.

In Australia, try as hard as they do to make it in one big golf course, the place is so big and so hostile that it becomes interesting. It fights back, very strongly. The damage done here is colossal. It won't take it, the environment. White Australia rejects innovation, even from it's own ranks, even though self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, allowing perversities and deviations to take place because of the situation have been a strong characteristic of the culture, especially in the early years. That's denigrated here by the people who run culture. That's why I'm doing the Australia Ad Lib project, to see how much 'do-it-yourself' is still there.

Tell us about the cousins to The Relative Violins, your fence work.

Living in Australia amongst really long telegraph wires and the two longest fences in the world (the Dingo Fence and the no.1 Rabbit Fence), you start to get involved with the idea of playing really long strings. I began to get serious with this in the early 80's. When a string becomes really long, not only is it the trigger of the sound, it also becomes the amplifier of the sound.

In America, Ellen Fullman works with rosin on her fingers and strokes the string. In Australia, Alan Lamb lets the wind do the talking. I use everything I can imagine, including bows, mallets, and violins, the wire itself as the bow, amplification, etc. I set no parameters as to how to excite the string(s) and uncover the sonic world that exists new with each installation. The lower the fundamental goes, the more of the harmonic series becomes audible or available.

I designed long instruments modeled on fences so I could play waist-high strings with a bow while at the same time playing strings only an inch above the floor with my feet. Jumps of over one meter to raise the fundamental pitch half a semitone were not uncommon.

You talk about your experiments as if they were the obvious next step for a string player, but unlike you, the rest of us are still trying to wrestle down our technique on our one standardized instrument. Why did you keep running with your imagination?

It's an addiction, an obligation to do this. Before I came to Australia in 1976, I had experimented with instruments but couldn't put it all together either musically, conceptually, or practically, because I had not put the violin at the center of it all. By moving to an environment with limited cultural baggage, I had my little epiphany which was this 'Gesamtkunstwerk' idea--to create a personal, alternative history for the violin, an expansion of the accepted canon.

History is written by very few people, basically the people who run it and control it. When I came to Australia, I had the feeling that I could do anything, make up my own rules. The idea of relying on your own resources and wits in a place relatively removed from Euro-culture appealed to me.

'Why' is the time-honored question/search/god thing. Why make music? If you came from another galaxy and heard a bunch of people scratching away on strings, you would have to shake your head. To some degree everyone has their own history, but I was determined to explore areas not included in the given history. Not the "this-is-the-violin, this-is-how-you-play-it school." I've never gone along with the demarcation of western music into god, composer, and the foot soldiers being trained up to churn it out. The internet now gives me, one guy with limited resources, the option to state my case, for what it's worth.

OK, let's try a 'who' question. Who are the Rosenbergs?

When I started to make my own history, I realised that one person, one violin player, was not going to be enough. I began to invent aliases, hence Johannes for pedagogy, classical composition, ethno-musicology, and research; Jo 'Doc', the legendary bebop violinist; and Jimmy, the country and western turned heavy metal violinist, who died a tragic death in East Berlin. I set those careers running, and I plagiarized my own work to supply the material, and hence proof of the existence of that dynasty of Australian violin players. The books 'The Pink Violin' and 'Violin Music in the Age of Shopping' plagiarized my work to support the notion of this fictional dynasty of violinists.

Inhabiting an alter ego with suspiciously familiar biographical markings to your own requires quite different skills from that of a performer. Instead of stalking the boards front and center, you all but absent yourself, becoming a watchful background presence, fabricating the stories of 'others.' By filing your work under the Rosenberg name, were you worried about opening yourself up to criticisms of not being serious?

The Rosenbergs are not like PDQ Bach because they have a political intent and are a savage satire on the state of music and culture today. PDQ is fun; the Rosenbergs are more than fun, they are seriously critical of our current cultural demise. There is some very nasty stuff in those books!

I can see that you steer right down the dotted line that separates literal fact from literary re-imagining. Do you see the use of fictional characters as an aesthetic honesty prevailing over an intellectual one?

Elements of truth can be revealed from great untruth. Still, using fictional characters to provide a cultural commentary is not dishonest, is it? Intellectual rigor is perhaps more accurate. You spend time questioning your own decisions and others. The argument is never finished, but at least you know the cases for and against. When I apply criticism to my past work, it's usually that I didn't go far enough. There is always another set of options or possibilities which I didn't look at.

What are the Rosenbergs up to of late?

The Rosenbergs are an ever-expanding family of relations. This additional team became a philosophical backup for a lot of projects. Dr. Johannes, for example, predicted that with the demise of communism and capitalism would come the age of shopping. It turned out to be true.

Throughout the 90's, there were a number of shopping projects, and with this a huge collection of kitsch to do with the violin began to accumulate. The instrument as an advertising icon, the use of the violin in the shopping culture is massive. It has found its way into everything from banking to insurance to luxury goods, lifestyle statements to posing politicians to heaps of violin porn.

Rainer Linz and Cathy Macdonald in Melbourne collected a lot of stuff. I collected material, and people gave me things and sent me bits and pieces. Then, in Slovakia I met Josef Cseres, who teaches aesthetics at Bratislava University. One day while driving with Phil Niblock, a New York minimalist composer, Josef suddenly discovered they had stopped in a town actually called Violin, which means violin, built by a Hungarian count at the end of the nineteenth century. The count later lost the town in a card game. In the 30's, the place was all but wiped out by the flooding of the Danube. It's an extraordinary story, one you couldn't make up. I thought that there was no way I could fake a story as good as this one, so I asked him if he wanted to be the director of The Rosenberg Museum, and he agreed. Also, no one else wanted the job.

The population of Violin is approximately 100. The mayor gave Josef the football club to be the museum. It is a classic East Bloc concrete bunker, but it has a stage, a bar, and a library, which no one appears to have seen because the key is lost.

In 1999, the inaugural concert of the museum was given featuring four improvising violinists (Aleks Kolkowski, Kaffe Matthews, Phil Durrant, and Jon Rose). There are approximately 650 items in the museum, including a package of Finnish condoms with a violin on it and a bottle of cider with a photo of violinist Linda Brava, a peroxide blonde who models underwear while playing her Zeta violin. The museum has no aesthetic borders; it will accept anything, providing it has to do with the violin. The museum also houses a collection of violin art and most of Jon Rose's remaining Relative Violins, many in need of restoration work.

With The Relative Violins tucked away in Slovakia, Rose is now playing, in addition to his standard violin, a tenor violin, both of which he commissioned from the legendary Australian luthier Harry Vatilliotis. The tenor is a phenomena, the cross-fertilization of a violin and a small viola, sounding full and deep-throaty a whole octave below a normal violin. I heard it in Mark Dresser's string quartet at the Tonic Club in New York City, and was struck by how it projects acoustically. Such an instrument as this Australian tenor violin poses questions for future developments in the world of acoustic string instruments--in what directions can bowed pitch and timbre still go?

Contemporary-wise, you have the Hutchins octet based on the idea of a family of instruments (as in the viol consort). Scientifically researched for decades and sized to get the best sound out of the violin shape, unfortunately only three operational sets exist. One set is now being played by members of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, but Rose says it is hard to set up work for them given the conservatism of string players in the world of classical music. In the same string festival at Tonic, I heard Dominic Duval play one of the Hutchins basses. The sound is rich and colossal, and it shakes one's confidence in the evolutionary history of string instruments.

I think of instrument makers as inherent tinkerers, and certainly I include you in this group although you disavow any specific luthier skills. How much do you separate making from playing?

The best stuff comes from tinkering. You can sit and imagine anything, but the reality is that music is a practical business and one sound leads to another, so it's in the building and playing of instruments that things follow from the business of doing. Where composition really falls apart, because it's not done through the instrument.

Do you only write for strings?

If I'm going to write. to me it's a practical problem. There's no point in having string players improvise because most of them can't. You have to figure out what they can do. It's interesting when the context has been radically shifted. I love collisions. I hate cross-over, multi-culti--I prefer a colossal smash, where you get sparks which actually deliver something else.

The notion of musical possibilities defined by the instrument and by the playing, scordatura, for example--that's of interest. But when the instrumentalist tells the composer what's possible and what's not, you don't get the best results. An improviser is going to actually deliver that stuff all the time they play. That's in the nature of music practice.

These home-made instruments certainly required new and extended techniques. Did playing these instruments affect your approach to the standard violin?

Not at all, except in the respect that I am basically an auto-didact. I ceased formal studying after the age of 14. The violin is good for certain stuff and not for other stuff. For the other stuff I make instruments. On the violin, there are 4 or 5 strings--I ask myself what I can do with them, what the instrument is good at. If I flatten the entire bridge, I can get a drone. With a bow, I can do certain things. I am interested in velocity, for example, in notions of acceleration, speed, playing on the edge of what is possible for as long as possible and how that translates.

Clearly, there is an emotional aspect--you don't have to worry about that, it's going on, but also there are musicological notions of how far you can take counterpoint. This arrives at my 'Hyperstring' project where you can deal with counterpoint on a traditional basis of independent lines combining or conflicting with each other, just in terms of the pitch material. But then you can take it further, to incorporate bodily motions of counterpoint, so that the counterpoint of the body is also part of that relationship. It's like the classic Leonardo drawing of the man with his arms and legs stretched out, and it measures a circle. If music is defined not just by its intellectual content but also by the physiology of human beings, then that physiology must also be inherent in the music.

The piano is easy to play fast, but the violin requires such an effort just to get a decent sound happening. If you take things like the inventions of Paganini and apply them to improvisation, then instead of improvisation being the poor man's violin playing, you can make it be the most technical stuff that ever hit the planet, music that if some poor bastard had to go away and learn it, he'd be tied up for ten years.

Music also takes on the characteristic of sport, the adrenaline rush of speed, height, etc. These are significant parts of music lost in the present malaise of things gone user-friendly and P.C. and safe. Humans aren't like that. They can be, that's part of it, but that's not the whole story.

When I go to hear a concert, I also want to see it. I want to see those defining moments of why people do things--impulses that make muscles move, impossible positions happening and stimulating things, people not getting on, or getting IT on. I want to see the whole show of what it is to be human. I don't want to have some pretense that suddenly we are in a refined world where everything is pure and clean and explained and therefore covered up.

Mozart believed in "artless art" in which the hard work of composing disappears beneath a surface of serene simplicity. One critic sizes you up this way: "Many of the tracks on 'Hyperstring' come across as an urgent report from the front-line, from Rose's personal battlefield with the instrument. Several tracks feature the sinister rattles of his whipolin, a seven string disemboweled cello. . . ." Do you feel on-stage that you do battle with your instruments?

Battle is a bit much--there is a struggle. It's a struggle to be alive, and music contains struggle. so I like that notion of challenging what's physically possible, musically possible. It's a bizarre thing to say because I don't like failure, but I think you have to go there and look at that stuff. I'm sure Mozart did in his own way, too. It's just that it's become such a figure of the people who write music history in the West that it's very hard to say what he was really about. Even the Amadeus film, which made him a groovy cat who swore and told dirty jokes, still comes up with the idea of genius, perfection, but you hear lots of Mozart that is hacked out very quickly where many other options could have happened. I think Mozart fits into the Western notion of high art. It's had some really bad ramifications, one being that people can't improvise, even though he could. The other problem is that it's the tyranny of the Western harmonic system.

Mahler said that tradition by itself is laziness, that one needs a correct understanding of their heritage to make something of it. What are most traditional violinists missing?

Any sense of exploration. The violin when invented was an experimental instrument. It was also considered a bit of a rat bag compared to theviol, so it was proletariat in its origins. The viol was played by the amateur aristocrats, while the violin was played by the professionals, who lower down in the hierarchy. In its first 300 years of existence, it was all flat out innovation and experimentation. All the Italians first. then Bach, then Paganini. I guess he knocked it on the head.

So what are they missing now? The idea that music is an aural experience and therefore requires some movement from the people who express it, movement to the world in which the music exists. All the music that has existed until this century belonged to the time it was made in some way, even the radical stuff. When the violin was invented, people had just stopped hanging and drawing and quartering but were still doing mass executions and mass torture as a political tool of maintaining the state. The violin was perfected in Cremona and nothing else was going on? People had short, painful lives, and there was state terrorism. The life of a musician was tough. To reduce violin playing to some sort of mediocre fodder for Muzac, which is basically what it has become, seems a bit of a letdown, really.

From Muzac we went into the theme park melange, where music is slung together as a marketing tool. That is the new laziness, music falsely sold as experimental or radical cutting edge, or getting somebody famous to do something they aren't normally used to doing.

For all intents and purposes, innovation in instrumental design stopped in Cremona, but by glancing through the ads in any music magazine, one can see a plethora of electric violins. Still, your world seems separate from that.

Sonically speaking, a lot of electronic affects such as ring modulation and phasing happen naturally and certainly happened often on these homemade instruments because they were designed as open systems. In some situations, I was thinking the opposite to that of a violin maker, who would be trying to get rid of wolf tones. I was looking to find as many furry animals as possible. The instruments were laboratories for the exploration of all sonic phenomena associated with strings.

I don't think non-players realise how different even the standard violins are one to another, for example in timbre, response time, and finger placement. In my composition Trail Mix for five scordatura violins, each in a separate tuning, the challenge was even greater--how to blend them into one soundscape, and harder still, how to find my way around a seemingly familiar territory where the signposts have been changed. Your personal crusade clearly has its roots in history, but is there any history personal as well?

My father made instruments in a Japanese prisoner of war camp for three and a half years, one of few to survive that long. While there a concert pianist asked him to draw a keyboard on a table so he could practice. He decided to make a piano instead. After a year he had gotten two keys working. He made the sound board by trading Red Cross cigarettes for material. The strings were aerial cable. Until I found out about this history, I used to think that I improvised with junk, but it was nothing compared to what he did in those conditions. He was working with next to nothing. The glue was the sludge after the rice had been boiled away. He also made a two-string cello-like instrument. The bow hair came from parachute cable. It was called "The Little Bastard" because it made such a terrible noise.

After one year they had to move camp and he bribed the guards with more cigarettes to tie the piano under the lorry, but the roads were very rough and it fell off before they made it there. He only told me about this after he had seen some of my Relative Violins. "Oh yeah, I used to do that," he said.

Most players find four strings to be difficult enough, so why add more? What are the rewards for expending so much time and energy to master these new parameters?

Nothing is as exhilarating as to string up something new that never existed before. It's a fantastic buzz. I have always had a love/hate relationship with the violin. It demands so much, and I have put my whole life into it. I guess I am a workaholic. To glimpse 'the other' is part of my character.

Did this workaholic nature provoke your marathon concerts?

Maybe. In 1980, I started a series of these marathon concerts on the violin to test how far I could go with an improvised language and what would be the effect of fatigue on the music. The first one lasted 12 hours in a suitably-named 'Sound Barriers' festival in Sydney. I tried to play well for as long as possible. I didn't coast. I had to move my position a lot--sitting, lying down, leaning next to a wall. I didn't seize up at all, although my childhood violin teacher had always written on my reports 'Posture/terrible.'

The final marathon that I did was in 1986 at New Music America in Houston, Texas. I played for ten hours, but I had a task. This was to provide a continuous violin sound track to one of the major American TV networks. There I was playing in front of a television set for ten hours, but I can't say that it provided me with much stimulation to keep going.

Back to my old violin teacher, Anthony Saltmarsh, he did have a positive influence on me. He was an exponent of the Knud Vestergaard arched 'Bach bow.' This bow was created to play the Bach unaccompanied violin sonatas and was based on the misconception that the chords in these works were intended to be sustained precisely as written. The bow has a huge arch and is fitted with a mechanical lever worked by the thumb, which enables the player to adjust the bow hair for monophonic playing or, fully untensioned, to sustain all the multiple stops continuously.

That was dealing with the classical problem. In the world of fiddle music, players have been flattening their bridges as a strategy for triple stops, or more extreme, unscrewing the hair from the stick of the bow and placing the hair on top of the strings and the stick underneath the instrument. In such a manner, four strings can easily be accomodated.

Yes, and they have been doing it for generations. I took all this on board. With help, construction ideas, and heaps of second-hand bow hair from Harry Vatilliotis, I got experimenting with bows. I wanted very short, heavy bows to use as percussion instruments, a bit like a cembalom stick. Often I would serrate the stick itself. This idea was inspired by Paganini who, for contractual reasons, was forced to play a second-rate violin concerto by a certain Valdabrini. Paganini hated the piece so much that instead of a bow he used a reed stick.

In Korean music, they use sticks rather than bows. You get great phasing effects if used laterally. Of course, a lot of anal violin education is about keeping the bow absolutely perpendicular to the instrument. (The Zeta MIDI violin is also designed to ignore or not respond to illegal bowing.)

The bow is much older than the violin, harking back to our hunter-gatherer state. It was and still is a weapon. It is also an ancient and very beautiful musical instrument in its own right. Musical bows, like the African Umuduli, have resonators attached for amplification purposes.

The music, the language of music at its best, is defined by the instrument it is played on rather than cultural expectation or notions of power and control as expressed through western history in forms such as the symphony orchestra. That is the point, that the instrument is central to the music. The primary essence and residue of that exists in the unaccompanied Bach sonatas and partitas, where the sonic strengths and limitations of the instrument are as critical to the musical expression as are the actual notes themselves.

In oral traditions of music, such understandings are axiomatic. The gong and key metallophones of the gamelan are tuned finely but quite freely by the bronze smith instrument makers themselves, who are regarded as wizards who bring sound into existence. No two Javanese gamelan sound the same or are based on the same pitch, a characteristic that gives each of these ensembles a unique sound. In any case, the tuning doesn't become stable for about twenty years.

With the Venda people of South Africa, the fourteen note kalimba mbira will be tuned differently by each performer, depending on personal taste, feeling, technique, and competence (since everyone is expected to play music). The pieces, however, are always recognisable, belonging as they do to a common social event. The fact that the pitches of a traditional piece can be variable, not to say wildly unstable, is considered a positive attribute, enriching the tradition.

Likewise, research of the heike-biwa in the north island of Japan shows a similar personalised and variable instrumental input into a traditional music. The distance between the movable frets on a biwa vary from district to district, from village to village, so a melody known throughout a whole region will sound very different due to the way an instrument is set up. If you add to this the standard biwa techniques of extreme pitch bending (pulling the string laterally behind the fret), we enter a tonal world closely resembling The Uncertainty Principle of twentieth century physics (where the observer, merely by observing, changes the observed.)

I assume you mean that for 'observer' read 'musician.' So what you are suggesting is the absolute opposite of the western paradigm, that great composers write God-given music which represents some kind of perfection which cannot be touched or transformed. This is a fairly recent notion. Certainly in the Baroque tradition notation was often merely a map and 'improvisation' was a synonym for 'improve.' It seems clear now that in the period where composer became God, the expectations for the musician were reduced to that of feudal vassal. The audience in turn no longer had expectations that the performers would take responsibility for how the music proceeded and how variation could be applied to fit the moment.

Even the greatest of our classical virtuosos bemoan their total lack of ability to approach this basic tool of music. To their credit, most only try in their studio. To the ears of an improvising musician, the painful attempts at crossover by Yehudi Menuhin, Nigel Kennedy, and Vanessa Mae are embarrassing to say the least.

We are aware of these difficulties and connections between improvising traditions and the classical repertoire now. But thirty years ago, how was improvisation, and at its extreme free improvisation, received in Australia?

Most musicians and audiences did not recognize that this had anything to do with music. A lot of this went on in small art galleries and free spaces. I guess the assumption was, if this isn't music, it must be art. Very few musicians who I knew were either making experimental instruments or playing free improvised music--Louis Burdett, Jim Denley, Greg Kingston, and Rik Rue were amongst the few who were.

At the same time, I was doing club gigs, Italian band work, country music, commercial session work, film music, ads, even backing John Denver.

That is the bread and butter work of being a professional musician, but it does not explain your obsession with strings.

My natural curiousity through playing the violin led me to wonder what happens if the string gets very, very short or very, very long. Maybe there is an analogy with the German artist Paul Klee who spoke of drawing as 'taking a line for a walk.' In some ways, that's what I am doing, 'taking a string for a walk.'

In my early years of violin improvisation, I was concerned with manipulating string noise, using the instrument like some kind of analogue synthesizer. I avoided regular pitch by covering the strings into short sections with tape. Preoccupied with rhythmic complexity in the bow and rhythmic independence between the two hands, I wanted a language where the engine of the violin (the bow) could work in counterpoint with the pitch shifter (the left hand). It was hard-core, extreme. Then, I realised that I could create instruments that would accommodate this stuff much better than the violin. After that realisation, I decided to play the regular violin in a fairly straightforward manner, allowing it to do what it is good at.

I'm interested in intonation, multiphonics, big tone production. It's hard enough just keeping regular violin chops together without all the other stuff. You, too, have developed a unique approach to bowing, getting it to swing and move across the beat.

I made an about-face from classical music to Texas fiddling, bluegrass, western swing, and country music. What I do with my bow depends on what music we are talking about. Of course I spent hours transcribing those who came before me, studying their bowings and accents and every detail of their phrasing. My own style has me constantly speeding my bow up and slowing it down, often suddenly, pushing and pulling against the beat. I try to take this as far as it will go while remaining within the group perception of where the beat is. This is how I underline and project certain notes and rhythms.

In any case, I think it should be learned on the bandstand and not in a university. I stood on many a bandstand in isolated towns with dancers looking up at me, awaiting a beat, a feel, that would inspire them to dance. One night sticks out in my memory, when I watched a bunch of dancers walk off the floor once as we started a tune. I had to dig deep and figure out how to get them back on their feet. This kind of music is so related to dance that if you have not played for dancers, you cannot really have the proper feel. Of course, the rock approach is to just hire a loud bassist and drummer, but even without them, there is still a way to reach people. My place, the American West, with its remnants of square dancers, swing dancers, country dancers, contra dancers--this patchwork of dancers is always in my playing.

I think everybody has their own personal rhythm, and this basic rhythm underlines your improvisation, whether you state it or not. I agree that you are never going to learn this in an institution. I remember a solo concert in Hanover in the early 80's where I was playing acoustic violin, and I looked down at the feet of the audience in the front row and they were all tapping their feet, but all in a different tempo. Somehow I was conveying a sense of rhythmic propulsion without giving them a set meter. A personal rhythmic propulsion is something that differentiates the genuine improvising musician from someone who is told by a composer in the score to play alleatorically.

I assume that you can't keep all your projects going at the same time. Do you still play The Relative Violins? If not, do you miss them?

Last year I used the 16-string long neck violin for a recording project while I was on tour in Slovakia. The 19-string cello and the 2-string pedal board have both been used recently in an Amsterdam project with nine other string players. I have an extensive recorded sample collection from many of the instruments which I use in my interactive pieces like 'The Chaotic Violin' and 'The Hyperstring Project.' Everything that I sample I have played myself. It's no substitute for the real experience, but I have some access to that sound world. I have the sense that I can still use the sound but that is not the same as playing them.

You abandoned your homemade instruments for computers?

Not exactly, although instrument making has been on the back burner for the last fifteen years because I have been more focused on interactive systems. I return to them now and again, and when I do there is a completely different angle.

I did not make a sudden jump to computers--I had always been building analogue electronics. One had a ring modulator, FM radio, and amplifiers inside, plus outside amps. In the 80's I did some experimentation with a theramin and violin where the movements of the violinist influenced the theramin because of the way its aerial was set up. Signal interference is a major theme in my life. Only a few years later I discovered that I could interface to MIDI. Any voltage with differential could be used to run MIDI, and with that came the whole possibility of movement, physicality triggering and controlling sound. I wanted a system that would respond and contribute to the processes of improvisation.

Do you believe that music can resist commodification, that it has a life beyond a middle-class extension of the leisure and lifestyles industry?

No, as we speak it is being codified and commodified; there's a bunch of people seeking ways to sell it and give it a brand name. They've run out now, trying to find some way to say this is new when it is not. Music can only be the stuff that is made by musicians, by definition. You do meet people who do make music even today, and those people might not even be professional musicians. Is there a future for it--yes. Right now is a bad period because the production of music is being mixed up with the experience of music. Sound is ubiquitous.

Are you disappointed with the twentieth century? Is yours a vision running in opposition to the times? If so, do you create your art in part as a refuge of dissent?

I am not disappointed in that the most unbelievable things have been articulated, discovered, and explored in all fields, not just music, but for other reasons, yes, I am. I would have liked to have been alive in the 20s. Even after the end of the First World War, the first major blast of cynicism, people had a view of "That's it, now we'll get on with life." But the Second World War, to have that in the space of one lifetime--I don't think you can recover from that, except by burying your head in the sand, denial, collective amnesia, which I think my father's generation has. To get back on some kind of footing after that--well, we still haven't recovered from it, the Germans are still freaked out, the holocaust industry is on, and that legacy runs through all other kinds of notions of art.

Though we are in a new century, it hasn't made any difference apart from the party. I think we're still in the 80's, the Reagan-on-acid, acid being computers. The results are depressing but the ideas remain disturbingly wonderful--Dadaism, for example, probably the most beautiful and wonderful idea of the twentieth century. There were elements of that before, as with most ideas which always exist. It's just how they get expressed, having someone who can isolate them and put them forth. Dadaism is an aspirin for existentialist pain, an aspirin or something more sparkling like Alka-Seltzer.

HT The Relative Violins are to be found at the Rosenberg Museum, on recordings, and also on this web site. What is the goal of the site?

It has a practical side, as in trying to get work, but it's not just self-promotion but ideas and observations and cultural commentary not available in mainstream culture. I'm a cultural protagonist, and the results of that and the information and stimulation possible from that is there for all. I think 99.99% of the population wouldn't care, but there are a few people who can get something out of it. In the makeup of humanity, there are always minorities. If you don't have religion or a workplace, it's comforting to come across someone who is vaguely on the same wavelength.

Cutting Edge & Corrugated Iron
by Deborah Bogle

THE AUSTRALIAN (03/05/2001)

Out here in regional Australia, if you want to see classy acts on stage, you usually have to hit the road and drive to the big smoke. (To be fair, local entertainment venues do feature touring performers, and fans of Kevin Bloody Wilson and his ilk need not travel far.)
The red dirt flat outside a Murchison shearing shed might well have been a more likely setting for Kevin Bloody Wilson than for a performance of avant-garde music. Perhaps some of the locals, clearly somewhat bemused by the sight of musicians screaming into their violins, might have been more comfortable with Wilson. If that were the case, they were too polite to say so, and applauded enthusiastically at the end.
Jon Rose, composer, violinist, and new media artist (see was still shaking his head in wonderment on the morning of the performance, on Easter Saturday.
"This would have to be the most unique new music experience I know of," he said. As one who performs in Europe and Japan as well as Australia, he's accustomed to having to travel to find the slender proportion of audiences with an ear for the avant-garde. But out there? Amazing, we both agreed.
The bush setting at Wogarno Station, south of Mt Magnet and about six hours' drive north of Perth, was part of the Totally Huge New Music Festival's drive to bring new music and its aficionados to "the parts of the land they normally only fly over" (
And so, on Good Friday, we piled our swags and camp ovens and eskies into our 4WDs and headed off to see Violins in the Outback.
Campers who wilted in the 30-plus heat and were driven to distraction by the flies might have wished they had only flown over this land. When the sun was high, shade was scarce, and there was no river or dam to cool us down.
At sunset, the campers gathered with their picnics, as music lovers will do, from Glyndebourne, to Leeuwin, to the Domain, to well, right there in the red dirt of Wogarno.
Jon Rose's Violin Factory 2 was the centrepiece of the weekend event. Against the corrugated iron backdrop of the shearing shed, a 22-piece orchestra of violins and a three-piece percussion section performed the hour-long piece. Lilting, melodic passages were followed by cacophonous outbursts, with saw, hammer and various other percussive effects, all punctuated by the exhortations (in Mandarin) of the Red Army guard, urging the factory workers on from her position behind the stage, high atop the loading ramp. Meanwhile, images of modern China and Chinese violin factory workers were projected onto the shed wall.
I've spent many nights in the Murchison, but never one like this. It was extraordinary.
Rose has long been fascinated by the idea of communicating his work to audiences in remote parts of the country, and using technology to allow artists in distant locations to perform together.
The first performance of Violin Factory, in December, 1999, was staged in the Vienna Radiokulturhaus, the concert hall of Austrian National Radio, and was simultaneously broadcast on Osterreich 1, the station's cultural channel, and webcast over the internet to a concert space in Vancouver. There, against a backdrop of webcast images of the performers in Vienna, a group of musicians interacted with their colleagues in Vienna with improvisations that were in turn fed back to Vienna and to the Osterreich listeners. Audiences could also listen in to the performance via web radio station Kunstradio (
Rose presided over a similar web-enabled performance, this time a trans-continental one, way back in 1994, in the ABC-FM concert spectacular 'Violin Music in the Age of Shopping', with the orchestra live before an audience in Sydney and the choir in Perth.
Even as recently as the 1999 Violin Factory performance, this was bleeding edge stuff. Why bother, one wonders, when we have existing media - radio and satellite television - that do this kind of thing quite well, albeit at a high cost? Rose shakes his head. Feeding those images across the web was, he admits, "a pain in the neck". Anyone who's been involved in a webcast will be familiar with the stress of trying to maintain a jerky feed via a Net connection, even a high-speed one.
Expectations are high, and disappointment inevitable. Until broadband is widely available, one might just as well save all that creative and technical energy.
Rose agrees. Forget the images. He's most excited about web radio. RADIO was, he says, the first virtual reality, long before the phrase was ever coined. A child of the 50s, growing up in the UK without TV, his love affair with the medium has been long and fruitful. His first access to the radio waves was late one night at a local BBC station in Birmingham. It was short-lived. Management didn't approve of the broadcast - a version of The Archers sound effects, re-engineered to make it sound as though the characters were tripping on LSD.
Much later, equipped with a $3 Dick Smith radio microphone built into a cheap Chinese violin, he again gave rein to the audio terrorist within. With a range of about half a block, the mikes broadcast chaotically on a number of frequencies, allowing him to break into his neighbours' living rooms, via their FM tuners, with his distorted violin signal. It was the first version of Radio Violin.
These days, you'll find it on - not really webradio, but a collection of sound files of his performances. He's measuring traffic to the area - already much higher than expected - and if the figures justify it and he can find the funds, he intends to parlay it into a proper web radio station.
Meanwhile, he continues his longstanding association with Radio National and its avant-garde Listening Room program. He has just completed an artist-in-residence stint there, working on the Australia Ad Lib project, documenting grass-roots, do-it-yourself, improvisation across the country. It will be available as an interactive archive on the ABC's website by August 20th
 Jon Rose with the midi bow
Improvisation & Computers
A Letter to LMC Magazine

This letter was written over 10 years ago. Since then the interactive bow system has been developed further with the use of accelerometers and much faster, more complicated and subtle computation. And there are now tens of thousands of lap top sound artists delivering endless amounts of digital sound in a new orthodoxy which demands separation from anything to do with the history of music or knowledge of musical instruments. Well that's a little unfair - there is one aspect of history that dominates the aesthetic - the mixing desk.

I've decided to leave this page up because 10 years ago I was getting shit from improvisers; these days it comes from sound artists. I feel happy enough swimming against the tide. I'll give it another 10 years I think.
JR 2005

Recently after a concert in Beijing, I was asked to give a lecture to some music students about improvising and interactive software. They were 'Jazz' students, specialising in 1970s jazz-rock, so I wasn't so sure how it would go down. In the event (and in spite of some wild translation) they seemed to find no aesthetic or ethical problem with the whole business. This experience contrasts strongly with my experiences of many 'Improvisers' to be found in Europe. There, reactions range mostly from a kind of 'Luddite' aggression to various 'put-downs' based on willful defensive ignorance. Strange really. I used to think that one important characteristic of an improviser was openness to new ideas. (What ever happened to fantasy too?) Anyway, I suspect that there are two subjects that will guarrantee much debate over the next 20 years, computers and our relationship to them.
First of all. I don't play a Midi violin. The reason I don't play a Midi violin is that for me, it is too direct, too much like a well trained digital parrot (in the same way that improvisers get fed up if there's too much copy-cat playing in group improv.) O.K. you could write software that would irradicate almost any kind of connection between Midi violin and the actual computer instruments used (synth, sampler, etc) but then that for me would be pointless. I am looking for a physical connection (haptic feedback), not trying to avoid one. For this reason also, I don't use a pitch to midi interface via a microphone. Sure, the sound is there but if sound was the only thing in improvisation, I'm sure we could find something better to do with our time than go through all that sweaty, messy business that demands a physical personel source for the music. (The use of digital affects, including the ubiquitous delays and loops, I find also has little to do with an interactive system.)
I utilize two interface systems which attempt to bring together the physicality and dynamics of improvised music (as played on a violin) with the quick change and virtual possibilities of computer music. The first interface uses ultra sound mounted on the bow or the violinist's bowing arm to measure the actual movements of the bow. The second utilizes a sensor, built into the bow itself, to measure continuously the hairpressure of the bow on the strings (the driving force or motor for the violin). Naturally factors such as humidity, temperature, how tight the bow was tightened before playing, which end of the bow is being utilized, the pressure used in the previous bow stroke (ie. after a well dug in bow stroke, the bow might still be in the process of expanding and doesn't get time to reach its normal rest state before the next stroke), etc. determine a very organic, chaotic and unique character to each concert outing....a fundamental necessity for an improviser wanting to take chance or two! (Whatever happened to that idea too?)

Some technical information

Within the programme are 32 mapping tables. These can be set to work within a scale, a waveform or the choice of notes can be generated by random generator, algorithms, graphic procedures, or interpolation of sequential patterns between fixed points. Superimposition of these structures in real time lead to very complex patterns but these patterns nevertheless always retain a degree of self similarity due to the physical and rhythmic consequence of the bow. This complexity must also operate in an ever changing mode because of the adjacent violin output/ performance operating in parallel, against or with it - ie. those physical actions, movements and techniques of the improvising violinist.
This means that specific areas of interaction can be set up which focus on some found sonic or physical relationship between the two systems. Add to this the voice coming from the violin and there are three pools of information which, through the action ofhorizontal bow movement or vertical bow pressure combine to form musical structures that appear to be pulled together by some kind of attractor (to use Chaos Theory jargon).
Sometimes the attractor is clearly the violinist who can at any time achieve a demonstrative role (ie. he can shield information from the sensors, he can stop playing, scratch his head, or turn the whole thing off in disgust, etc). But at other times it seems there is a control centre working away independently of all constituent parts, as happens often in the best of improvised music.
Most improvisers interested in interactive technology do not go down to their local 'Guitar & Drum Land' armed with a few thousand of their favourite currency and buy the latest gismo off the shelf. They put in often years of their time developing personal skills, bits of homemade hardware, writing their own programmes, etc. Small scale & low budget seems a common attitude. I've been working on my stuff for about 10 years now and it seems a natural development from all the deconstructed violin instruments (combined with analogue electronics) that I once made. On the scale thing, I've tried to keep a one to one connection between violin and digital instrument by using only one midi channel in performance. Sort of basic monophonic solidarity! For me, an important aspect of expression comes out of pushing the natural physical limitations of an instrument to the edge of its possibilities, this includes digital ones as well.
But the bottom line in all this that it fulfills a creative need. A sustaining, physically exhausting and sometimes quite humorous experience for performer and audience alike. If it was a repeat show everytime, I for one would soon get fed up with it. In this sense, it's a challenge in the same way that playing with any resourceful improviser can be. The process maybe determined by the constituent parts of musician and technology but any definition would be quite reductive in trying to describe the quite beautiful psychological and physical states attained in this kind of music making. We all deal with the man and machine myth, even acoustic guitar players have to twiddle their machine heads. It's simply another (and very actual) possibility for an improviser and does not deny, exclude or compete with the joys of more traditional forms of 'free' improvisation.
I have received a lot of help and encouragement from STEIM (Amsterdam) in putting my violin/binary exploration together. If anybody reading this magazine is interested in developing their own work in this area and doesn't know where to go, how to set about it, etc.....write to STEIM, 19 Achtergracht, and fix up a date to visit.
After 4 years development, the first of these interactive systems was premiered at The Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, 1989. Since then, Jon Rose's solo work in this medium has been featured by The International Festivals of electronic music at Stockholm, Bourges, Basel, Berlin, Perth (Australia), Belo Horizonte (Brasil Independent Rock Fest), Helsinki (ISEA), Peking (International Jazz Fest), London (LMC), Den Haag (Anti Qua), Copenhagen (Permuttant), Rotterdam (Dissonanten), Saint-Etienne (Innovatrice), Grenoble (Rugissants 38), New York (The Kitchen) Köln (Zwischen Töne & JazzHaus Festivals), Victoriaville- Canada (Actuelle), throughout Japan and some 30 other venues.
Both hard and software for this project were developed in conjunction with STEIM, Amsterdam.
JR 1995

The String Quartets
Based on Jazz Standards

The relationship between the violin and jazz has rarely been either interesting or musically compelling. Joe Venuti showed that technique mattered and Stuff Smith demonstrated how to dig the bow in till it hurt. Both offered some melodic invention. There are other examples, including the extraordinary Elek Bacsik, but really you can count significant jazz violinists on one hand. In 1958 along came Harry Lookofsky with the definitive violin bebop album. It was called 'Stringsville' and it set the bar very high for anybody trying to follow. That album gave me many sleepless nights when I first heard it in the 1970's--how could anybody play the violin that good on jazz standards?

Later, I discovered that, although the music went at full tilt, sounded loose, and swung like crazy, all the violin lines were written. Harry was a classical violinist (actually leader of the NBC orchestra), loved jazz, and wanted to bring his abilities to that music. Arguments continue to this day about 'is this legitimate jazz?' or even 'should it be allowed?' Dumping that nonsense where it should be put, 'Stringsville' is an awesome achievement by any standards (eh--sorry) and a landmark in violin history.

Wind the clock forward a decade and we find another classically-trained violinist with a superb technique setting herself the challenge of bringing her musicality and skills (not to mention perfect pitch) to the service of American vernacular music--or non-classical violin music. Hollis Taylor has spent much of the last 25 years researching, arranging, and writing about the various fiddle traditions which are so rich and dynamic throughout the States. Part of her work has dealt with the problems of how to play jazz on the violin. Let's be more succinct. How to play lines that move across the beat, how to put 'time' into the bow stroke, how NOT to use the incontinent vibrato of the standard Juilliard training (but use it as decoration similar to the baroque aesthetic), how to phrase a bop line and be hard and precise (the opposite of a Grappelli phrase, for example).

Much of Ms. Taylor's investigation into the practice (then the theory please) of 'bowed jazz' has made her a sought-after teacher for both amateur and professional violinists wishing to explore the 'other' violin music. When I was informed that she planned to put a string quartet together of classical players playing jazz as repertoire, I jumped at the chance of arranging some 'classic' jazz standards for the project.

"Morphology" is based on "Ornithology," the tune by Charlie Parker. I wasn't so interested in the harmonic foundation of the piece, based as it was on the standard "How High the Moon," but more in the melodic line itself. I put the thematic material through a series of rhythmic displacements allowing the odd accident to happen from time to time. The piece seemed to make it itself. A few months after it was finished, I looked at it again. Sure enough, it needed a few more accidents.

"All The Things You Are" is a sort of 'passing out parade' piece for would be beboppers; it contains a great set of changes. The first movement is solo and contains the tune and changes in plain vanilla flavor, although playing the harmony and the tune, on what is basically a monophonic instrument, is no piece of cake. The sound of the movement harks back to the great Bach unaccompanied sonatas.

"All the Notes" is exactly that with a solo over the basic harmonic structure followed by all the notes of the tune piling up on each other to create other harmonic possibilities. "All the Notes 2" is similar except there is a three-part counterpoint running down the changes instead of a solo. Counterpoint was the great characteristic of Dixieland and trad jazz which sadly disappeared (unnecessarily in my view) in bebop, although here the counterpoint relates more to a Bach chorale prelude from Leipzig than a stomp from New Orleans.

"All the Gavins" refers to the composer Gavin Bryars whose minimal string writing inspired this movement. A few fragments of the melody are isolated in their retrograde and inverted forms and then placed in a time warp.

"All the Retros" deals with the tune backwards, and I've inserted a few stalled moments when the busy traffic gets stuck at the lights. (In these compositions I'm attempting to hear each of these standards from a radically different position. For example, I've made a version of Coltrane's "Giant Steps" as a country "hoe down" complete with a tough, fast changing, banjo part -- the finguring and neck positions being worked out with the aid of an algorithm. Altogether there are some 6 quartet standards planned.)

"All the Keys" is just that and while this movement goes through them, bits of the tune disappear till all we are left with at the end is all the gaps.

"All the Tremolos" is a slow moving block of sound with all the possibilities of melodic transformation that I used in the rest of the piece combined in four even parts. The bowing arm IS supposed to feel fatigued at the end of this.

"Noch Nicht Alles." Just when you thought it was safe to leave your seat and were already half way standing up with thoughts of the end and a glass of good red wine approaching your lips -- there is still another movement to come. But you'll be relieved to hear that it is short and concise, a recapitulation that clears the way for Ms. Taylor's coda "All The Rest". This is a real tour de force of a counterpoint fantasy containing quotes from just about all the definitive solos that one can remember, a kind of "All The Things You Were".

Notes from Hollis Taylor:

When Mr. Rose presented me with his take on "All the Things You Are," I was astonished at the scope of his diverse permutations. I got to thinking of how previous greats covered this standard and decided to add a coda, combining snippets from the solos I had transcribed over the years, from Ella with Duke, Woody Shaw, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Pass, Bird, Jimmy Heath, Sonny Rollins, Miles, Claude Williams, Chet Baker, Hank Jones, Stan Getz, Denny Zeitlin, Mingus, and others, then I added my own as well. Most of the movement runs in four-part counterpoint. You might think of some of this evening's music as the jazz that never was.

The Personal: Hollis Taylor, violin; Julie Coleman, violin; Joel Belgique, viola; Nancy Ives, cello.

The concert: American Violinist Hollis Taylor will present a lively evening of jazz-influenced works, ranging from solo violin to string quartet, on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2002, at 8 p.m., in Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College, 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Rd.

 Click on picture for more information on this project

Jon Rose is an Australian violinist born in the UK in 1951. Rose began playing violin at age 7 after winning a music scholarship to King's School in Rochester. For over 35 years, Rose has been at the sharp end of new, improvised, and experimental music and media. A polymath, he is at much at home creating large environmental multi-media works as he is playing the violin on a concert stage. Central to this practice has been 'The Relative Violin' project, a unique output, rich in content, realising almost everything on, with, and about the violin and string music in general. Most celebrated is the worldwide Fence project; least known are the relative violins created specifically for and in Australia.
He has appeared on over 60 albums, and worked with artists such as Kronos Quartet, Derek Bailey, Fred Frith, Shelley Hirsh, Chris Cutler, Otomo Yoshihide, KK Null, Alvin Curran, Evan Parker, Phil Minton, John Cage, Tony Oxley, Steve Beresford, Eugene Chadbourne, Bob Ostertag, Jim Denley, Elliott Sharp, George Lewis, Christian Marclay, Toshinori Kondo, Joelle Leandre, Frances-Marie Uitti, Barre Phillips, and John Zorn.

The Early Years (1970s–1990s)

Throughout the 1970s, first in England and then in Australia (from 1976), he played, composed, and studied in a variety of genres: from sitar playing to country & western, from new music composition to commercial studio session work, from bebop to Italian club bands, from big band serial composition to sound installations. He became the central and best-known figure in the development of free improvisation and sound art in Australia, performing either solo, with fellow improvisers such as Rik Rue and Jim Denley, or with an international pool of improvising performers called The Relative Band. In 1977, he started Australia’s first musician run collective for the promotion and recording of improvised music, Fringe Benefit. The collaborative LP Tango (Hot Records) in 1983 with Martin Wesley-Smith was a world first in violin and (Fairlight) sampling improvisation.
In 1986, he moved to Berlin in order to more fully realize his ongoing project, The Relative Violin, which is the development of a total artform based around the one instrument. This prompted innovation in the fields of new instrument design (over 20 deconstructed violin instruments including the legendary Double Piston Triple-neck Wheeling Violin), in environmental performance (such as bowing fences in the Australian outback), in new instrumental techniques (tested sometimes in uninterrupted marathon concerts of up to twelve hours), and in both analog (built into the violins themselves) and interactive electronics. His alternative, personal, and revised history for the violin used the mediums of radio (over 30 major international productions for radio stations like ABC, BBC, WDR, SR, BR, Radio France, RAI, ORF, and SFB), live-performance film (In the 1980s, he integrated Super 8 into his worldwide performances.), video, and television (ZDF).
In the area of interactive electronics, his work is considered exemplary, having pioneered the use of the MIDI bow in the Hyperstring project in the 1980s in conjunction with the Steim Institute, Amsterdam, and with whom he continues to collaborate, often in interactive projects involving sport, games, or the environment. Another phenomena since 1980 is the violin-playing dynasty known as “The Rosenbergs,” part quasi-biographical appendage and part surrealist satire.

Current Works (2000–)

In 2002 he set up the Australia Ad Lib website for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: an interactive guide to the wild, the weird, and the vernacular in Australian music.
Recently Jon Rose realised the bicycle-powered media performance Pursuit in Sydney and Hobart; performed a completely new and improvised solo part for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ilan Volkov; created two radiophonic works for the BBC on the history of the piano and the first Aboriginal string orchestra in 19th century Australia; concertized in Europe with musicians such as Veryan Weston, Johannes Bauer, Thomas Lehn, Aleks Kolkowksi, Chris Cutler, and Hollis Taylor; premiered his interactive multi-media commission “Internal Combustion” for violin and orchestra at The Philharmonic, Berlin; played the USA/Mexico border fence; and was apprehended by the Israeli Defence Forces at the Separation Fence near Ramallah in the Occupied Territories. His latest string trio, Strike, features two young Australian double bass virtuosos: Clayton Thomas and Mike Majkowski.
Rose has appeared at numerous music festivals throughout the world, including Strasbourg New Music Festival, New Music America, Moers New Jazz Festival, European Media Festival, The Vienne Festival, Ars Electronica, Northsea Jazz Festival, Dukumenta, Roma-Europa Festival, Festival D'Automne, Festival Musique Actuelle, and the Berlin Jazz Festival. Rose also curates his own festival, String 'Em Up, which focuses on innovative use of stringed instruments. The festival has travelled to Berlin, Rotterdam, New York, and Paris.  - wikipedia

 English violinist Jon Rose (1951) spent his formative years around the world, but mainly in Australia, where in 1981 he and reed player Jim Denley formed the Relative Band. In the golden age of free improvisation, he released: Solo Violin Improvisations 1 & 2 (Fringe Benefit, 1978); No 24 (may 1978 - Fringe Benefit, 1979), a quintet with piano, synthesizer and rhythm section; Decomposition (july 1979 - Fringe Benefit, 1979), for a trio of reeds, violin and bass; Towards a Relative Music (may 1978 - Fringe Benefit, 1980), for a wealth of instruments, ranging from electronics to vibes to gongs to furniture; Figures (january 1980 - Fringe Benefit, 1980) and Relative String Music (april 1980 - Fringe Benefit, 1980) for solo violin or sarangi; Tango (december 1983 - Hot, 1984), groundbreaking duets with Martin Wesley-Smith on sampling and electronics; Kicking as Art Form (august 1984 - Fringe Benefit, 1984) with Simone De Haan on trombone; Devils and Angels (november 1984 - Fringe Benefit, 1984) for amplified violin or cello, which includes the 25-minute improvisation The Trampoline Effect; A Room With A View (july 1975 - Hot, 1985) with vocalist Shelley Hirsch; etc.
His early works are summarized on the double-disc anthology Fringe Benefits: 1977-1985 (Entropy Stereo, 1999). His main work was actually unreleased: the 90-minute The Anatomy of the Violin. Even in this field, Rose already showcased an uncanny sense of humour that set him apart from just about every other improviser of his generation.
Rose also formed the Relative Band (violin, two reeds, piano, vocals, bass and percussion), first documented on Festival (april 1984 - Pedestrian Tapes, 1985). '85 (april 1985 - Hot, 1985) was recorded by a new line-up featuring Eugene Chadbourne on guitars, and David Moss on percussion, voice and electronics.
In 1986, he moved to Berlin, wrote his aesthetic manifesto "The Relative Violin", and composed Violin Music for Restaurants (1987), eventually released on Violin Music for Restaurants (ReR, 1991), the prototype for his subsequent humorous examinations of social habits. It sounded, mostly, as a satire of John Cage-an techniques of composition (each composition being supposedly produced by an unlikely algorithm related to restaurant tables).
He experimented with numerous instruments, mostly solo, on The Art Of Mutation (Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, 1987), recorded between 1977 and 1986, and Vivisection (Aufruhr, 1987).
Further daring experiences came in the form of collaborations: Kultural Terrorism (march 1987 - Dossier, 1987), duets with Chadbourne; Les Domestiques (Konnex, 1987), duets with bassist Joelle Leandre; etc.
Forward of Short Leg (Dossier, 1987), recorded between 1980 and 1986, contains a series of brief improvisations by different ensembles featuring distinguished improvisers (David Moss, Elliott Sharp, Evan Parker, Shelley Hirsch, Paul Rutherford, Eugene Chadbourne, Wayne Horvitz, Christian Marclay, Fred Frith, Tenko, etc).
Another groundbreaking work was the 57-minute violin and recitation piece Paganini's Last Testimony (Konnex, 1988), which marked the beginning of his mock neoclassical stage.
He used digital and electronic gadgets to sculpt the 23-minute Instrumentum Diabolicum on the neoclassical spoof Die Beethoven Konversationen (june 1989 - Extra Platte, 1990).
2 Real Violin Stories (february 1991 - Extra Platte, 1991) contains two suites (more than half an hour each): The Mozart Industry and Saint Johanna.
In the meantime, he had also formed the noise-improvisation quartet Slawterhaus with Johannes Bauer, Dietmar Diesner, and Peter Hollinger, which released two albums: Live (october 1990 - Victo, 1991) and Monumental (september 1992 - Intakt, 1993).
The multimedia piece Das Rosenberg Museum (1991) opened the phase of his surrealist satires.
The Virtual Violin (Megaphone, 1993), recorded in 1990, was a comic "opera" relying on a rapid fire of samples triggered by more or less random sounds of the violin. Most of the music was packed into two chaotic pieces: Mr Aha May Comes To Town (10:25) and Play It Again Doc (34:40).
Adding electronics to his bag of tricks, Rose composed the radio operas Rosenberg cycle, eventually released on Brain Weather - The Story of the Rosenbergs (january 1992 - ReR, 1992), which contains the title-track, fragmented in 27 brief (mostly spoken) episodes that use a variety of styles (heavy-metal, jazz, punk-rock), and an electro-acoustic composition, The Weather Man (1992), in 14 movements, for violin, computer and synthesizer, one of his most frantic and ambitious works; and the satirical Shopping Cycle (1996), released on the four-disc box-set Violin Music in the Age of Shopping (march 1994 - Intakt, 1995), featuring Otomo Yoshihide, Shelley Hirsch, Chris Cutler and Irene Schweizer, a satire on malls, later reprised on Shopping Live (october 1995 - Lost, 1995 - ReR, 1997). They run the gamut from heavy metal to abstract electronic soundscapes. The "live" album features two female vocalists, Yoshihide on turntable, sampler and guitar, Cutler on percussion, and Rose on violin. Each song's title is an email address. The music parodies Broadway musicals (, cabaret (diva@foxtrot.headache), Bjork (bliss@tv.maul) the Everly Brothers (pits@repertoire), etc. Too spoken, the opera largely wastes the potential of the guests.
Rose's radio works include Pulled Muscles (january 1993 - Immigrant, 1993), a satire on sports and politics; Violin Music for Supermarkets (february 1994 - Megaphone, 1994), a satire on consumerism; Eine Violine Fuer Valentin (november 1994 - No Wave, 1995), based on folk melodies; and Tatakiuri (april 1994 - Creativeman Disc, 1995), a collaboration with Otomo Yoshihide, sounded like a satire on Japan. The bizarre dynamics of the pieces, capable of bridging with nonchalance twelve-tone music and polkas, shared an irreverent creativity with Frank Zappa's postmodernist pastiches of the 1960s. It often sounded like Dada making fun of Dada making fun of humankind.
Perks (january 1996 - ReR, 1996) uses a complex mechanism of digital synthesis (badmington rackets to generate rhythms), samples (in all sorts of musical styles), improvisation and commentary, to stage a sort of opera about a schizophrenic persona. There are twelve "games", including the Intro Game (a collage of voice fragments over cello distortions), the faux folk dance of Game 1 for violin and piano, the disjointed harmonium music of Game 11, and the whispered End Game, and twisted sonatas that "decompose" the music of Australian eccentric Percy Grainger: Piano Pedal Missionary for droning cello and tribal percussion, Porridge for spastic voice, limping piano and distorted violin, Butch's Badmo, a surreal merry-go-round of sounds, Grieg's Old Warhorse, a demented chorus with the sound of badmington balls, Phil's Badmo, a childish accumulation of childish musical gestures, etc.
Rose aimed for symphonic proportions on the live Techno mit Stoerungen (november 1995 - Plag Dich Nicht, 1996), featuring Otomo Yoshihide, Christian Marclay, Iva Bittova, Phil Minton, Marc Ribot, Fred Frith, Evan Parker, Chris Cutler, etc, but the results were timid at best.
Rose returned to acoustic free improvisation with the Exiles (with Tony Buck and Joe Williamson) on Exiles 1 (april 1996 - Megaphone, 1996), and with the Kryonics (may 2000 - Emanen, 2001) with Aleks Kolkowski and Matthias Bauer. In 1999 he also formed the nine-piece ensemble Strung (Sublingual, 2001). In 2000 Rose formed the duo Temperament (february 2002 - Emanen, 2002) with pianist Veryan Weston, devoted to improvisations between keyboards tuned alternative different ways (just, 19 tone, etc) and out-of-tune violin.
The Fence (ReR, 1998), the first installment of the Fence series, contains two suites for giant string installations: Bagni Di Dolabella (september 1993) and The Fence (august 1996). The title track (eleven movements for a total of 33 minutes) is basically a radiodrama with sociopolitical overtones. The accompaniment is entirely produced by eliciting sounds from the very long string instrument. There are narrating voices and there are samples of radio broadcasts. The music runs the gamut from visceral industrial noise (The Peace Line) to concrete collage (The Green Line) to harsh drones (Iron Curtain, Postdammer Platz) to simulations of the human voice (The Shouting Fence) to almost melodic brushing (Our Police).
The other suite, Bagni Di Dolabella (seven movements for a total of 24 minutes), a speech opera set in ancient Rome, returns to his (violin-based) neoclassical parodies.
It was followed by Great Fences of Australia (Dinamo, 2002), on which Rose literally played very long wooden, metal, barbed and electrified fences like musical instruments.
China Copy (february 1997 - Creamgardens, 1997) is a solo sampling project including the 17-minute China Chaos, and the first confession of his obsession with China.
Two collaborations with Japanese musicians were unique in his repertory: Sliding (october 1996 - Sonic, 1998) with koto player Miya Masaoka, and Transgenic Nomad (december 1999 - Sonore, 2001) with Zeni Geva's guitarist Kazuyucki Kishino Null.
Rose's neoclassical ambitions resurfaced on The Hyperstring Project (august 1999 - ReR, 2000), a study on counterpoint for violin and interactive software, later continued on Fleisch (Saucerlike, 2003). with pieces ranging from geometric and obsessive studies (Siren, Chuggalug, Hitting The Wall At 100mph, The Pages) that seem to parody Bach, to noisy jokes (Oops, Choral Prelude, Reversed Spam) that seem to parody himself.
Violin Factory (december 1999 - ReR, 2001) for string orchestra, musical samples and field recordings (of ordinary Chinese life), and The People's Music (ReR, 2003), an opera composed in 2001 for string orchestra, three percussionists and a narrating voice, paid tribute to a Chinese factory of violins. Inspired by an odd mixture of Nyman-ish minimalism and Maoist pomp (Working People), industrial music and agit-prop cinema (Your People), dissonant drones (People Control) and romantic symphony (Big People), Rose pens a surreal story within the grotesquely serious story. His genius is best displayed in the montage of Odd People and in the closing elegy, The People's End.
Artery (Now, 2004)
Double Indemnity (january 2002) contained one 45-minute live improvisation for "ten-string double violin of Dr Johannes Rosenberg".
Jon Rose was one of the first musicians to create an electroacoustic instrument that actually worked for improvisation.-

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