Jon Rose – State of Play (RER)


Australia based violinist, composer, improviser and instrument builder Jon Rose is something of a national treasure. He has appeared something around 90 albums and has played with everyone from John Zorn to the Kronos Quartet and is extremely active in improvisational realms in Australia. He’s probably best known for his Great Fences of Australia project which saw him venture into the outback and play the ‘Rabbit Proof Fence amongst numerous others. Rose has displayed an ongoing commitment to the creation of uniquely Australian art and has gone to great lengths to record and perform in remote outback locations. He’s also gone to great lengths to collect and alter violins and some of these really peculiar forward thinking examples appear in this extensive 2cd collection.

Rose’s pieces are a series of experiments, a series of ‘what ifs’, that push his chosen instrument in some really unique and unexpected directions, many of which he has documented in this extraordinary collection.

It begins with a series of pretty incredible duo recordings with Jim Denley, cellist Freya Schack- Arnott, bassist Clayton Thomas and in particular Robbie Avanaim’s automated percussion systems which are remarkable.

On disc two its about ensembles and installations. There’s his Sydney Harbour Bridge recordings (recorded via contact mics) that he has merged with a choir of all things, creating a really odd unsettling tension. Then there’s his Hills Hoist Music, where he has attached propellers to the washing line with a thin gauge of wire that would then stroke the strings controlled by the winds. Then there’s The Gamble, in which a player piano is driven by midi data derived from a Las Vegas Casino and a data violin is driven by 24 Wall Street Traders. It’s pretty impressive conceptual work that is kind’ve like freejazz honky tonk. I guess the dollars were flowing pretty quickly.

There’s so much here a treasure trove to trawl through, all augmented by 44 pages of liner notes, pictures, explanations of pieces and an in depth essay about Rose’s work. The back cover lists the other artists performing on this disc and they’re too numerous to mention here, everyone from Judith Hamann to Cor Fuhler. It’s a demonstration of the revere with which he’s held that artists of this calibre want to engage and participate in his explorations, because his curiosity is infectious – and you never quite know what he’ll find.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.