Jon Rose

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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, Július Fujak, Peter Machajdík, and John Zorn.

Throughout the 1970's, 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.

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 Majowski.

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.