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Jon Rose
Stringing Mad Ideas Together: Australian Violinist Jon Rose Makes Eccentric Moves

Jon Rose isn’t just a violinist making wacky noises with effects processors. The European- and Australian-based musician is also an author, curator, festival organizer, television actor, and an inventor who builds his own violins and cellos. Just considering his musical output boggles the mind. With a strong mix of high and low brow, Rose is recommended to fans of John Zorn’s Naked City, Mr. Bungle, and Ground Zero—groups with bizarre compositions and quick changes that turn on a dime.

Rose’s oeuvre includes conceptually oriented projects that push the boundaries of experimental music. For instance, Violin Music in the Age of Shopping is based on the book The Pink Violin by Johannes Rosenberg, in which he predicts the collapse of both communist and capitalist economies. In this bleak condition, Rose lightheartedly forecasts the blind celebration of technical ability and the fine arts devoid of artistic content. Essentially, it’s an Andy Warhol world where all aspects of life devolve into a bland Muzak experience. Shopping has involved solo performances, his own book, videos, and radio broadcasts.

Furthermore, Violin Music in Restaurants parodies various melodies heard during the dining experience. Another Rose project uses badminton as a metaphor for the human brain. His website offers a look at his eccentric activities.

For his Civic Minded Five concert this weekend, Rose, a compelling figure who plays like a maniac, promises an intellectually and physically exhausting but comical experience. He’ll play solo as well as a set with two prominent local improvisers, percussionist Michael Welch and Sam Rivers Trio member Doug Mathews on bass.

Onstage Rose will continue his MIDI-based Hyperstring project, with three components: an accelerometer attached to his arm to translate his movements and pressure on the bow into musical signals; another sensor in the bow that measures its speed; and different pedals that he works with his feet.

In addition to his melodic violin playing, Rose must consider how all of these factors will affect the sensors. He figures there are 28,000 trigger combinations, and it’s very possible that listeners could hear every single one.

Originally published in the Orlando Weekly on September 30, 1999.