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Press Quotes 2020+

Jon Rose

what others say

Jon Rose at café central, Innsbruck, 1993

This page consists of descriptive reviews from The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, Cadence magazine, The Wire, The Voice, Realtime Magazine, The Australian, New York City Jazz Record, Cyclic Defrost, Time Out New York, All About Jazz, Limelight Magazine, and many more.

'Some improvisers paint themselves into sonic corners, where they naively regurgitate their prior much-masticated exploits. Then there's Jon Rose. Forty years on and Rose still surprises the hell out of me with his sheer audacity; still dumfounds me as if I'm encountering beauty in music for the first time; still bamboozles me as deadly seriousness and blithest whimsy cease to lie at segregated points on an artificial grid, but intermingle freely and erratically as they do in life. So art, ceasing to imitate life, becomes it. To call Rose an improvising violinist is like calling Leonardo a bit of a painter. He is a deviser of possibilities and a realiser of the most improbable ones. His volatile imagination results in exquisitely crafted instruments of no fixed parentage and in music that is a restless quest for the new. The first disc of this brain-detonating double album has him enjoying improvised duets with fellow adventurers Jim Denley, Freya Schack-Arnott, Clayton Thomas and Robbie Avenaim. The second disc reaches still further beyond the sonic horizon, making instruments of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a humble Hills Hoist. Yes, really. This is my favourite Jon Rose album of all. Until the next.'
Sydney Morning Herald

'Australia based violinist, composer, improviser and instrument builder Jon Rose is something of a national treasure. He has appeared on 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 (the late) 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.'

'This is going to sound pretty odd, considering the body of work I am talking about, but something is freeing about Jon Rose's 'State of Play' album. At its heart 'State of Play' is two and a half hours of improvised music split across two discs. The first CD is filled with relativity short sharp tracks, apart from one 13-minute monster, and features Rose playing assorted violins including a Thai pumpkin soup violin, tenor violin, keyolin, El lubricato (a 20-litre oil-drum with wheel-bows), 12 string clusterfuck violin, slow bow automaton and the St. Sebastian violin. As you can guess the music is pretty fast and fluid, but that isn’t all. Rose has brought some friends along for the ride too... This is an album that cements Rose as one of the greats. His playing is delicate and tender. The notes flow from him and create emotions of love, loss, and redemption inside. Then he changes into a snarling beast thrashing about in pain. Both are wonderful but without the other neither would be as effective. Or is that affective? What is plain to hear is at 70 years old Rose has plenty to say, and play. 'State of Play' isn't just a clever pun, but a snapshot of players so in love with their craft, and interplaying, with others, that it, well, it plays itself. '
Vital Weekly

'Anyone who has ever seen 50 angelic children playing the violin descend an escalator can confidently describe themselves as familiar with the diverse oeuvre of the Australian musician, inventor, artist, curator, rogue and activist Jon Rose. The double CD State of Play, released on the renowned British label ReR, testifies to his diverse talents. The loving design of the sound carrier including the illustrated, 22-page booklet is worth mentioning. Musically, the first disc begins with a series of duo improvisations, right at the beginning with Rose's longtime companion, the saxophonist Jim Denley. It is simply experimental, improvised music of the very highest quality that is on offer here. Nobody plays himself in the foreground, nobody points out, but everyone listens, everyone produces their sounds in a refreshing, unusual way, which come from typically invented instruments, which are then called, for example, the Thai Pumpkin Soup Violin or, as in the case of Freya Schack-Arnott, the Nyckelharpa, in German the key violin (a seldom played, traditional stringed instrument, the i.a. is played via keys).
The double bass player Clayton Thomas, who is quite well known in this country, has been living in Australia for a long time. Jon Rose improvises with him on five pieces. Right at the beginning he introduces El Lubricato in the percussive piece The Large Pocket, another instrument invented by Rose that works with a 20 liter oil drum and two wheel bows, only to return to his beloved violin for two other pieces. In the duo with Robbie Avenaim, who is largely unknown to us, the music reinvents itself. Here Automated percussion systems are used, everything sounds wider and more flat. But maybe that's also due to the 12-string Clusterfuck violin that Jon Rose uses, a rogue itself one suspects. The second disc focuses on the presentation of Jon Rose's recent ensemble projects. With the first piece, a new instrument is introduced again, The Web, a 32-string automaton, i.e. a machine that does and does what it pleases. In the further course of the piece, the three violinists change their instruments and exchange them for three cheapest Chinese brands. The second ensemble piece brings choral-like singing, combined with four audibly different and distinguishable sounds and noises that have something to do with traffic over a bridge in Sydney. Elastic Band, the third piece, composed by Jon Rose together with Elena Kats-Chernin, premiered at the Angelica Festival in Bologna in 2015 and was conducted by the Israeli conductor Ilan Volkov.'
Freistil (Germany)

'Almost a celebration this double CD for the great Australian experimenter, swears to 70 years of life. Violinist, tireless electroacoustic researcher, and lucid composer. The first CD features improvisations in duo with various musicians and situations while the second CD offers a glimpse of his latest works. A rich libretto accompanies the album with a beautiful retrospective. Certainly it is not a disc with a simple function: moving between free and contemporary, but, if you enter this dissonant and polychrome world, there are many possible discoveries and the paths indicated. An opportunity to get closer to one of the greats.'
Rockerilla (Italy)

'There is only one direction for Jon Rose: Forwards! Since the mid-1970s he has been on the road in a variety of ways, improvising in various formations, writing music for the Kronos Quartet, among others, or winning the Karl Szuka Prize for a radio play. So how do you get hold of this musician?'
Radiohoerer (Germany)

'Not necessarily the best introduction to Rose but one confirmed fans will enjoy. On cd 2 'Music in a Time of Dysfunction 3' is alternately anxious and playful while 'Singing Up the Bridge' combines the sounds of Sydney Harbour Bridge and choral singers and is one of the most unique and eerie pieces on the album. Another highlight is 'Elastic Band' a classical work featuring Rose's demented fiddling and more formal orchestration, though not without darker and stranger aspects.'
Music Webzine

'Even though this is a double record, I could sum it up in one word: strings. Shibari lovers calm down, do not enter here. Seventy-year-old Jon Rose probably, wherever there are strings, must have found a way to sound them out. This 'State of play', released by ReR Megacorp Records, collects countless testimonies of the Australian artist's creativity.

In addition to composing, Rose is also a builder of personal instruments, made with automation and midi, and a great experimenter. His bow does not rest only on his violin, but also for example on the wires (as in 'Great fences of Australia', 1983).

The first cd consists of 19 Jon duets with other musicians. The first four pieces are for violin and alto sax, exploring their timbre and noise possibilities. In the fourth, 'Asian centuries', Rose uses the 'thai pumpkin soup' violin to obtain an undulating sound. The next six pieces are for keyolin (a monochord violin, excited with the bow, to which black and white keys are connected that intone the notes) and a nyckelharpa - if I start explaining every single instrument, I should write ten pages. Forgive me if I overlook something, because everything is like this here!

In fact, then we meet El Lubricato, a string struck with telegraph keys, and a rotating disk. At a certain point I seem to hear a drill, because the 'notes' obtained are tied with a mechanical glide, which recalls the modulations of the tip of a Black & Decker when it pierces the wall. The 'slow bow automaton', on the other hand, are four strings with an automatic bow, and the musician simply modifies the tuning to increase or decrease the pitch of the sounds produced. SARPS, on the other hand, are semi-automatic percussions. The Saint Sebastien violin has a tone that confuses, because at certain moments it seems like a breath.

And who knows why a 12-string violin was named 'Clusterfuck'! Moving on to the second CD, there are seven compositions. But each has surprises, even hilarious ones. 'Music in a time of dysfunction 3' is for violins, violone, viola, cello, deliberately forgotten Chinese violins, and... the web: an automatic network with 32 strings, with double rotating pick. Exciting 'Singing up the harbor bridge': it's a composition for a choir of 6 voices and...a bridge. Jon Rose hooked up microphones at four points on Sydney's Harbor Bridge. Thus the vowels of the choir meet, with the joints of the bridge (reminiscent of the wood of boats in the sea) and a background vibration (like drone music) created by traffic.

From Australia we move on to Italy with 'Elastic Band'. The Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna performs this composition for orchestra and solo violin, and here you can feel the compositional heritage of Rose, between references to Ligeti, Bartok and Saint-Saens, which converge in his identity, precisely Elastic. In 'Dueling banjo and banjo duality', a tenor violin is played (which is halfway between viola and cello), and accelerometers are connected to the musician's arms that operate two banjo midi.

Are they enough for you as surprises? Otherwise let's move on to 'Hills Hoist music', where Jon Rose plays a clothesline! And for this he earns my devotion, as an inveterate loiter. Two are missing, hold on! 'The gamble': a 'data piano' and a 'data violin' contain the sounds of Las Vegas casinos and the sounds of Wall Street, respectively. This also has a social significance: we compare the rich who get richer, and the poor who waste their savings in slot machines. And finally 'Music in a time of dysfunction 1': performed at the Rosenberg Museum, the musicians constantly activate the light switches, via a pedal, while Jon Rose activates electric discharges. I list the other instruments: keyolin, violins, 'stressed' organ, enclosed. This is Jon Rose's universe, and the double disc title is really spot on: his state of mind is a state of play. '
Music Map (Italy)

'Released via the longtime standing ReR Megacorp label this month is 'State Of Play', the new, truly monumental album by 1951-born Australian musician Jon Rose which clocks in at well over 150 minutes total playtime in 2CD format, accompanied by massive linernotes and an in depth booklet catering detailed information on compositional processes and more. Presenting a total of 26 pieces on "State Of Play" - 19 of them on the first part dubbed 'Duo Improvisations' whilst CD2, 'A Selection From Recent Project' holds an additional seven, more extended bits - the album is a true homage to Rose's work in highly advanced Avantgarde Music featuring not only a heapload of collaborators as well as a wide array of obscure, rare or even self- invented instruments like various musical automatons, the thai pumpkin soup violin, nyckelharpa, impossible banjos as well as - sic!!! - The Sydney Harbour Bridge, data input from Wall Street traders and a 12-string clusterfuck violin amongst others. This being said, it is nearly impossible to describe the vast richness and oftentimes unique angle of Jon Rose's sound and compositional approach or even pick out a single favorite, yet if you are well versed in the field of Improv, Free Improv as well as FreeJazz, Contemporary Classical and a realm often described as 'new music' alongside bits of electroacoustic composition this truly is a hot contender for your 'must buy' extended album of the month for a reason.'
Nitestylez (Germany)

'It is a museum of torture and assault on the violin. By Jon. If Jon had lived in the Middle Ages, it would have been much worse for heretics, traitors and the unfaithful of both genders as he devised yet more novel ways to have them change their minds or lose body parts. Jon's instruments have a sort of species memory of violindom. He has devised an extraordinary number of ways of getting a sound from a stretched string. It is fair to say that none of these instruments has sought, or even failed, to perform Massenet’s Meditation from Thais. Join Jon on this museum tour and discover concepts of music from a world order other than the one you have lived in until today.'
Music Trust E-zine

'Violin avant-garde player Jon Rose has been familiar with free play for many years, and I still consider his Slawterhaus project with Johannes Bauer, Dietmar Diesner and Peter Hollinger to be a criminally undervalued feat of the 90s! On CD1 of the double-decker ‘State of Play’ (ReR Megacorps) the master presents 19 duo improvisations, among others with the great bassist Clayton Thomas or the Nyckelharpa player Freya Schack-Arnott. Incidentally, Rose accompanies them on the Keyolin invented by Cor Fuhler. As in general, the often self-made instruments would be worth their own book. The thick and photo-rich booklet is a little consolation, because it shows, among other things, images of some of the installations sounding on CD2 (a selection of recent projects) from sound generators, some of which are used in the most obscure way. 154 minutes of hardly tamed will to total art - exhausting, but full of surprises for people with open ears and a sense of humor.'
Westzeit (Germany)

'Jon Rose is a versatile musician. Just before the dawn of the new millennium, this Australian violinist, fence player, composer, improviser, inventor and writer released the double album 'Fringe Benefits', a compendium of his work featuring the violin and its mutations over a period of eighteen years, followed in 2012 by an even fatter compilation of three CDs and a data disc full of clips. Twenty CDs later he has again gathered a double album, 'State of Play'. One disc consists of duo improvisations from the last year, the second contains seven 'projects', which he has had on his mind in this millennium. It is useful if you have some calluses on your ears for this work. It is also recommended not to insist on woolly consonances and reassuring harmonies. Rose, once a violinist prodigy, has sublimated his love-hate relationship with the instrument into an oeuvre that can shoot in all directions. It is a universe that is full of the resounding effects of his ideas-jungle. He doesn't have the slightest sympathy for owners of sensitive, furry ears. If you want to absorb padded sounds, it is better to try another door further down the corridor. I myself am absolutely thrilled with the products of his unbridled imagination, such as a composition for a vocal group and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, in which the bridge creaks, hisses and hums. And for 'Music in a Time of Dysfunction 1' with all kinds of strings, a 'distressed' organ, Cor Fuhler on keyolin, and Rose himself on electric sparks.

'Violinist Jon Rose may live on what's perhaps the biggest island in the world. But he actually inhabits a space that's much bigger and smaller than the country-continent. With connections throughout the world, Rose's music has never been limited to one area. At the same time his idiosyncratic playing, unique compositions and constant inventions and use of many string-driven instruments also make him a singular resident of his own cordoned off homeland, perhaps called Roseland. This singularity doesn't preclude collaboration and this descriptive two-CD set offers more than 21⁄2 hours of his work as improviser, composer and conceptualizer plus an informative booklet lavishly illustrated with photos of many invented string instruments.

More straightforward in a way, CD1's 19 tracks are subdivided into a series of duets with long-time Aussie associates, alto saxophonist Jim Denley, bassist Clayton Thomas, percussionist Robbie Avenaim and Freya Schack-Arnott playing nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish fiddle with strings and keys. Even though Rose trots out some of his odd resonating string inventions such as Thai pumpkin soup violin; the EL Lubricto with the resonator attached to an oil drum; and the keyolin that combines a piano keyboard and a two-string violin; only with Avenaim do the results sound a little more oddball than what's played in so-called conventional improvisations. In fact with nyckelharpa strokes taking on dulcimer-like tones and static vibrations and Rose's spiccato and col legno fiddle extensions cracked and crinkled you could be hearing an outlier Outback hoedown when he plays with her. More folksy than frantic, radicalism is only noticeable in string tone criss-crossing and when squirming away from obvious melody. Denley's accelerating split tones and pointed tonguing logically brush up against Rose's pizzicato strums, arco thrusts and tone fragmenting. On the extended 'As It Is' the slippery exposition is emphasized with stopped strings and irregular buzzes. It climaxes with Denley blowing thinning air currents through the alto's body tube completed by Rose's squeaky string pulls.

Super staccato thunks and squeaks mark the Thomas-Rose duet as they shake and slash along their respective string sets. Stabbing and screeching, the highly elevated pitches don't mask that even at this velocity between them both manage to dig out all the partials and extensions of many notes and additional tones. Slower tracks like 'Turnings' and 'And Then Some' are distinguished by extended drones echoing from Thomas' low- pitched strings and linked to Rose's hurdy-gurdy-like buzzing. 'Turnings' is completed by a concentrated drone, while the other track varies the interaction with willowy string pulls and resonating slaps against solid surfaces, climaxing with descriptive banjo-like strums from the bassist. Because of Covid19 restrictions the four Avenaim tracks were created via computer file exchange which each player adding and blending his parts from separate locations. Despite that the improvisations betray no distance fissure. Old hand at processing mechanical and machine-like timbres, the percussionist's rapid pummelling and buzzing vibrations create their own rhythmic space, with intersectional string plucks and arco stretches among the expositions. Distinct violin tones are really only defined on 'Fluck', yet the slicing prestissimo lines at high and low pitches are matched by loops of mechanized slaps and beanbag-like rustles and pops. There are more sonic impersonations on 'Sebastien and Co' with Rose's pizzicato strums intersecting with Avenaim's rumbles, pop and stretches at times resembling a balloon being stretched or a mechanized rooster crowing.

Made up of Rose initiated projects and experiments from earlier in the century; CD2 is less of a hodgepodge and more of an indication of his versatility. Most distinguished are 'Elastic Band', recorded in 2015 with the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna conducted by Ilan Volkov, jointly composed with Elena Kats-Cherin; and the 2016 and 2019 variations on 'Music in a Time of Dysfunction' alongside subsets of Aussie players. Fitting an improvised violin solo within the strictures of a traditional orchestral work is Rose's challenge in Bologna. To be heard among the tutti, processional, ascending and descending passages from the orchestra, there are times at which he could be Isaac Stern playing however his sul tasto runs and spiccato pacing create a singular impression. By the final section his strained squeaks and kinetic runs appear to encourage the orchestral sections to loosen up with harsh brass blasts, percussive piano runs making its part almost overwrought.

In 2016 'Music in a Time of Dysfunction' was treated contrapuntally. Frails and twangs echoing from Julia Reidy’s guitar and Cor Fuhler's keyolin, underlined by pulsations from Zubin Kanga's distressed organ operate alongside the sometime conventionally horizontal and sometimes harsh rubbing of the five live and processed strings. A crescendo at mid-point resolves the divide in that the torqued strings continue bowing as the electrified products replicate timbres resembling a sidewalk drill and an electric shaver. Swelling drones climax with a group downward slide to a warmer, paced finale. By 2019 'Music in a Time of Dysfunction' has an almost baroque introduction from the six string players challenged by The 32 String Web inference by Avenaim, Michael McNab and Maria Moles. The solid exposition is broken in the middle when the three fiddlers pick up scordatura-tuned cheap violins scratching swells, plucks, stops and picks at varied speeds and pitches. A proper finale is signaled when the ensemble slows down the narrative for connected vibrations.

Of geographical interest, State of Play offers the most varied aural sightseeing for those sound explorers who wish to travel to the separate province founded, organized and populated by Jon Rose.
Jazz Word

'Some improvisers paint themselves into sonic corners, where they naively regurgitate their prior much-masticated exploits. Then there's Jon Rose. Forty years on and Rose still surprises the hell out of me with his sheer audacity; still dumfounds me as if I’m encountering beauty in music for the first time; still bamboozles me as deadly seriousness and blithest whimsy cease to lie at segregated points on an artificial grid, but intermingle freely and erratically as they do in life. So art, ceasing to imitate life, becomes it. To call Rose an improvising violinist is like calling Leonardo a bit of a painter. He is a deviser of possibilities and a realiser of the most improbable ones. His volatile imagination results in exquisitely crafted instruments of no fixed parentage and in music that is a restless quest for the new. The first disc of this brain-detonating double album has him enjoying improvised duets with fellow adventurers Jim Denley, Freya Schack-Arnott, Clayton Thomas and Robbie Avenaim. The second disc reaches still further beyond the sonic horizon, making instruments of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a humble Hills Hoist. Yes, really. This is my favourite Jon Rose album of all. Until the next.
Sydney Morning Herald

What's New

June 2021
'Figures of Eight' - a work from 1974, updated, and given a thrilling performance by violinist Emma Roijackers.
Haarlem Lichtfabriek, Holland
May 2021
'State of Play' titles my new double album featuring duo improvisations and recent projects with a cast of great collaborators...out now!
ReR Recommended Records, London
September 2021
'Corrugations' heralds a new music series starting in Alice Springs - we just moved into a new house here big enough to hold the Rosenberg Museum and performances.
Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
May - October 2021
'Whistling in the Dark' embraces a set of duets between various pied butcherbirds (from field recordings in outback Australia) and virtuosic human musicians (in home lockdown) performing transcriptions of this extraordinary avian music.
On Line Project available September
September 2021 - delayed Premiere
Jon is currently composing 'Mendel's Mix' - A commission for Brno Contemporary Orchestra. The work is inspired by the 'father' of genetics, Johann Gregor Mendel, and based on the structure of DNA
Brno, Czech Republic
Latest Stuff
Jon Rose at The Stone, NYC, 2013
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