2 extracts from TANGO, Hot Records LP 1009, recorded December 28-30, 1983, Martin Wesley-Smith - Fairlight CMI, Jon Rose - Violin (all sounds sampled from violin)
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random events from
the life of a musician

'Memoire 1

At the end of my first week in Sydney, I sauntered down to the pub at the end of the street for a drink and to take in the local vibe. At the bar, flaying at credibility with his arms, was David Ahern, shouting at the top of his heavily alcohol fuelled voice to anyone who would listen (no one) about the serial compositional techniques of Karlheinz Stockhausen. This struck me as unlikely in any pub anywhere, let alone on my first foray into Australian culture.

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'Memoire 2

In the penultimate gig I played with this band, there were no further thrown bottles, but the police did arrive, and much to my amazement (but not any of the other band members who kept playing, eyes and hats straight ahead, as if nothing were happening), the bass player was hauled off the stage and taken away by the two uniforms.

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'Memoire 3

My official title was 'Recording engineer and video operator at The Royal Academy of Music'. Sounds impressive enough, except it wasn't. I found the job in the small ads at the back of my local rag, along with opportunities for traffic wardens, toilet cleaners, street cleaners, night watchmen, and other activities designed to keep the capital from settling into third world status.

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'Memoire 4

We bowed, tuned, and I looked to the music stand to begin our performance. To my horror I realised there was no music on it, I'd left it backstage.

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'Memoire 5

I launched quickly into creating bright red, pointed, aggressive flames and thinking this design business is pretty easy stuff. Behind me stood Hermann, who announced 'That is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen in my entire life!' He walked off, leaving me a destroyed heap.

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'Memoire 6

With a strong sense of 'no further harm can befall me', I headed to Melbourne for a performance at the suitably named 'What is Music?' Festival. I had just finished setting up when another musician came bounding across the stage shouting 'hey, Jon' simultaneously dropping his foot down a gapping hole in the sticky carpet.

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'Memoire 7

After unpacking the cello twice and explaining that this was simply a musical instrument, I was told 'Das ist Kein Cello' and 'Do you think we all stupid here, we know what a cello is, and it has four strings, this instrument has too many strings for it to be a cello'. Next, I was marched into the interrogation room by the on duty head of Checkpoint Charlie.

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'Memoire 8

Walking backward across the old roof of the fibro shack, I forgot that there was a strategically placed roof window which I managed to step on, falling through, although painfully not all the way through, thus severing my thigh with a shard of broken glass. It was a bloody mess.

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'Memoire 9

I spotted an open window above a drainpipe and gamely climbed up and started to crawl through the window to find out that I was half stuck about 3 meters above an open toilet. The thought of ending up in the toilet before getting to play a note of music did enter my mind. Somehow, I managed to get most of me through the window and was now upside down facing the bowl. With an elastic grace that is no longer part of my anatomy, I headed south and then quickly flipped my body - adjusting to a northerly upright posture just in time to avoid a watery fate. I then headed to the front door, and with a victorious sweep of the arm, opened it to let in the musicians and audience of maybe ten punters.

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'Memoire 10

I would have been about seven when one of my brothers shot me. Luckily, he was just practicing on his sibling with an air rifle, so we identified the small hole in my leg as a minor ‘flesh wound’ and left it at that. My other brother trained with more lethal weaponry—lethal for both the holder of the homemade gun as well as anyone on the receiving end of his innovative weapon.

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'Memoire 11

I had nowhere to stay and, having no money on my person, the manager of Studio Henry offered me the couch. He insisted that he lock me in; otherwise, I might be joined by others of the street also looking for free accomodation. A posse of ravenous rats rushed about their business for most of the night. Legs tucked up under my chin, I don’t think I slept a wink.

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'Memoire 12

All your favourite musicians are in the band, playing like there is no tomorrow (there isn’t). Chorus after chorus, on and on it goes, chorus after chorus - sounds awesome, chorus after chorus. Minutes go bye, hours go bye, days go bye, weeks, months... Our new band member leans over to the next chair: ‘When do we take the coda, man?’ Reply: ‘This is hell; we never take the coda’.

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'Memoire 13

A more nonsensical statement than 'music is the universal language' there is not. You may say that music is universally liked or enjoyed, you may say that just about all music is now available as a digital download, but you may not say it is universally perceived as the same experience or understood in the same cultural and historical context. Pierrot Lunaire (1912) by Arnold Schoenberg is unlikely to be even comprehensible as music through the ears of someone brought up on MOD pop music. Yet in our post modern puree, maybe one day soon, when all cultural castration has been completed, music is AI is music, all unique experience smothered, we may have arrived at a universally flat and grey playing field.

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Other writings by Jon Rose are available in the anthologies The Pink Violin and Violin Music in the Age of Shopping (NMA, Melbourne) and Music of Place: Reclaiming a Practice (Currency House, Sydney.)

Still available: Rosenberg 3.0 - not violin music

What's New

April 2023
'Rock/Paper/Scissors' - first performance of a radical new interface between violin improvisation, composition, orchestra, and conductor. Highlights here.
KNM, Berlin
March 2023
'Beak' - Kronos Quartet plays the world premiere, a composition based on the song of a Pied Butcherbird by Jon Rose and Hollis Taylor.
Adelaide Festival
March 2024
'Night Songs' celebrates an interspecies multi-media engagement between the ancient music of a uniquely Australian songbird - Cracticus nigrogularis (the Pied Butcherbird) and Australia's premiere new music group Ensemble Offspring. Documentation here.
The Adelaide Festival
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