[ISEA94] Artist Statement: Jon Rose — Violin Music in the Age of Shopping / Chaotic Violin

Artist Statement

As revealed in the seminal book The Pink Violin, the Australian composer, theorist and violinist Dr. Johannes Rosenberg predicted that after the demise of Communism and Capitalism would come The Age of Shopping. He also identified two important characteristics that the culture industry of this period would develop – firstly an obsession with technical process for its own sake and secondly, a contemporary art and music world largely empty of any creative content. A culture where the constituent parts have been removed from their context (meaning) and all voices, authentic, original or otherwise, continue to exist only as easily identifiable, sellable product. Content as a recognizable idea has ceased to exist because all the “content” has become interchangeable – it wouldn’t matter what is going on providing there is evidence that something is going on. A merely quantitative world of massed copies and fakes. All music, whatever its origin, status or supposed function would exist now in a digital dream time that the originators of ‘muzak’ could never have imagined. Rosenberg envisaged the music supermarket of today – a place where the tins on the shelf are interchangeable; the labels looking different but the content (once bought) would be all the same.

For the best part of 20 years now, Jon Rose, “The Paganini of New Music” (according to a New York Times critic) has been de- and re-constructing the violin and its music in an attempt to formulate an alternative and personal history for the instrument. He has taken Johannes Rosenberg’s rather extreme ideas at their word – hence the existence of this project Violin Music in the Age of Shopping. Placing the violin in a global shopping context does seem to be the next logical step in Jon Rose’s gesamtkunstwerk approach to music. Contexts, histories, functions, imagery and meanings are all up for sale in this current culture-vulture project. Shopping will of necessity be a satirical piece with political intent.
The Chaotic Violin is another of Jon Rose’s interactive violin/computer pieces – this time his violin bow acts as a MIDI controller. The 32 mapping tables of the programme can be set to work within the standard chromatic scale or choice of notes can be generated by random generator, algorithms, or methods of interpolation between fixed points. Superimposition of these structures in real time lead to very complex patterns but these patterns nevertheless always retain a high degree of self-similarity. This complexity must also operate in an ever changing mode because of the adjacent violin performance operating in parallel, against or with it – ie. those physical actions, movements and techniques of the violinist.

This means that specific areas of interaction can be set up which focus on some founc [sic! the editor] sonic or physical relationship beween the two systems. Add to this the voice coming from the violin and there are three pools of information which, through the action of ‘bow pressure’ combine to form musical structures that appear to be pulled together by some kind of attractor. Sometimes the attractor is clearly the violinist who can at any time achieve a demonstrative role (shield information from the sensors, stop playing, scratch his head, or turn the whole thing off in disgust, etc.) But at other times it seems there is a control centre working away independently of all constituent parts, as happens in the best of improvised music.

  • Jon Rose started playing the Violin at the age of seven, gave up formal music education and from then on, was mostly self-taught. Throughout the 1970’s he played, composed and studied in a large variety of music genres – and became the central figure in the  development of free improvisation in Australia. In 1986 he moved to Berlin, where he directed the first Relative Violin festival with over 50 violinists from all around the world. Jon Rose has appeared on over 40 records and CD’s, directed Das Rosenberg Museum (a surrealist satire for ZDF, Germany 1991), released a book The Pink Violin (NMA, Melbourne 1992).