Jon Rose is a violinist recently awarded the Australia Council Don Banks Prize, Australia’s most prestigious Arts Fellowship, for his lifetime achievement and contribution to Australian music.
At once a violinist, software developer, instrument maker, composer and performer, Rose has elevated the violin into a ‘Total Artform’ through The Relative Violin project. This has given rise to the Great Fences of Australia project, which has seen Rose coax music from the famed Rabbit Proof Fence, as well as the creation of a number of deconstructed violins and the introduction of the interactive violin bow – a bow used to play the violin and also drive interactive software to create a novel experiential sound art.
Rose is to perform at Soundstream: Adelaide New Music Festival (SANMF), which runs from 11-14 October. In a unique interactive violin performance of Palimpolin, Rose will push the boundaries of sound in one of Adelaide’s most beautiful heritage buildings.
Here he discusses the art of the violin with artsHub.When did you know you would work in the arts?
I always did.How would you describe your work to a complete stranger?
Often taxi drivers, on spotting the instrument case, ask me what kind of music I play. If I want a shortened conversation, I just say "unpopular music", and that normally gets us onto another subject. How hard is it to be authentic in the arts nowadays?
It's only a problem if you have no original content. I have many notebooks of ideas, concepts, notions, designs for new instruments, etc. I'll be dead before I run out.Is there a mission to your work?
I have a number. But for the violin, it is a gesamtkunstwerk – that is a total artform, everything imaginable and beyond on, about, and with the violin.What's the first thing career related you usually do each day?
Make sure I arrive at the end of the day having experienced something new.Can you describe an "average" working day for you?
There is no average day. It depends on which project and which place and time.What else do you do to pay the bills?
I've lived off my own music since 1980. Before that I played in clubs, bands, session work, etc – popular music.What gets you fired up?
Violin dealers and violinists talking up the cost of Italian violins. Judged on sound alone, $50,000 will get you an excellent violin. The rest is antique dealer bullshit, compounded by the people who buy the things as an investment.What in the industry do you despair about?
It is not so much an industry, but more a vocation for which you need survival skills. The average performing artist in Australia earns about $8,000 a year from their work, and that includes Hollywood film stars, B grade Rock stars, and subsidized orchestras and opera. In Australia the ‘industry’ is a handful of people in a very small pond. In the avant end of musical exploration such as myself, you need an international agenda to survive. In the last four decades I have worked in about forty countries, and that has kept me going.What is the best thing about your job?
I decide what I want to do next.How do you know when you missed the mark?
There is no perfect violin playing, it's the nature of the instrument to be always missing the mark, more or less.Which of the below phrases best suits your career development to date and why?
a. "The road to success is always under construction. "
b. "Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor."
c. "Success is best measured by how far you've come with the talents you've been given. "
d. "No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself."
The assumptions about "success" are not why I started on a path in exploratory, new, and improvised music. I would have picked another career if I wanted fame and fortune.Jon Rose plays violin in the performance The Violin Speaks on the 11th of October. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit the Soundstream Festival website.