A man is apprehended playing violin in front of the Sydney Opera House.
“I’m playing the violin,” he explains to the security guard.
“You’re breaching the bylaws, you’re not allowed to play music in front of the opera house,” says the guard.
The violinist is not Andre Rieu or Richard Tognetti, its Jon Rose who has been awarded Australia’s most valuable individual music prize. The larrikin of Australian music was presented with the $60 000 in Perth this week.
Jon Rose gave up formal violin lessons at 15 and since then his journey has encompassed jazz, commercial music, country and western and sound installations. His has built his entire practice around the violin, an obsession which has involved building his own ‘deconstructed’ instruments, holding a festival in the Hungarian town of Violin, and running his bow over all manner of sound making devices including fences, windows, body parts…
Ideas erupt from Jon Rose freely and almost ceaselessly. His role as a polemic and capacity for playfulness has made him an iconic Australian figure in the experimental improvised music scene. In particular I love his Australian Fences project which involves making the eerie and beautiful sounds on the wires that criss-cross our huge continent.
His more playful sound installations involve giant interactive balls.
After the award presentation we went to dinner to celebrate 25 years of Tura New Music and Jon regaled us with outlandish stories about a festival in the Hungarian town of Violin where the visiting performers ended up winning a football game with the locals and getting chased out of town. Jon did a concert in the train station waiting room for Violin and Flies, and by the end of the piece most of the flies had died. In retrospect the stories sound crazy and I had consumed red wine, but Jon swore they were true and I think I am recounting accurately…
As part of the Don Banks award Jon was presented with a massive bunch of banksia flowers which he couldn’t take back to Sydney on the plane. Instead he gave them to me. A fantastic memory of this generous, spontaneous and wide-minded man.