Rollins College, Orlando, FL • October 2, 1999
Jon Rose is nuts. Totally mad. I have been yanking at my hair for a long time trying to describe his Civic Minded Five show at Rollins. It was truly a unique event. I am almost positive that I will never see anything like that again.
Jon Rose is an improvising violinist. Fair enough. What really distinguishes him from his improvising ilk are his electronics. Lots of them. I am of the opinion that Rose would undergo genetic treatment to grow another leg for the sole purpose of triggering more samples. When you listen to Jon Rose, you aren’t hearing just him; you are hearing a veritable orchestra of weird noises. He calls this the “Hyperstring Project.” Very apt.
His first set was divided into three parts. The first and longest part was him improvising fast and furiously on his violin while triggering a small city’s worth of bizarre sounds. He occasionally stood up to feed his violin back into his monitors, creating loud wailing and screeching. He had a few foot pedals with which to play back samples. He demonstrated use of his MIDI bow, waving it around for great sonic effect. The next piece demonstrates the truly out nature of this show. Rose introduced us to two of his instruments, the amplified violin bow and the MIDI bow. He then proceeded to play the amplified bow with the MIDI bow. The audience stared in astonishment. It may have been a man up on stage, but it sounded like an amplified swarm of bees. The next part began with an introduction of this device he strapped to his arm. He explained it to be a series of sensors that are used in cars to deploy airbags. They are pressure sensitive, and therefore are used by him to trigger more samples. His playing now consists of the sounds of the violin, the MIDI foot triggers, the MIDI bow, and the newly introduced MIDI arm thing. I would say that it was chaos, but it wasn’t, Rose always knew exactly what he was doing and kept a tight control of things. Needless to say, at the end of the first set, he received VERY hearty applause.
After the break, we were greeted by two faces very familiar to the Florida creative music scene: bassist Doug Matthews and drummer Michael Welsch. Quickly they plunged into some powerful improvisational work. You can imagine what this sounded like, and even if I tried I couldn’t describe it.
In the Central Florida Area, with the exception of a few bands, we are fairly deprived of avant-weirdness. Seeing Rose perform was a revelation, I could never imagine anyone making all of those sounds live, up on stage. Wow.