Jon Rose with Julia Reidy

People’s Republic of Australasia, December 6

jon rose res
Jon Rose. Photo supplied.

Rather than sit on fences – especially barbed-wire ones – Jon Rose plays them. This invitation-only performance twisted together Rose’s twin obsessions as an improviser: fences and violins. He actually played violin throughout, but in the second half it was against recordings derived from the Great Fences of Australia project that he and Hollis Taylor conducted over many years and countless kilometres, in which they bowed outback fences.

The project was filmed, so as well as hearing the results we saw the process, and there is an appealing madness in two people, their faces shrouded in fly-proof mesh, standing in the middle of nowhere making impossibly eerie harmonics using double-bass bows on wire. It is truly a music of the landscape, the phenomenal sustain created by long stretches of tensioned wire seeming to amplify the magnitude of the land. Metaphors abound, and when the wire is barbed they assume a darker hue.

Initially Rose stopped playing between the film’s short segments, but when he began to play across those “rests” a stronger, more coherent dialogue between live and recorded music emerged, his violin commentary adding layers of contrast and complexity.

One could debate the ultimate relevance of virtuosity to free improvisation. Certainly Rose’s phenomenal command of his instrument increases the sonic options at his disposal, especially in terms of colour, texture and density. These were more fully explored in the first-half duets with guitarist Julia Reidy.

If he has a bottomless pit of ideas, Reidy is fast digging one, and with both instruments amplified innocuous sounds could become a frenzy at the push of a button. Regardless of dynamic level or intensity the interaction between Rose and Reidy was intricate, open and sufficiently propulsive to avoid stasis in one sonic zone. Just as the mood could flick between humour and drama, all aesthetic options were on the table, from exquisite beauty to belligerent feedback. Then there was the intrinsic theatre of the extended techniques that both employed, resulting in myriad exhilarating sounds.