an interactive new media performance from Jon Rose
Jon Rose ... concept, interactive conductor, samples
Kaffe Mathews....live sampling,
Tom Demeyer ...live interactive video
The Orchestra of Ancient Guts, Vienna.
Jim Munro and others, Vancouver.
In the 1970's I was very busy constructing violin hybrid
instruments....violins joined together like siamese twins, violins with
extra necks, aeolian violins with sails, a tromba marina, violin mobiles, a
violin on a frame with 19 strings, a microtonal long neck violin with 16
strings, violins with fm radio broadcast systems built inside, violins with
megaphones and internal amplification, etc.
I spent a lot of time looking through junk shops in Sydney buying the
cheapest violins that little money could buy....violins in really bad
condition would often be given to me. I became aware that most of these
instruments had been made in China (notably the ´Skylark´models) and I
started to imagine the factories, full of massed labouring violin makers,
where these instruments were produced. Although the average professional
western violin player found these instruments to be unplayable and (tone
wise) unlistenable to, I took the opposite view. With their shrill tone
production, they sounded closer to the er-hu (the traditional chinese two
string violin) than to our model of beauty and perfection - the strad. They
were in effect, the sound of Asia, the new string sound of our century!
Also because of their price, I had no qualms about hacking into them with
saw &drill to experiment with my own mutations and deconstructions.
By invitation from The International Jazz Festival Beijing, I´ve had the
opportunity twice in the 1990´s to investigate this phenomena further. On
the first visit in 1994, full of optimism, I managed to visit a large
instrument factory on the outskirts of Beijing...they made just about every
instrument under the sun....but tragically no violins. On the second visit
last year I took no chances; with help from film maker Ying Li Ma we
researched the whole country looking for the violin mass production centres
of the world.
A tale of woe met our enquiries. The two biggest violin factories
(employer of thousands) had gone to the wall leaving behind just a few
small family firms struggling to maintain the tradition. But, we were told,
a brave new world of automation had recently taken over the chinese violin
industry. A visit to a brand new violin factory was arranged. Imagine our
excitement as we were told by the manager that they used a specially
designed german steam press to ´stamp out´the belly and back plates of
violins, violas, cellos, and double basses en masse... ten at a time in one
hit.. Special machines were available throughout the violin process. They
even had a machine that haired and tightened up the violin bow in one
go....one bow finished every 5 seconds. In the factory they made absolutely
everything that goes into a violin case, including the case itself. He
refused categorically to tell us how many violins the factory produced
every hour. But we were clearly talking serious production here, the like
of which had never been seen before. We asked, naturally enough, if we
could shoot some video of this futuristic world.
Dear reader, this was a once in a lifetime chance and I tried by every
means available to persuade Mr. Jin Yun Guo (the Korean boss) to indulge
us. The answer was No. In fact the answer was ´No´ some three times from
him, twice from central office in Korea where I sent a hurried fax
explaining our humble interest, and three more times from Mrs.Kim (the
general manager) to whom I sent an exhaustive letter and rang personally
over the following weeks. Realising their absolute paranoia, that I was
some kind of international spy determined to steal their secrets of
automated violin mass production, I tried to allay their fears with the
most crawling entreating letter I´ve ever written in my entire life. To no
effect. I display an extract from this pitiful artifact below for your
perusal. Alas our honesty and naivete had left us no possibility to prepare
a hidden camera once we were on the factory premises.
So what video material will actually be shown tonight? Full credit must
go to Ying Li Ma. After dealing with months of post rejective depression,
she found her way to what remains of the original chinese violin making
factories. In the vast ruined premises of these earlier paradigms of
socialist productivity, the camera finds poignant reminders of a by gone
age. Where once 100´s of workers sat, labouring away in disciplined
harmony to the rousing broadcasts of revolutionary songs, now only a few
dozen of the still employed struggle to keep the factory open. We thank
their managements for the consideration shown to comrade Ying Li as she
filmed the scattered remnants of former production glory.
Yes, the new automated violins sound a lot better .
Yes, we have to have enough violins for the rapidly increasing world
population of violin players.
Yes, they have to be made in China (everything else is these days)
nothing will ever replace the sheer minimalist beauty of massed RSI
(repetitive strain injury).
We salute the agony and ecstasy of the former thousands of violin makers
in The People´s Republic of China!
In the words of Mao Zedong
"The masses have a potentially inexhaustible enthusiasm for the violin.
Those who can only follow the old tunes in a revolutionary period are
utterly incapable of hearing this enthusiasm. They are deaf and all is
silence ahead of them. Haven't we come across enough of these kinds of
reactionary bureaucrats in music? Those who simply follow the status quo
invariably underestimate the people's enthusiasm for the new functional
violin music. Let something new appear and they always disapprove and rush
to oppose it. Such people are always passively deaf, always fail to move
forward at the critical moment and always have to be given a kick in the
backside before they move a step."
(Introductory note to 'This Township went co-operative in two years' (1955)
from The Socialist Upsurge in China's Countryside ed. volume 2.)
Some (older) notes to the performance.
chamber orchestra plays repetetive 4 bar phrases like a huge human
sampler (each phrase can be manipulated by Kaffe Mathews once set in
live feed from internet of Suzuki class and soloist from Canada, they are
mixed into the vienna performance and sampled & manipulated in real time
by Kaffe mathews (they should not hear what's going on in Vienna
live interactive video of members of the kammer orch on screen behind orch
position, video manipulated by Tom Demeyer Steim; ( Interactive midi
control of video effects from Jon, Kaffe and/or Tom)
It would be great to have a video feed from Vancouver (as well as the
sound) ...so all the video components are
1. live portraits of orchestra members
2. hard disk loops of chinese workers in violin factory
3. internet images of canadian suzuki class & occasional soloist
4. maybe separate monitor runs the whole footage of Ying Li Ma's original
violin factory video without sound (almost like a documentary)
interactive conductor with midi bow & pedals (controls midi string sounds,
looped images of chinese workers in violin factory, and sounds of the
chinese violin factory) Jon Rose; He will also direct the start and stops
of the chamber orchestra 'samples'.
interactive sampling & mixing by Kaffe Mathews.
should run for about 2 hours. There will be plenty of space/time for many
inter reactive possibilities, solos, etc. VIOLIN FACTORY is more an event
than a concert, the public are more witnesses than an audience. (The
earlier pieces in the evening however are definitely 'concert' in concept)