September 24, 2001
Jon Rose is the Thomas Alva Edison of the vibrating string. Just as the American inventor occupied himself with an assortment of inventions from the light bulb to the phonograph, so the British-born, Australian-affiliated violinist is concerned with the sonic possibilities of bowing, scraping, hitting, plucking or otherwise exciting these thin strands of wire or gut.
This CD is an example of that experimentation to the nth degree, because just like the assistants Edison had helping him out in his Menlo Park laboratory complex, Rose is aided in his fiendish experiments by a clutch of mostly expatriate musicians who, like him, now call Amsterdam home. Again, like Edison, who never spent too much time on any single thing, Rose & Co. is involved in 24 different procedure here, which extend from 50 seconds to three and one half minutes.
Members of the string family as common as the violin, guitar and cello, and as unique as Cor Fuhler's keyolin — a violin played upside down by keyboard action — Mary Oliver's Hardinger fiddle with its amplified sympathetic strings and Rose's two-stringed pedal board, are used in various ways. Chief co-conspirator Steve Heather adds drums, percussion and electronics to the mix, and most of the players use electronics and samples of another four string specialists to further complicate the program.
Most of the time you're not sure which tones result from the manipulation of a conventional instrument or a home made string or, as a matter of fact, which sounds are real and which are sampled. Looking over the names of the so-called virtual string players sampled, moreover, the suspicion exists that some, if not all, may not exist in this dimension and may actually be some of the real musicians in disguise. Certainly Rose himself has used variations of "Doctor" Rosenberg as his pseudonym on different projects and that doctor makes a sampled appearance here.
In short, this CD is fascinating, revolting, interesting, upsetting and mesmerizing at the same time. It's analogous to what would happen if vaulted, future 500-channel television universe was made up of that many experimental musical conduits and the remote control was in the hands of a hyperactive male. Imagine split second clicks among a symphony rehearsal, a techno discotheque, a folk music concert, an arena ProgRock extravaganza, a viola concerto, a technical demonstration of sonics, an elongated rehearsal, short wave communication with extraterrestrials, an instructional audio tape and feeding time at the zoo, and you may get some idea of what you can hear here. Then imagine it happening all at the same time.
Not for the faint hearted, but certainly for those who are musically adventurous, S-T-R-U-N-G can string you along for hours. Play it over and over again and you'll still find new theses and textures.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1.String 2. Stroppy 3. Strumble 4. Staps 5. Struth 6. Stripes 7. Stroke 8. Stumpf 9. Straddle 10. Strip 11. Straw 12. Stretch 13. Strongo 14. Stromage 15. Strangle'em 16. Street 17. Stress 18. Stream 19. Strain 20. Strenuous 21. Strndlfmp 22. Straggler 23. Straight 24. Strum
Personnel: Anna McMichel (violin); Allison Isadora (violin with electronic modulation); Mary Oliver (viola, Hardinger fiddle); Jon Rose (tenor violin, 19-string cello, 2-stringed pedal bard, amplified bow, midi bow and accelerometer animated samples of strings); Alex Waterman (cello); Andy Moor (electric guitar); Cor Fuhler (keyolin, turntables with records of string music); Richard Barrett (samples of strings); Steve Heather (drums, percussion, electronics, whipolin) plus Virtual String Players: Aha May (bass); Hildegard von Knikkersdorf (harp); Wild "Bill" Pickering (banjo); Dr. Johannes Rosenberg (harpsichord)