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31 July 2007

Jon Rose Web

Jon Rose at Newcastle Conservatorium Concert on 3 March 2007 Image: Jon Rose at Newcastle Conservatorium Concert on 3 March 2007  

I’ve had a website (www.jonroseweb.com) now for 9 years.

In 1977, I started Fringe Benefit records, a musician-run organisation for the concert promotion and recording of improvised music in Australia. So, for me, the notion of doing-it-yourself has been an inevitable activity of any musician or composer whose output lies outside the accepted mainstream.

...a glance at the few - but sadly mediocre - composers and performers who control the musical praxis in this country should point any creative muso in the direction of the Internet for reasons of sanity... As all live music (of any kind) is in spiral decline, it is hardly surprising that musicians should take the initiative for simple reasons of self-preservation, let alone any philosophical basis. Also, a glance at the few – but sadly mediocre – composers and performers who control the musical praxis in this country should point any creative muso in the direction of the Internet for reasons of sanity – yes, there are others in other parts of the world who could be interested in your work and with whom you can communicate.

From an initial usage of the website for simple promotion, my site now hosts all kinds of articles and specific integrated web compositions that investigate the more radical aspects of string music, musical instruments, interactive composition, and the re-writing of music history. Half a dozen colleagues have contributed to this altruistic endeavour. I can’t offer them money, but I can offer them an audience – somewhere between 150,000-200,000 hits and 6,000-7,000 visitors a month.

Having good stats on your website is very important. Over the last year I’ve tracked how usage of my site has shifted from a multiple hits model of text and sound based interest, to the paradigm of attention span disorder – fewer hits and more video downloads.

Being a polymath with a strong visual aesthetic, the idea of a web experience with images, text, music, animation or video, appeals to my sense of total design. However, I don’t think that web simulations of one kind or another come anywhere near to replacing the practice of live performed music. Nor will they ever. This presents a paradox. Running a website takes time, and that’s time you are not spending on making music. Days can disappear in front of the computer screen. The apparent freedom available through the Web is no different to other illusionary freedoms on offer by capitalism – there is no free lunch.

Being online is not a choice anymore, it has become a basic necessity as other options are removed. Each one of my overseas concerts organised through the Web can take up to 75 emails to nail down. Twenty-five years ago, a concert took one or two letters to organise and maybe a phone call for confirmation.

We are also living in a world where no-one really knows what is going on, and how things work at a basic level. I have a running joke with a programmer at Steim in Amsterdam. I say to him, if a violin crashed as much as your Mac, I’d chuck it on the bonfire.

A few years ago I made the Australia Ad Lib website (www.abc.net.au/arts/adlib/default.htm) for the ABC. Very quickly it became a focus for a wide selection of disenfranchised musicians wanting to find out how to get things done – how to have a career. This seemed a worthwhile outcome. But, for reasons I won’t go into here, ABC management saw the site and my activities differently, withdrew my codes, and put the whole enterprise on ice. It’s still there in the freezer. Occasionally people contact me to say that their page has gone missing. Others want to update; too late. I quite expect to go online one day and find that the whole thing has ‘accidentally’ been trashed.

Then of course we know nothing about the little bugs which will be boring through our super cyber storage banks 25 years from now, devouring all the precious digitally transferred knowledge of previous generations.

Remain a steadfast unbeliever when businessmen try to sell you the latest labour-saving digital device. Downloading a file is a poor exchange for a first-hand musical experience.

Subjects discussed by this article:

In recent months Jon Rose has given a two-day seminar to the Kronos String Quartet on how to play the fence; performed a completely new and improvised solo part for the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; created a major radiophonic work for the BBC on the history of the piano in nineteenth century Australia; toured in Europe with his improvisation group 'Futch'; premiered his interactive Ball project at The Melbourne Festival; and been apprehended by the Israeli Defence Forces at the Separation Fence near Ramallah in the Occupied Territories.


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