On a Monday evening in late November 2017, two of Australia’s most prolific musicians performed together in the living room of the late Peggy Glanville-Hicks. It was the first-time violinist Jon Rose and pianist Chris Abrahams had collaborated in a duo setting. What they created that night has resulted in their forthcoming album Peggy, a raw and vivid unedited recording of that meeting. To celebrate its release, Rose and Abrahams will collaborate again at Foundry616 tonight.
Over the years, Rose and Abrahams have collaborated on a number of adventurous musical projects, including Rose’s Violin Music in the Age of Shopping. According to Rose, the music from Peggy was always ready and waiting to be actualized: “Chris and I have known each other for the better part of four decades. When we performed together last November, it was as if the music leapt from our instruments insisting on being heard”.
Recorded as part of Rose’s 2017 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Composer’s Residency, this latest musical venture features improvisations that predominately explore pitch and counterpoint. In this, both artists are masters of the improvisational form.
Abrahams’ piano is the perfect foil for Rose’s string explorations, often reducing his piano to single lines to balance Rose’s collection of violins—especially the tenor hardanger fiddle. Their intersecting lines are played with great transparency, operating often at high speed. In contrast, track three utilises every timbral device available in their musical environment to create an acoustic factory that verges on industrial noise.
The annual PGH composer’s residency provides sanctuary for an Australian composer to fully immerse themselves in their practice. “Peggy Glanville-Hicks was a proto-music-feminist by all accounts,” recounts Rose, “and lived quite an extraordinary life, moving from Sydney to London to New York to Greek islands. She counted amongst her friends and colleagues John Cage, Virgil Thomson, and the writer Robert Graves of I, Claudius fame. A morning hit of gin (her “elevenses”) released her many opinions on music to anyone present. She bequeathed her house to the composers and musicians who would come after her. I’m pleased I could release something recorded within her walls; I think she would have approved.
Abrahams is most well-known for his part in the internationally acclaimed cult band The Necks, hailed by The New York Times as “one of the best bands in the world”. Rose says of Abrahams, “Chris is amongst the very best improvising artists in the world today and one of Australia’s most influential experimental musicians”.
Like Abrahams, Rose is a master of invention and reinvention, and a maverick of the new music scene, collaborating with everyone from John Zorn and Alvin Curran to Derek Bailey. David Harrington of Kronos String Quartet described Rose as “the major philosopher and cosmologist in a violin-centric world…. When I think of Jon, I’m reminded of Leonardo. He has fearlessly and fancifully explored all the currently known parameters of the violin and discovered many previously hidden ones as well”.
The Peggy CD will be released and available on the night at Foundry616 or via ReR (Recommended Records, London).