Jon Rose, Chris Abrahams and Peggy, a new CD

Keith Gallasch

In 2017 Jon Rose enjoyed a year-long residency at Peggy Glanville Hicks’ Paddington home in Sydney, programming highly regarded regular concerts and putting the last onto CD — keeping one 20-minute track from it — Peggy 6 — and recording the other performances, under better technical conditions, the next day.

I recently attended the launch at Foundry 616 of the CD, titled Peggy. Violinist Jon Rose and pianist Chris Abrahams improvised for an hour, very much in the form and spirit of the CD, yielding angular tonalities heightened by tuning differences, exhilaratingly taut asynchronous patternings and passages that transcendentally melded piano and violin into a bigger instrument.

For subsequent home CD listening I warmed up with a brace of Ornette Coleman tracks; there’s something quite propulsively sax-y about Rose’s way with a violin … or three — one violin, one tenor violin and “The Bird,” a darkly humming Hardanger tenor fiddle. Abrahams at a Steinway Grand elicits ripples, waves and thundering floods of notes, barely a discernible chord in ear-sight.

A first listening to the album reveals Peggy 1 (9’26”) opening spaciously with small independent musings moving gradually towards longer more expressive phrases in a performance that suggests exploratory co-existence in contrast with Peggy 2 which is a short, fast and dance-like, neatly formed duet kicked off with pizzicato and tapping on the violin over a rippling piano flowing into wild bowing and keyboard licks, trills and runs. Exhilarating.

From muted piano mutterings and briskly plucked and brushed strings and tapping Peggy 3 evolves magically in its first four minutes or so into a dense, buzzing hive, a pulsing ecosystem. On Peggy 5 (10’26”) the players are in tight, swirling sync, the full range of their instruments exploited, the violin siren-like, signalling, piano chugging, keyboard danced across, yielding moments of high intensity, especially around the five-minute mark, and ending in soaring flight, deep reverberation and then matching fast high-range forays on the way to delicately sweet final notes.

Peggy 6 (22’26”) opens with mezzo violin phrases against a deep, dark mass of piano murmurings recalling Abrahams’ playing with The Necks. The duetting breaks into discrete stuttering from which emerges a sustained stream of rapid multi-voiced violin bowing with bursts of song-like utterance alongside the piano’s restless questing. This subsides into a ruminative phase that in turn transmutes into a mysterious soundscape at the 10-minute mark, pulsing at 15 minutes into a wonderful deep-noted recurrent piano swagger with violin emerging low, buzzing then softly squeaking like an old wirescreen door in the wind. Darkness dissipates into discrete but simpatico utterances and silence. Recorded before a live audience, Peggy 6 is quite a sonic adventure.

The recording is lucid and immediate, equally capturing delicate exchanges and the drama of full-bodied passages with a well-weighted balance of piano and strings. In an interview in Cyclic Defrost, Rose expressed concern that the violin too often plays second fiddle in a piano-dominated Western musical culture: “we are always trying to get in tune with the piano.” The imbalance is nowhere evident on Peggy. He actually looked forward to “[playing] lots of open strings, which I do on two tracks, [then] the piano actually starts to sound out of tune, I get a great kick out of that.” Jon Rose and Chris Abrahams have made wonderful music out of such differences.

Jon Rose, Chris Abrahams, Peggy, ReR CD, launch Foundry 616, Ultimo, Sydney, 7 May

Top image credit: Jon Rose, Chris Abrahams, photo courtesy the artists


From the RealTime Archive: Jon Rose

The Warmun Wreck

Jon Rose: The Wreck Residency

8 November 2017


Music vs capitalism: ghosts in the machine

Angus McPherson: Jon Rose, The Museum Goes Live

RealTime issue #135 Oct-Nov 2016


The music of archival trackwork

Zsuszanna Soboslay: Jon Rose. Ghan Tracks

RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 pg. 43


Visit Gail Priest’s 2015 guide to Jon Rose in RealTime or go directly to individual reviews and articles below:

Gail Priest, Archive Highlights guide to Jon Rose in RealTime

Online exclusive


Past reclamations, future provocations

Julian Knowles, Jon Rose’s The Music of Place: Reclaiming a Practice

RealTime issue #116 Aug-Sept 2013 p48


Earbash CD Review: Resin

Chris Reid: Jon Rose, Resin

RealTime issue #115 June-July 2013 p46


On the road with Rose

Rishin Singh: Jon Rose’s Sound Circus

RealTime issue #112 Dec-Jan 2012 p42


No strings attached

Simon Charles: Jon Rose, Atticus and guests: Metapraxis

RealTime issue #111 Oct-Nov 2012 p48


RealTime TV: Jon Rose

Jim Denley speaks with Jon Rose, Don Banks Music Award Winner 2012

RealTime issue #108 April-May 2012, web


Post impressions


RealTime: Hollis Taylor’s book about an epic fence-playing journey

RealTime issue #82 Dec-Jan 2007 pg. 40


The sound of bicycles singing


Shannon O’Neill: Jon Rose & Robin Fox, Pursuit
RealTime issue #90 April-May 2009 pg. 48

Vigorous exercise & a well-balanced diet
Gail Priest: The now now festival 2010
RealTime issue #96 April-May 2010 pg. 39

Listening to history


Jon Rose’s 2007 Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address
RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008

Making instruments, ears, audiences

Gail Priest surveys the issues and events of the REV Festival
RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 online exclusive


8 June 2018