Today our creative prompt comes from Jon Rose: violinist, composer, improviser, instrument builder, multi-media artist and cultural critic.

What we’re making today

In a pre-Covid world, we hoped today we would all be together in a room building and playing one-string violins together! Instead, today we’re taking inspiration from Jon’s mad-scientist musical mind to create our own instruments.

What this is, what it’s made out of and what it sounds like is entirely up to you. Be sure to give it a name, take a photo of it, then record a brief demonstration of your new creation (approx 60 seconds). We’ll layer these recordings to create an orchestra of unknown instruments.

Jon Rose

Jon Rose is the major philosopher and cosmologist in a violin-centric world. Through his work he has fashioned totally new ways for violinists to think of their bows and their instruments. He has given listeners freshly made dimensions to contemplate. 

— David Harrington, Kronos Quartet

Jon Rose started playing the violin at 7 years old, after winning a music scholarship to King’s School Rochester. He gave up formal music education at the age of 15 and from then on, was mostly self-taught.

Throughout the 1970’s, first in England then in Australia, he played, composed and studied in a large variety of music genres. He became the central figure in the development of Free Improvisation in Australia, performing in almost every Art Gallery, Jazz and Rock club in the country – either solo or with an international pool of improvising musicians called The Relative Band.

In 1986, he moved to Berlin in order to more fully realise his on-going project The Relative Violin. This is the development of a total artform based around the one instrument. Jon has designed over 30 new string instruments as he creates a new, alternative, personal and revised history for the violin.

The Music Board of The Australia Council has honored Jon Rose with its most prestigious award for life time achievement and contribution to Australian music, The Don Banks Prize 2012.

For more on Jon, visit

Extra Credit

The Rosenberg Museum is one of Jon’s most impressive creations – a cabinet of curiosities dedicated to the violin, highlighting stories that are musically other, historically twisted, or culturally critical. In its 30 year history, the Museum has appeared in installations across Europe and Australia.

The collection features a huge number of home-made and unusual instruments. In the videos below, you can see just a few of Jon’s inventions – ‘Slow Bow’, ‘Help Violin!’ and a variety of new instruments displayed at the Substation (Melbourne) as part of Jon’s Violin Generator show in 2019.

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