The Radical Violin Project

For the opening post on this site (it has taken me some time to do this I know) I think it best to introduce the basic concepts of the Radical Violin project as are outlined in the Manifesto of the Radical Violinist. The Manifesto is currently manifested as a part of my PhD dissertation, submitted at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University, early last year (2013). I’m presently working on revising the Manifesto for publication. So without further introductions here is the basic outline of the Radical Violin project as it stands today (it is a constantly evolving thing):

The Manifesto of the Radical Violinist is a declaration of progressive instrumental practice that is unprecedented in the history of the instrument, and furthermore is the only such work to emerge out of violin performance discourse in the 21st Century. Drawing from various 20th-century cultural manifestos – such as Luigi Russolo’s ‘Art of Noises’, Leon Trotsky’s ‘Literature and Revolution’, Jaques Derrida’s ‘Spectres of Marx’, various writings from ‘American ethnic’ violinist Henry Flynt, and more obscure writings such as those of Anarchist and artist Ben Morea – The Manifesto of the Radical Violinist serves as a call for a new approach to violin performance practice. It also serves as a blueprint for further research into a world of violin performance practice and cultural production born in the radical underground of 1960s New York City, as well as other major counter-cultural centres across Europe, Asia and elsewhere, and which has continued into the current period. This manifesto is part of a wider renegade history of the violin dating back to the earliest days of recording technology and further back to the innovations of forward-thinking composer-violinists such as Heinrich Ignaz Biber (as distinct from what I would term the “mainstream” practices of the Corelli school which persist even today). This is a daring, unorthodox and challenging project ultimately designed to critique – in the venerable tradition of Marxist dialectical criticism – the false hegemonies placed on our notions of the violin’s, and violinists’ position within history and society. Violin culture is dynamic, and by no means homogeneous, yet the history books and theoretical works of the past do not reflect this, rather, focussing on clichéd and outmoded notions of high art virtuosic supremacy (Jascha Heifetz and early 20th century concert violinists), Europeanised jazz (Stephane Grapelli, Jean-Luc Ponty), or wholesome folk fiddling. The Radical Violin project aims to pull apart these clichés and display a living, breathing culture of instrumental performance that transcends and subverts traditional, normalised perspectives of the violin’s place, and ultimately will work as a call to arms for all instrumentalists to create vital new work that addresses, advocates and criticises culture, society, religion, philosophy, politics and the environment in an effective, subversive and powerful fashion.

Since developing these violin-specific ideas I have been delving into ways in which instrumentalists (and this includes electronic musicians of a certain ilk) can collectivise, and decolonise, music in the current epoch. It’s clear to me that the 21st century in its early decades, wracked by war and inequality, requires a strong and highly organised response from musicians.

I intend to post words more regularly here from now on, however it’s still worth the interested reader’s time to travel of the Underground Violin blog to find video, sound and other ephemera relating to undercurrents in fiddling. This space for theory, that space for advocacy.

You’ll hear from me again soon,


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