The Lipinski Interview
(from the TAZ newspaper, Berlin January 10, 1989)
The day was much like any other for this time of year-
oppressively hot and sticky. I was here trying to locate a man by the name
of Rosenberg - Dr. Johannes Rosenberg. Once a big shot violinist in the
concert world - now apparently retired in the town of his birth, right here
in Australia. After months of international investigations, I had finally
tracked him down to this little town of Wagga Wagga - deep in the outback
of New South Wales. Well where was he? I kicked up a little dust as I edged
down the main street. It was close to midday and there was nobody around.
The place looked like nothing had changed since the Body Line Series.
And it was hot as hell. Then I heard voices coming from
the only double storey building at the crossroads. The sign said
Grand Hotel and I went in. My first impression was
that I had walked into a black hole. I could see absolutely
nothing. It took my eyes exactly five minutes to adjust from the brilliant
light outside to the dark qualities of the Wagga Wagga Grand Hotel.
The sound of the huge fan in the ceiling was so loud that
I had to shout at top volume my enquiries concerning Rosenberg. Nobody took
No one's head even twitched an inch from the eyes straight
ahead position. I left and started to make my way back down the street -
then I saw him.
At first I thought it was someone mowing the lawn, but
I dismissed the idea immediately - there was no grass around here, hadn't
rained in years. He was pushing some sort of music apparatus.
As I later ascertained, it was the triple neck, double
piston, wheeling violin - natürlich! Slowly, facing off and at some
we gradually approached each other.
Closer and closer we came with increasing probability.
I assumed he had seen me but obviously not - as we passed each other like
cliches in the night. He was wearing a pink suit - body and head bent slightly
forward under a huge black hat, his eyes transfixed on some far-out point
in the far-out future; intensely he concentrated on the music. I swung round
and moved alongside the violinist. We moved on down the track together for
a while. A long while. Nothing was said.
I observed with great interest how the bowing of the good
Doctor was completely post modern in character. The double bow action maintained
a regular arpeggio while Rosenberg's fingers, from both left and right hands,
achieved astonishing independent enharmonic structures with a high degree
of tonal ambiguity.
Suddenly he spoke and announced that he had just finished
performing his 1941 composition entitled 4 Kilometres; 33 Metres. He also
noted that the quality of the road surface had given rise to some interesting
spiccato effects in the bowing. He pointed out that for a retrograde performance
of the whole piece, we would have to walk the entire four kilometres and
33 metres again - but backwards. Luckily for me, the 69 year old Doctor
decided against it on this particular day. That is perhaps how he got his
nickname around here as play it again, doc. My name's Lipinski, by the way,
And I'm Olga. Rosenberg began to do a retrospective binary
search on the Berlin Opus. In 1956, he had been the first Australian to
emigrate to East Germany, not very fashionable at the time. And even less
fashionable now, and soon to be impossible, he suggested with a wink as
we walked on and Wagga Wagga gradually disappeared for view. The sun was
directly overhead, our shadows projected on the road in
front of us. To the left and right a gum or a bush occasionally interrupted
the endless flat plain. There was no wind and nothing seemed to move.
talk about the Second Viennese School of Composition" he said.
I asked him to explain about the relationship of Scale
and substitution with regard to the whole tone row phenomenon. "Theft"
he sighed. "Mon Dieu! Every body doing a number on everybody else".
He paused for about half a kilometre, then he went on to say
"all my research and concepts have also been stolen.
For example where do you think John Cage got the 4 Minutes 33 Seconds idea
from? What a scoop, no? And as for John Coltranes's Sheets of Sound' concept,
I was there with his wife Alice putting out the washing when the idea came
to my mind. And, comrade, let's not forget the Beatles, remember I gave
them violin lessons in 1965 -along with some Zen and other stuff. Yes, quick
as cosmos, there's John Lennon using a segment from my 9th Violin Concerto
on the White Album -called it Number 9 of course."
Rosenberg then launched into a very long speech about theft
in music history. He is quoting examples from just about every style of
music in the world: From Johannes Brahms to Johnny Cash to John Birks, Dizzy'
Gillespie to Johnny Frank Sinatra. From Joheinz Stockhausen to Javi Shankar
to Jichel Jackson. I can tell you, readers, there was nothing left for
"Let's take for example thematic theft -like the main
theme from the last movement of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony - which was stolen
for Handel- which was stolen for Corelli - which was stolen from Anon. Period.
Or the stylistic theft of Donovan from Arlo Guthrie, from Robert Zimmerman,
from Woody Guthrie, who took it from wee Jock McJody of Aberdeen. Or theft
in the name of education, like the totally disgusting Jamie Abersoll who
financially exploited the music of Charlie Parker. Or even the theft of
musician's artifacts and personal features. For example, Beethoven's death
mask was immediately copied and these copies were distributed worldwide
- masquerading as original. Indeed, one went to Australia wrapped in Beethoven's
very own jacket. And I'm wearing this very jacket, right now."
As the shadows lengthened, we walked on, the music from
the wheeling violin became for me like a mantra from a holy man. The Doctor
was just in the middle of connecting the Solomon Island tradition of
in major seconds with the late works of Schoenberg when he paused for about
400 metres. Then he said to me "sink a few tubes". I asked for
a translation into English. Like a miracle, a couple of ice cold cans of
beer appeared from the side of the triple neck, double piston, wheeling
violin. "Occasionally I use this particular violin to round up sheep.
It's a bit of extra performance work I do. I had to find a reasonable solution
to problems of dehydration while working those long hours, hence the
unit on the violin. It's also good for chucking wheelies."
For a man who had the world at his feet, both as a concert
violinist and, literally, by being the first violinist to climb Mount Everest
- did he have any regrets? Yes, there was one. In the early 70s the Australian
Research Department of the CSIRO had invited him to perform solo to 10,000
penguins in the Antarctic - part of a behavioural study on concert audiences
and temperature. Performing to this well dressed audience was an inspiration.
Rosenberg played a series of -40 degree C concerts, but the effect on the
environment was disastrous - as we now can perceive by the damage to the