Rouse, Mikel (actually, Michael Joseph)

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Rouse, Mikel (actually, Michael Joseph)

Rouse, Mikel (actually, Michael Joseph) , formidably original American composer; b. St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 26, 1957. His father was a state trooper and his mother a social (case) worker. He attended the Kansas City Art Inst. where he studied music, art, and filmmaking (graduated 1977), and the Cons. of Music at the Univ. of Mo. at Kansas City. He moved to N.Y. in 1979, where he further studied African and other world musics, as well as the Schillinger method of composition. He formed his own contemporary chamber ensemble, Mikel Rouse Broken Consort, consisting of keyboard, electric guitar/bass, woodwinds, and percussion, with which he produced numerous recordings, including Jade Tiger (1984), A Walk In The Woods (1985), A Lincoln Portrait (1988), and Soul Menu (1993). Rouse has become most widely known for his trilogy of operas, beginning with Failing Kansas (1994), inspired by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which explores his technique of counterpoetry (a rhythmically strict counterpoint of unpitched/pitched and spoken/sung voices). Other works that explore this technique include Living Inside Design (1994; a collection of extended spoken songs) and Autorequiem (1994) for Strings, Percussion, and Soice. The second in the trilogy is the critically acclaimed Dennis Cleveland (1996), the first-ever talk-show opera. The third and final work is the in-progress The End of Cinematics, in collaboration with John Jesurun, based upon four “retro-songs” and involving the use of real-time film. Composers are usually elevated by terms applied to their work that manage to enter common musical parlance. Rouse has not one but two: the above-mentioned counterpoetry (of his own devising) and totalism (coined by the N.Y. critic Kyle Gann). His Quorum (1984), the first piece of its kind for drum sequencer, was used by Ulysses Dove in his choreographic work, Vespers, presented by the Alvin Ailey Dance American Theater in 1987.


DRAMATIC: Opera: Balboa, video opera (1982); Glass Bead Game, after Hermann Hesse (1989); Trilogy, comprising Failing Kansas, after Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (N.Y., Feb. 2, 1995), Dennis Cleveland (N.Y., Oct. 28, 1996), and The End of Cinematics (1999). other: Living Inside Design for Voice, Taped Accompaniment, and Video Images (1994; also for Voice and Ensemble); cameraworld, digital multi-media project (1999). ORCH.: Autumn in New York (1982); Shield 81 for Chamber Orch. (1982); A Walk in the Woods for Chamber Orch. (1984); Red 20 (1984); American Nova (1985). CHAMBER: Quartet for 3 Violins and Double Bass (1981); Jade Tiger for Chamber Ensemble (1982); Colorado Suite for Violin and Electronics (1984); Quorum for 18 Percussionists (1984; also for Electronic Drum Sequencer); Book One, book of 9 string quartets (1986; N.Y, July 3, 1989); A Lincoln Portrait for Chamber Ensemble (1987); Hope Chest for Chamber Quartet (1991; N.Y, April 21, 1992); Copperhead for Electric Quartet of Woodwinds, Electronics, Keyboard, Bass, and Percussion (N.Y, April 21, 1992); Soul Menu for Chamber Ensemble (1993; N.Y, Jan. 16, 1994). piano : Two Paradoxes Resolved (1989). VOCAL: Etudes for Voice and Ensemble (1981); Set the Timer/Uptight for Voice and Ensemble (1986); Social Responsibility for Voice and Ensemble (1987); Against All Flags for Voice and Ensemble (1988); Left in My Life for Voices and Electronics (1993; Poitiers, France, Nov. 19, 1994); Kiss Him Goodbye for Voices and Electronics (1993; N.Y., May 21, 1994); Living Inside Design for Voice and Ensemble (Rome, April 27, 1994; also for Voice, Taped Accompaniment, and Video Images); Autorequiem for Voices and Orch. (Minn., May 7, 1994); return, a collection of songs constructed around samples from Book One, for Voice and Ensemble (1999). electronic: Untitled (1982); Quorum for Electronic Drum Sequencer (1984; also for 18 Percussionists).

—Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire