Mikel Rouse was born in 1957 in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute and the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Rouse moved to New York City in 1979, where he studied African and other World Musics and began his study of the Schillinger Method of Composition.
Upon moving to New York, Mr. Rouse formed his contemporary chamber ensemble, Mikel Rouse Broken Consort. With Broken Consort, Rouse produced numerous recordings including Soul Menu (1993); A Lincoln Portrait (1988); A Walk In The Woods (1985), which appeared on The New York Times list of the “Ten Best Records of 1985”; and Jade Tiger (1984).
Additional recordings span a variety of genres: Etudes (1980); Set The Timer (1985); Social Responsibility (1987); Against All Flags (1988), which was The New York Times “Pop Album of the Week” upon release; Colorado Suite (1984); and Quorum (1984), the first piece of its kind for sequencer. Quorum was used for Ulysses Dove’s Vespers and a film of this work, directed by David Hinton, aired on PBS’s Great Performances “Dance in America” series and received two primetime Emmy Awards.
In 1995, Rouse premiered and directed the first opera in a trilogy of modern operas: Failing Kansas, inspired by Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. This led to an emerging art form he calls “counterpoetry,” which involves the use of multiple unpitched voices in counterpoint. Other works that employ this technique include the CD Living Inside Design (1994), a collection of extended spoken songs, and Autorequiem (1994) for strings, percussion and voices.
In 1996 Mr. Rouse premiered and directed the modern opera Dennis Cleveland at The Kitchen in New York. Dennis Cleveland was hailed by The Village Voice as “the most exciting and innovative new opera since Einstein on the Beach“. The Australian Broadcasting Company filmed a documentary of Dennis Cleveland which aired nationally in 2001. Additional performances of Dennis Cleveland include The Eclectic Orange Festival in Costa Mesa, California in 1999; the Perth International Arts Festival in Perth, Western Australia in 2000; the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, where the production was redesigned in 2001 with assistance from the University of Illinois; and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York in May of 2002. In 1998, the Brooklyn Academy of Music commissioned the third opera of his trilogy, The End Of Cinematics.
In addition to Mr. Rouse’s early director roles for the stage, he directed the films Roundtable (1979), The Glass Bead Game (1982), A Walk in the Woods (1985), Funding (2001), The End Of Cinematics (2002) and Music For Minorities (2004).
In 1999 Mr. Rouse completed Return, a collection of songs built around samples from his 1985 Book One for string quartet. Also in 1999, Mr. Rouse completed the music for the multimedia work Cameraworld, collaborating with video artist Cliff Baldwin. In 2000, Mikel Rouse completed the score and film for Funding, a full-length feature DVD/film/chamber orchestra work. In 2000 he conceived and produced the first commercial CDROM release of prepared piano samples from John Cage’s Sonatas & Interludes. These samples were later used for the Cage Prepared Piano App for iPhone, iPad and Android.
In 2001 the John Cage Trust commissioned Mikel Rouse to realize the score for Cage’s radio-play-turned-theatrical-production James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet. Mr. Rouse completed the score at Louisiana Tech University during the beginning of his three-year Meet the Composer Residency in Ruston, Louisiana. He also played the part of James Joyce (opposite Merce Cunningham as Erik Satie) in the international 2001-2002 tour of An Alphabet, premiering at the Edinburgh International Festival and including runs at the Dublin Fringe Festival, the Hebbel Theatre in Berlin, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Cal Performances at Berkeley, California, the Perth International Arts Festival in Western Australia, and the Eclectic Orange Festival in Costa Mesa, California.
In 2002 he released two CDs, Cameraworld and a remastered Failing Kansas, and one DVD, the film Funding, through the major public online retail outlets. In 2005 he released Test Tones, completed in 2002 and Music for Minorities, completed in 2003. The live multimedia concert of Cameraworld premiered March 1, 2003 at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Gainesville, FL. A mini-concert of songs and original film from Music for Minorities was presented September 2003 at the McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square in Charlotte, NC. The completed piece toured the US and Pacific Rim, including the Sydney Opera House, in 2005-2006, with commissioning support from UCLA Live. Music For Minorities premiered on March 4, 2005 at On the Boards, Seattle WA. In 2004, Mr. Rouse’s music was put on iTunes for electronic download sales.
The third opera in his trilogy, The End Of Cinematics premiered in Fall 2005, through collaboration with the Emerging Technologies department of the National Center for Supercomputing Technologies and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana, with further commissioning support from the Mondavi Center at the University of California, Davis; and the University of Florida, Gainesville. In fall 2006, Mr. Rouse embarked on a major tour of The End Of Cinematics. Stops included The Carolina Performing Arts Center, Chapel Hill, NC; The Brooklyn Academy of Music Brooklyn, New York; The University of Florida Performing Arts, Gainesville, FL; Liverpool Culture Company, Liverpool, UK and The Miami Performing Arts Center Miami, FL.
A new piece commissioned by The Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the John Cage Trust and Betty Freeman premiered at The Joyce Theater, NYC in October 2006. The piece was scored for multiple iPods set to “shuffle” so that each audience member had a different realization of the score. The music for the piece, International Cloud Atlas, was released exclusively on iTunes and was available for download prior to the premiere. In addition to International Cloud Atlas, Mr. Rouse also released two additional recordings: House Of Fans and Love At Twenty.
In 2008, The Luminato Festival in Toronto, Ontario presented Mr. Rouse’s entire Opera Trilogy in repertory utilizing three separate performance spaces: The Bluma Appel Theatre, the Studio of the Toronto Film School and Factory Theatre.
In 2010, Mr. Rouse’s New York season included the BAM premiere of Gravity Radio, a song cycle interspersed with live AP news updates; 2 CD releases: Recess and Corner Loading (Volume 1); 2 visual art exhibits: Passport: 30 Years Drawn on the Road (as part of the New York Pubic Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center’s announced acquisition of Rouse’s archive) and False Doors, an exhibition of sketch books, manuscripts and videos at the Margarete Roeder Gallery and a 2 week retrospective screening of Rouse’s films at Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center. In 2011 Mr. Rouse release his 30th CD, the Double Album Boost|False Doors.
In 2011 Mr. Rouse realized a sound installation version of his score for the John Cage radio play An Alphabet at the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art. He was also commissioned by the John Cage Trust to produce a ‘stage film” for the Fisher Center production of Cage’s The City Wears A Slouch Hat. In 2012 Rouse became the first eDream Visiting Research Artist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in Urbana, IL. During this residency, Rouse, along with collaborator Ben Neill, produced the techno opera The Demo, based on the 1968 demo of Douglas Engelbart, which introduced the world to personal computing. The Demo premiered at Bing Concert Hall in the spring of 2015 followed by worldwide international press coverage including The New York Times, Wired Magazine and ABC News.
This prolific artist’s compositions have been performed throughout the United States, Europe and the Pacific Rim. His work has been presented at major festivals, including the Bang On A Can Festival in New York City, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Perth International Arts Festival, the Eclectic Orange Festival in California, the New Zealand Festival in Wellington, and the Melbourne International Arts Festival.
Mr. Rouse is currently working on a 13-hour installation entitled One Boy’s Day, a minute-by-minute adaptation of the behavioral research of Roger Barker and Herbert Wright. A new recording, Metronome: TakeDown will be released in fall of 2015.
Mr. Rouse has received a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts (December 2001); a grant from the Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals (January 2001); a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation MAPP program (July 2000 & 2014); a commissioning grant from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust (November 1997-April 1999); an Edward F. Albee Fellowship (August 1996); numerous awards from Meet the Composer, including a Meet The Composer New Residencies Grant in Ruston, Louisiana (March 2001 through February 2004) and a commission from the Meet the Composer/Reader’s Digest Commissioning Program (November 1995-April 1996); a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (October 1991-February 1992); and numerous ASCAP Awards (1985-present). He has thrice been nominated for the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts (1994, 1999, 2001). In 2010, the New York Pubic Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center announced the acquisition of Rouse’s archive including analog recordings, films, manuscripts and correspondence. He was awarded the 2011 Alumni Achievement Award from the Conservatory of Music at UMKC. In 2011, he was nominated for a USA Artist Fellowship. Mikel Rouse currently resides in New York City. More information, including updates on works and discography, is available at www.mikelrouse.com