For over 16 years Mikel Rouse has been closely associated with the John Cage Trust, under the direction of Laura Kuhn, and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Below are a number of highlights.

2013 – Mikel Rouse Video Wall Installation of John Cage’s 4’33″

In February 2013, the New World Symphony presented Making the Right Choices: A John Cage Centennial Celebration, a spectacular three-day festival dedicated to the music and ideas of John Cage. As part of the festival, NWS hosted a new video installation entitled NWS: 4’33″, created by New York-based composer, director, performer and recording artist Mikel Rouse; which consisted of video performances contributed by Cage fans via a special YouTube site set up by Rouse.

4’33″ is John Cage’s most famous-and controversial-work. Composed in 1952 for any instrument (or combination of instruments), the three-movement score instructs the performer NOT to play the instrument for the entire duration of the piece. The work, commonly referred to as “four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence,” consists only of the sounds of the performance environment.

To create the video installation NWS: 4’33″, Mr. Rouse worked with programmer Austin Lin, The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Illinois eDream Institute. Mr. Rouse is the first Visiting Research Artist of NCSA, an organization that is dedicated to promoting arts that are conceived, created and conveyed through digital technologies.

The public was invited to record and submit their own video, and visit the installation during the festival to see their work in the SunTrust Pavilion at the New World Center. These videos will be included in an online Archive of the event, a lasting tribute to this defining and seminal artist.

NWS: 4’33” Installation by Mikel Rouse
Installation Programing: Austin Lin
with the support of the eDream Institute and
the National Center for Supercomputing Applications

2012 – Mikel Rouse Film: John Cage On & Off the Air!

Mikel Rouse commissioned for a new ‘stage film’ for The City Wears a Slouch Hat. Saturday, November 17, 2012. John Cage: On & Off the Air! celebrates this engagement with an ever-changing program of works wrapped around a newly staged revival of Cage’s peripatetic The City Wears a Slouch Hat (CBS Radio, 1942). Based on a play by Kenneth Patchen, it features a newly commissioned film of light and shadows by the New York composer Mikel Rouse and performed by the celebrated Canadian-based percussion ensemble NEXUS. The film for The City Wears a Slouch Hat incorporated the use of shadows to simulate characters of a live performance. In this way, the “shadow film” mirrored the live action appearing on stage, as well as becoming a “portable set.”

Photos by Emy Martin

2012 – John Cage Prepared Piano for iPhone™, iPad™ and Android™

Celebrate John Cage’s 100th birthday by playing the CagePiano app on your iOS or Android mobile device. One of the many ingenious innovations of American composer/writer/artist John Cage was his creation of the “prepared piano”, in which he placed objects beneath and between the strings of a grand piano to create an entirely new instrument.

The sounds of John Cage’s Prepared Piano are now available for you to play on your portable device with this innovative app. Play meticulously sampled sounds of a piano prepared with the actual materials used by John Cage in the preparations for his Sonatas and Interludes (1946-48) as sampled under the supervision of the John Cage Trust. These samples were first utilized in the John Cage Prepared Sample Library (see below), conceived and produced by Mikel Rouse.

2012 – Installation of Mikel Rouse’s Realization of Cage’s James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet and The Soundtrack CD for Cage’s Satie

As part of the Musee d’art contemporain de Lyon’s exhibit Cage’s Satie, Mikel Rouse was asked to re-create his score for Cage’s James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet (1982) as a sound installation. The installation included the surround sound score created by Rouse as well as interactive keyboards for museum participants to experience the samples sounds from Rouse’s realization. Rouse’s score included recordings, produced by Rouse, of Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham along with both the ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’ sounds called for in Cage’s score.

Rouse was also asked to create a ‘composition’ comprised of 12 Cage recordings to represent the first floor installation of Cage works on display.


The MP3 downloads from this page represent a number of variations of the CD that is included in the Cage’s Satie: Composition for Museum Catalog. The idea for the CD is to make a stereo representation of the experience of walking through the Cage’s Satie: Composition for Museum exhibition. Spatial modeling software is used to enhance the effect of moving from one sound station to another. It is also the intention of the curators to have a variety of interpretations (listener ‘viewpoints’) of the CD mix and through a chance operation ‘generator’, offer different downloads in the MP3 format.

– Mikel Rouse, composer

To download a composed mix, please click Here.

2006 – International Cloud Atlas, music for Merce Cunningham’s eyeSpace

Dubbed by one critic as “Cage and Cunningham on steroids”, International Cloud Atlas is the latest release from the mind of Mikel Rouse. Rouse conceived this idea to accompany the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s eyeSpace and thought it would be a perfect homage to Cage and Cunningham to have everyone listening on iPods (set to shuffle, of course) as they watched the performance unfold. Says Rouse, “The sequence of tracks on this recording represents but one version of this composition. As with the dance performance, the sequence may be set to “shuffle” to yield a possible 3,628,800 permutations”. ICA was 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.

John Rockwell of the New York Times said of International Cloud Atlas: “What was thrilling about hearing the music this way was how personal it was. We were all cocooned in our own worlds, hearing something different, just for us. “All the audience members have their own secret, their own special version,” Mr. Rouse was quoted as saying in Time Out New York. It was the purest realization of Mr. Cunningham’s chance aesthetic, the ultimate in intimacy”.

Music composed and arranged for iPods
For The Merce Cunningham Dance Company

2009 – Merce Cunningham 1919 – 2009.

While Merce Cunningham was and will remain an icon of contemporary dance, he will be remembered fondly in the new music community for his lifelong collaboration with John Cage as well as for commissioning musical works from a very wide range of composers—in fact, Cunningham commissioned more music for dance than anyone else in the 20th century. One of the most unusual scores created for Cunningham in recent years was the score for eyeSpace, for which audience members were given iPods to listen to during the performance, each with a different soundtrack. That score was created by Mikel Rouse who knew Cunningham for many years before they worked together on that project. So we asked Rouse to write a personal reminiscence.—FJO Click Here. for the full article.

2001 – Mikel Rouse’s Original Realization of Cage’s James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet

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 (with Merce Cunningham playing the role of Erik Satie and John Kelly playing the Narrator) 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.

2001 – A John Cage Prepared Piano Sample Library

In 2000 Mikel Rouse conceived and produced the first commercial CDROM release of prepared piano samples from John Cage’s Sonatas & Interludes. The original prepared piano and the only samples ever to be authorized by the estate of world-renown composer, John Cage. This particular collection of sounds was created for use in his magnum opus composition, Sonatas & Interludes (February 1946-March 1948). Using his original materials and following the precise instructions found at the head of his published score, various “mutes” were inserted between the strings of the keys, then each note pristinely recorded and programmed to bring you the instrument as Cage himself both envisioned and performed. Forty-five of the piano’s eighty-eight keys were prepared, eleven with double preparations; three dynamic levels in five articulations comprise a total of 1,320 samples. This landmark achievement makes an authentic prepared piano, and by extension the works of John Cage, available to sampler owners in one of the most unique virtual instruments ever created.

1997-2000 Principle Archivist for the John Cage Trust

From 1997 to 2000 Mikel Rouse assisted the John Cage Trust in preserving and archiving John Cage recordings. This followed Rouse’s 1992 archiving of the complete recordings of Arthur Russell (including over 900 reels of tape, commissioned by Point Records and Philip Glass). Rouse was instrumental in archiving and discovering a number of recordings thought lost including rare tape pieces by Morton Feldman and Earl Brown.