Conceived, written and directed by Mikel Rouse

Fusing Rock with Cinema

Mikel Rouse premieres ‘Cameraworld’ Saturday night at the Phillips Center

Few can describe the new show world-renowned composer Mikel Rouse is bringing to the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts this weekend. After all, no one has ever seen the completed project. “Cameraworld” is making its world premiere in Gainesville on Saturday.

The multimedia barrage combines music composed by Rouse and a feature film by Cliff Baldwin, who used a digital camera to capture iconic images of American society, from a suburban mall to a congested freeway. Rouse’s music will be played in digital surround sound as performers, including Rouse, dressed in Temptations-style suits, sing and move in sync in front of a large screen displaying Baldwin’s video.

“In ignoring storyline and placing emphasis on visually dynamic subject matter, the visual component of ‘cameraworld’ evolves organically,” notes the “cameraworld” Web site. The production offers more of Rouse’s rock and rap than his earlier, theme-heavy work.

“I’m classically trained, but I came out of rock ‘n’ roll and jazz, and my chamber ensembles played clubs in New York,” Rouse said this week shortly after arriving in Gainesville. “The idea behind ‘cameraworld’ is to put a band back together and to do the bus and van tour again, not just touring art centers but clubs and black box theaters.”

“Cameraworld” promises to offer “a new digital entertainment approach,” said Michael Blachly, director of the University of Florida Performing Arts. “He’s a remarkable artist, and we saw an opportunity to bring a young, creative composer who integrates music, theater and film in a new, experimental light to Gainesville. I think it’s going to be of real interest to our community, especially our student community.”

“It will be unique for our audiences,” he added. “People might not walk out saying, ‘That was the best show I ever saw.’ In fact, they might say, ‘I didn’t really get it.'” But, certainly, they will be saturated with sight and sound and motion. Blachly is thrilled to host the show’s premiere and, thus, allow Gainesville to be at the forefront of unique new work.

Blachly saw Rouse’s “Dennis Cleveland,” the second in the composer’s operatic trilogy, in Los Angeles. “Dennis Cleveland” was a modern opera setup as a talk show with Rouse playing the show host. In 2000, Rouse released “Funding,” a musical and visual work that followed the lives of New Yorkers through turbulent economic times. The work is available on DVD.

And while the music for “Funding” tends to be haunting and, at times, slow, “cameraworld” producer Michael Mushella said the music for the new show has a driving dance beat that might move people out of their seats. “It’s gonna make people want to move,” he said. “This is not a passive event. If people are compelled to move, they should.” Mushella described “cameraworld” as a “blend of pop and hip hop; it’s sort of an urban groove pop track … It is unlike anything he has done before.”

“A lot of the stuff I’ve been doing the last 10 or 15 years is influenced by hip hop,” Rouse said. “It started when I was working on the first opera ‘Failing Kansas,’ which is a spoken-text opera that I used a technique that I sort of invented called ‘counterpoetry’ where I would write multi-rhythmic lines of counter-point in different metric structures – five against seven against four. “But I wouldn’t have them sung, these rhythms; I’d have them spoken, so it was a really jarring effect. It kind of sounded like the chatter that you have going on in your head all the time, only I put structure to it.”

“He uses counterpoetry, which is not that far from rap, so there’s a real timeliness to his work,” Blachly noted. “He looks at a way of bringing new people into the theater by merging traditional work, by looking at it in a new way.” Rouse studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He then moved to New York City, where he studied world music, particularly from Africa.

Cameraworld Photo Gallery