Mikel Rouse finds a poignant spark in the cinematic jump cut at BAM.
By Steve Smith. Time Out New York. September 28, 2006
FREEZE FRAME Live action and film intertwine unpredictably in The End of Cinematics. Photograph: Dan Merlo
The first image that greets the audience in The End of Cinematics, a new multimedia opera by New York composer-performer Mikel Rouse, is a projected warning: cell phones will interfere with the technology used in tonight’s performance. Such admonitions are a necessary part of every live-performance experience nowadays, but Rouse’s caveat carries a special urgency: His new production—the third in an “opera-verité” trilogy that began with 1994’s Failing Kansas and continued with the groundbreaking 1995 smash Dennis Cleveland—relies on technology to an unusual degree.
Speaking from the streets of Manhattan—via cell phone, naturally—Rouse explains the warning that opens his show, which arrives at the BAM Harvey Theater on Wednesday 4. “There’s so much wireless communication going on between the video people, the robotic camera, the in-ear monitor system that the performers use to hear the prerecorded score,” he offers at a caffeinated clip. “Very often you’ll get interference, and it’s usually the result of some electronic device. It’s no different than what they tell you on an airplane—the chances are slim, and certainly in our case they’re not life-threatening; it just means that something might get shut down.”
Rouse’s kinetic, pop-derived music and imaginative stage productions have long been enriched by his innovative use of electronics; The End of Cinematics, a nonnarrative gloss on the commodification of cinema, inspired by writings of Susan Sontag, pushes the envelope further still. “We’ve got a five-camera live shoot that’s integrating prerecorded film shot in Paris with live video,” Rouse says. “The performers are duplicating [characters] in the prerecorded film. There’s a six-panel rear-projection system; the lower panels show a lot of the same scenes that you’ll see in the upper panels, but using CGI, we’ve dropped out the people that were in them, so they can act as set-drops for the performers as they’re photographed live. Then those images are projected on a front scrim, to make this sort of montage.”
Rouse created the ambitious production last year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Key to its gestation was his access to the school’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). “They gave me this fabulous tour of their facility, and turned me on to technology that I had never seen demonstrated,” Rouse says. “One was stereo television, which we could never afford. I didn’t want the entire audience wearing glasses to view this piece, so I came up with this idea of how to ‘fake’ stereo television. Rather than go for the technofest that I could have done by having access to the stuff at the NCSA, it was actually more interesting to me that they inspired something.”
The enormity of the undertaking isn’t lost on the composer. “It’s like the scale of a stupid rock show—minus the stupid,” Rouse says. “When I saw the semi truck that was carrying the show, I thought I’d either arrived or made the biggest mistake of my life.” Even so, audience response assured him that he was on to something new and unexpected. “I wanted to comment on the vapidity of corporate entertainment,” he says. “Inadvertently, I did something completely different, which was to offer an alternative.”
For all its theoretical underpinnings, the sensuous imagery and sleek beats in The End of Cinematics might tempt audiences to simply sit back and soak in it. Not a problem, says Rouse, who refers to the collaborations of John Cage and Merce Cunningham: “What is so brilliant about what they set up is that you’ve got permission to check in and check out.”
Mention of Cunningham is timely—the choreographer’s company will present eyeSpace, a new piece set to Rouse’s International Cloud Atlas, during a Joyce Theater run that opens on October 10. Rouse’s score, provided with the ticket (and one of three new Rouse albums available on iTunes), was created for playback on an iPod in shuffle mode. “Similar to Cinematics, this asks an audience to completely rethink what a theatrical experience is,” Rouse says. “What you have now is a situation where all the audience members have their own secret, their own special version.”
The End of Cinematics opens on Wednesday 4 at BAM.
THEATRE: The End of Cinematics, Royal Court
Nov 17 2006
by Philip Key, Liverpool Daily Post
FORGET the arty title, the fact that it is part of the Liverpool Culture Company series of shows and that it is sold as a multi-media event.
The End of Cinematics is one of those shows that you are unlikely to forget. Directed, produced and written by American composer Mikel Rouse, it leaves the jaw dropping, the eyes widening and the ears filling.
With six background screens, another in front and six on-stage performers, it is a mixture of movie, music and theatre that grabs the attention from the start and never lets you go.
Rouse himself is a major presence, dressed in a trench coat, singing and looking pretty moody for most of the time. He dominates the show.
Around him are others dressed in similar coats and three women in black and white checkered coats. Behind them on screens are Parisian street scenes, other characters and cafe situations.
What is it all about? I have no idea and in the end it does not matter.
What we get are visual ideas (often six different images), music that merges Philip Glass’s minimalist works with The Beatles, on stage singing coupled with semaphore movement and some textual comments on screen.
It is all quite eye-boggling and with the music, totally captivating. You may not agree that live on stage action, numerous back projections and live video of actors is where we are going. But you will agree that it is all fascinating.
Seeing characters both on stage, on film and duplicated is like nothing else you have seen before.
The six performers, Cynthia Enfield, Matthew Gondolfo, Christina Pawl, Robert Rivera, and Penelope Thomas together with Rouse himself, keep the action moving, much helped by Rouse’s vibrant score.
Some critics have complained about New York being involved in Liverpool’s Capital of Culture. For this show, they can only sit back and admire.
MUSIC REVIEW | ‘THE END OF CINEMATICS’
Corporate Entertainment, Criticized With a Rock Beat
By ALLAN KOZINN
Published: October 6, 2006
Mikel Rouse’s music is rooted in the sounds and textures of rock, but he seems to prefer the grander forms and structures of classical music. His big works of the last decade have been multimedia theatrical productions that he calls opera vérité. The latest, “The End of Cinematics,” opened at the Harvey Theater of the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Wednesday.
Richard Termine for The New York Times
“The End of Cinematics,” written and directed by Mikel Rouse, being performed at the Harvey Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Mr. Rouse describes “The End of Cinematics” as the conclusion of a trilogy about American culture. It follows “Failing Kansas,” which revisited the murder described in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood,” and “Dennis Cleveland,” which took the form of a television talk show. Its subject is film, and it is meant to be a lament on the death of the art-house movie theater and a critical look at the domination of the big screen by entertainment blockbusters and escapist fantasy.
Or at least that’s what Mr. Rouse says about the work in interviews. There is little in the piece itself to make that case.
Its backbone is a film Mr. Rouse made in Paris. Fragmentary and nonlinear, it is shown on monitors at the back of the stage, and occasionally projected onto a scrim at the front. Between the monitors and the scrim, Mr. Rouse and his ensemble sing to a recorded track and act short scenes that are also magnified on the scrim, creating an appealing three-dimensional stage picture that juxtaposes reality and projection and continually morphs. A philosophical overlay is hardly necessary, except as an excuse to call the work what it isn’t — an opera — instead of what it is: an extended rock work with a sophisticated stage show.
To put it differently, it seems less about film — artistic or otherwise — than about long-form pop video, and it frequently calls to mind quirky productions like the Talking Heads’ “Storytelling Giant.” And though Mr. Rouse’s music and staging are rich in original touches, his debts are clear as well, among them the jittery puppetlike movement that was long a David Byrne trademark, and the cryptic, ritualized hand gestures of Robert Wilson and Meredith Monk. Even the use of scrims and projections to create a changing three-dimensional space has a predecessor in Philip Glass’s “1,000 Airplanes on the Roof.”
Maybe proposing a grand concept for a nonlinear work is, by definition, asking for an argument. But the argument shouldn’t obscure this work’s strength, which is Mr. Rouse’s music. Sometimes built on heavy, repetitive beats, and sometimes couched in Beatle-esque psychedelia, the songs are vivid, pleasingly visceral and often engagingly harmonized, with amusingly off-kilter lyrics. That should be a sufficient draw, bigger themes notwithstanding.
“The End of Cinematics” will be performed tonight and tomorrow night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music,Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Fort Greene; (718) 636-4100 or bam.org
Matt Johnston · October 5, 2006
When I left Mikel Rouse’s revolutionary The End of Cinematics at BAM, I felt as if every sense I had, and possibly a sixth, had been completely sucked dry. In the late 19th century, there was an artistic movement in Europe led by Richard Wagner for a “total work of art,” or a “synthesis of the arts.” Rouse, in The End of Cinematics, may have unknowingly stumbled upon an answer to a great many of the questions Wagner and his followers spent years trying to resolve. And he has done it with a uniquely 21st century flavor.
The End of Cinematics combines musical composition, video (live and recorded), and live performance, all into one tightly woven, metatheatrical event. As the night began, we were offered popcorn walking into the theatre, and one giant movie screen towered in front of us. With the house lights still up, four brand new movie trailers played (including the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Spiderman 3 trailers). With cause, the audience was a bit restless; did any of us expect to be watching the new Spiderman 3 trailer upon arrival at the BAM Harvey Theater that night? Finally, the trailers ended, the houselights dimmed, and the music began at a volume that would never decrease, except to stop entirely. The screen’s transparency revealed itself and six performers were visible; behind them, a series of gigantic screens.
Over the course of 15 interweaving musical compositions, images floated and faded across the screen in the foreground and those in the background, while live performers danced mechanically and sung, or at least mouthed, the lyrics. The ambiguity here is representative of the ambiguity of the entire piece. Notions of “live” and “recorded” are obliterated. There is a truth there, in that there are live images projected of the performers on stage, as well as recorded bits in different locales, combined with surrealist images floating across the screen, and music. But all perceptions of what was really happening are blurred. I had no idea what was live and what was recorded. Normally, I expect something on a screen to be recorded, and see it in its relation to the live people on stage. In this performance, I was not allowed to make those distinctions.
When we watch an event in the theatre we unknowingly develop expectations for the execution of the event, and the limitations of the performers, the technical elements, and the design. What Rouse does is continually set up those expectations by showing us something that we understand (live performers dancing, movie trailers at the top of the show, graphic images on screen) and then subverting them. Every time I thought I had something to grab onto, my expectations would be destroyed.
For example, a single image on the screen, set to Rouse’s blaring music, would be on the giant foreground screen, with performers behind it, and other screens with separate images behind them. I could understand this relationship. But then, that image would start to bleed into the background image and, through the music, seem to guide the movement of the performers, while live cameras on them would actually be projected simultaneously with the image. Every level of performance became synthesized into one.
The one fault of the show is that it runs a bit too long on one meditative purpose. The exploration I have just mentioned was basically repeated over and over in the piece to an almost mind-numbing extent. There was no progression in the show, but rather, it sat on one idea, and turned it inside and out over and over again. But I have to recommend The End of Cinematics because it is a bold foray into uncharted territory in performance. There is little doubt that the influence of this technology, and the questions it is capable of exploring are palpable and exciting. And Rouse’s triumphant and heartbreaking score thundering through Brooklyn for 1-½ hours is enough in and of itself to witness this revolutionary event in the theatre.
SEPTEMBER 27, 2006
Mikel Rouse on the death of film and The End Of Cinematics
BY DAVID FELLERATH
The End Of Cinematics employs a mixture of projected film and live action.
Photo by Dan Marlo
The postmodern opera composer and filmmaker Mikel Rouse has never seen an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. It’s the principle of the thing. “It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy one. It’s just that what he represents is so pervasive,” Rouse said in a recent interview from New York.
Lest he be considered a killjoy, Rouse adds, “I’m all for mindless entertainment, but a steady diet of that is making America obese. Eating at McDonald’s is OK if you do it once a month!” This Thursday and Friday, Sept. 28 and 29, Rouse will open the world tour of his multimedia opera The End Of Cinematics at UNC’s Memorial Hall, before the show returns to New York and the Next Wave festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music. At a pre-performance symposium on Friday, noted composer and music critic Kyle Gann will be on hand [see Scan on page 45].
For two decades, Rouse has been a remarkably prolific composer, recording artist and filmmaker. He’s published string quartets and recorded at least one album of music every year for 20 years. And he has pushed the boundaries of the film medium with his conceptual compositions. The End Of Cinematics features Rouse himself along with vocal and instrumental performers in a post-cinematic light and sound extravaganza that mixes elements of live and prerecorded entertainment. “My music sounds familiar, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear very complex metric structures.”
The work, which premiered a year ago at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, represents the culmination of a three-part cycle collectively called the Opera Verité trilogy. The first, Kansas Failing, was a recreation of the events that inspired the book and movie In Cold Blood, in which Rouse returned to the same primary sources used by Truman Capote. Dennis Cleveland followed, in which Rouse played a mock preacher and broke the fourth wall, engaging audience participation.
The closing chapter, The End Of Cinematics, takes as its inspiration two widely noted late essays by Susan Sontag in which she lamented the end of classical cinema, “The Death of Cinema” and “A Century of Cinema,” both written for The New York Times. As much as Sontag represented the highbrow culture of her day, she also came from an era in which films by the European upstarts Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Bernardo Bertolucci jostled for space in urban theaters with the late work of such Hollywood masters as John Ford and Alfred Hitchcock. Movies were a fertile meeting ground of high and low art, and it was fashionable for high-end intellectuals to take them seriously.
But when Sontag’s cris de couer appeared in the late 1990s, Rouse notes, “She got a lot of flak.” Critics accused her of being out of touch with the new work of young international filmmakers, and of taking herself and her daily movie-going habit too seriously.
Rouse, born in 1957 in Poplar Bluff, Mo., is a generation younger than Sontag, but he feels similar nostalgia for a time when movies seemed to matter more. He’s lived in New York for 27 years and witnessed firsthand the dismantling of the cinematic culture as the rapidly yuppifying New York priced its art houses out of business. The Thalia Soho vanished, as did Theatre 80 St. Marks and Bleecker Street Cinema. These were dingy little places with eccentric schedules, and they were a place for a small subculture of movie lovers to rub shoulders in the anonymous darkness. (It was at the Thalia that I once watched Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief, one of the signature films of Italian neo-Realism, with a hot young filmmaker named Spike Lee seated across the aisle from me.)
The End Of Cinematics employs a mixture of projected film and live action.
Photo by Dan Marlo
But all of that is gone now. “I was heartbroken to see them close,” Rouse says. “America is very good at not valuing its own culture. Take jazz–in the 1940s and ’50s, the musicians had to go to Paris to make a living. But now we love jazz.”
“Now, when I go to the movies,” he says, “I feel like I’m going to an amusement park.”
Rouse acknowledges–and appreciates–the fundamentally populist nature of the cinematic medium. “First of all, our movie experience is affected by eating, the sugar rush we get from candy, soda and popcorn. Then, people go to the movies thinking, ‘I won’t have to think about my life for the next two hours.’ That’s very different from the mental state you’re in when you’re going to the theater or a dance performance.”
When Rouse read Sontag, however, he recognized a kindred spirit, someone who articulated what we have lost: an ability to be surprised, or enchanted. The special effects extravaganzas like King Kong (the Peter Jackson remake, that is) and The Matrix are old hat. It’s difficult to fathom the innocent wonder of the first people to see the first films by the Lumière brothers in Paris, such as the cinema world’s equivalent of the Wright brothers’ breakthrough, the one-minute 1895 film in which a train rolled into a station, and–legend has it–audiences bolted from their seats because they were afraid the train would hit them. And it’s hard to imagine any film by Pedro Almodóvar or Steven Soderbergh generating the passions of Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist or Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers.
With his latest work, Rouse is trying to recreate that sense of wonder Sontag mourned. The End Of Cinematics contains a libretto of non-narrative songs. It’s not a literal story, but an attempt to push our cinematic experience forward. Rouse employs six rear projection screens, and scrims in front of them. Actors perform in between, sometimes in the projected film, which was shot in Paris, and sometimes in front of the screens as live actors.
“The hyper-real 3-D element is what I’m most proud of,” Rouse says. “The distance from the rear projection to the front scrim is 12 feet, but [in the production] the stage appears to expand to 40 feet or so. It’s an interesting envelope between video projection and live performance.”
The End Of Cinematics will be performed at UNC’s Memorial Hall on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. The Friday performance will be preceded by a symposium at the Carolina Inn. For more information and tickets, go to www.carolinaperformingarts.org. For more on Mikel Rouse’s work, including song, film and performance samples, go to www.mikelrouse.com and www.endofcinematics.com.
TheLMagazine.com Reviews: The End of Cinematics
The End of Cinematics Offers New Beginnings
By Margi Rauchut (Click here to read Christine Licata’s counter-critique)
There seems to be a love triangle happening, and possibly an attempted murder, but, ultimately, watching producer/director Mikel Rouse’s rock opera The End of Cinematics (at BAM through Octber 7) is like reading Beckett. You can’t make sense of the images and form a plot, but you can enjoy them for their beauty, humor, and awkward attempts at raw emotion. Watching a man jump and twirl down a cobblestone alley wearing only a thong is curious even apart from a concrete framework, and hearing remixed, indifferent, female voices singing, “As I was dating, As I was dating the American Dream,” to a heavy beat is pleasantly chilling, even if the words are nonsensical.
In her article, “The Decay of Cinema,” Susan Sontag mourns the loss of an art form, arguing that movie theaters that once “kidnapped” audiences, dazzled them and taught them how to walk, smoke and kiss have decayed into an industry of poor quality and mass production. In response, Rouse kills the standard movie format and, with technology’s help, has created a 3D movie that suggests new posilbilities in film.
The End of Cinematics begins with complimentary popcorn and current movie previews, but awkward giggles throughout the audience suggest that no one’s forgotten they’re in an opera house. Rouse uses exceedingly loud surround sound, multiple screens, and on-stage performers to explore alternative avenues of cinematic production and simultaneously mock pop culture. Channel surfing has made us good at absorbing multiple, flashing images and segmented dialogue, and, having been groomed for the challenge, when Rouse flashes the leading actress (Amalie’s twin) across six screens or has the entire cast sing “Batman bringing me down,” the audience already knows how to zone out or digest it.
The End of Cinematics is a deliberate and thoughtful exaggeration of mindless entertainment, and as such, has become its alternative. Attempting to comment on the industry, Rouse has created art.
Mikel Rouse presents the end of cinema at BAM
THE END OF CINEMATICS
2006 Next Wave Festival
Brooklyn Academy of Music
BAM Harvey Theater
651 Fulton Street between Ashland Pl. & Rockwell Pl.
The BAM Harvey Theater, constructed in 1904, was turned into a first-run movie house after WWII, and it sort of returns to that time with Mikel Rouse’s audiovisual extravaganza THE END OF CINEMATICS. On the way in, the audience receives a free cup of popcorn and is then treated to a series of actual previews for such upcoming Hollywood blockbusters as SPIDER-MAN 3 and THE SIMPSONS MOVIE. But what comes next is like no other movie you’ve ever seen. Inspired by two Susan Sontag pieces on the death of cinema, Rouse has created a whirlwind production, eighty minutes of MTV-style rapid editing, loud music that drowns out words, and a nonlinear, impossible-to-follow narrative told in three levels of images. In the back are six screens that look like enormous television sets; while the top three show snippets of scenes shot in Paris with three men and three women, the bottom three show the same scenes with the characters digitally removed. The live actors themselves — the men dressed primarily in trench coats (evoking dirty old men at the movies?), the women in Louise Brooks-like hairstyles and black-and-white coats (resembling actual film strips?) — sing, move slowly and carefully, and sit at café tables in front of the bottom three screens, as if they had just walked out of the pictures. All is witnessed from behind an opaque scrim at the front of the stage on which is projected images from the back screens as well as occasional lines from the songs and live shots of the actors taken with a robotic camera. Thus, the six characters — including Rouse, the main singer — exist as both film and reality, virtually trapped between the shadows of cinema. The overpowering music, composed by Rouse, is a heady mix of pop, techno, and electronica. The plot doesn’t matter; all is artifice. The show runs through October 7 (Rouse will participate in a BAMdialogue with the audience after the October 5 performance), after which Rouse teams up with Merce Cunningham for the premiere of eyeSpace at the Joyce from October 10 to 15.
THE END OF CINEMATICS
Part three of a pop-opera trilogy by the highly original writer/composer Mikel Rouse. Film footage mingles with a layered score to provide a background for live performance as Rouse ruminates on whether or not commercialism has spoiled cinema. His two earlier “opera vérité” pieces, Failing Kansas (1994) and Dennis Cleveland (1996), were simply amazing, both musically and theatrically. BAM Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton St., Brooklyn, (718) 636-4100. Oct. 4–7. This story was published on October 4, 2006.
A multimedia opera with more pop than plot
by Joseph Mccombs
October 10th, 2006 5:59 PM
Mikel Rouse has definite ideas of what con- stitutes an artistic, theatrical experience, and today’s pop culture doesn’t cut it. His remedy: The End of Cinematics, a “pop opera” designed to shake us out of our populist somnambulism.
An opening of real movie trailers sets up his premise: Four embarrassingly safe previews lend purpose to Rouse’s multimedia experiment. You can’t predict a damn thing that’s going to happen here, he assures us, and this is incontrovertibly good.
Except it’s not. Rouse has created a technologically stunning production, with filmed projections on the scrim that are more real than holograms, but his destruction (it’s not just deconstruction) of plot is ultimately isolating. Each audience member has the freedom—and responsibility—to find meaning within layered New Order–video movements and evocative, nonlinear lyrics chosen as much for cadence as definition. The curious words are voiced by a gifted group: Three men in trench coats get the leads, while two women with Swing Out Sister superbangs and frumpy overcoats accompany; they’re not even foils to the men, merely echoes.
Trains, buses, rainstorms, and Paris streets abound and recur as synthpop songs are reprised to nearly palindromic effect. The performers joyously sing past and atop each other of gods out of control. Is it unsophisticated for an audience to desire a common experience instead?
The End of Cinematics
October 06, 2006
By Andy Propst
There’s much to be admired and much that dismays in Mikel Rouse’s The End of Cinematics. Conceived, written, and directed by Rouse, it combines live action and video with a live performance of his electronic score for six performers — an attempt to replicate the experience of watching a rapidly cut music video or channel surfing. In this, Rouse succeeds.
Screens at the back of the stage show video clips of a woman’s travels through France and her dalliances with two men. At other times the clips are projected onto a scrim that spans the front of the stage; when this occurs, the upstage screens and the performers — who are in between scrim and stage — are obscured.
Often the video, projected through a system designed by Jeff Sugg, pays homage to European films of the 1950s and ’60s. At other moments, it looks like it might be something from filmmaking’s earliest days — simply a huge flicker of black and white. Initial attempts to discover a narrative end in frustration, particularly as the lyrics of Rouse’s often-appealing songs bear little relationship to what’s shown on the screens.
When prerecorded video is not being shown on the scrim, live images of the performers singing are projected onto a huge screen. These projections, when combined with the back wall of video and Hideaki Tsutsui’s painterly lighting design, do create beautiful stage pictures and give a sense of almost endless distance. But after repeated showings, this technological accomplishment, impressive as it is, loses its impact. Similarly, as The End of Cinematics wends circuitously toward its conclusion, what had begun intriguingly simply wearies.
nyc guide: music
‘The End of Cinematics’
BAM’s (mostly) stellar Next Wave series has just started up, and this mega–pop opera by Mikel Rouse is second in line in one of the series’ most-anticipated shows. Cinematics is the third piece in Rouse’s opera verité trilogy, exploring American attitudes toward religion, spirituality, and pop culture via an analysis of the effects of cinema on society. Staging consists of an interplay between projected images and onstage actors singing multi-layered vocals, and backed by driving “alt-rock beats.” (BOSLER)
nyc guide: theater
The End of Cinematics
Mikel Rouse’s “opera vérité” form isn’t like anything else in the music-theater business. His latest excursus, which forms a trilogy of pop-culture ruminations with its predecessors, Failing Kansas and Dennis Cleveland, uses Susan Sontag’s essays on film as a starting point for its ruminations on pop culture, illusion, and reality in the multimedia era. (Feingold) Price Info: $20-$45 Wed-Sat 7:30pm. Opens Oct 4, thru Oct 7 Call for this event: 718-636-4100
Mikel Rouse The End of Cinematics
Wednesday, October 11 2006, 7:30pm – 9:30pm
“Cinema began in wonder, the wonder that reality can be transcribed with such magical immediacy. All of cinema is an attempt to perpetuate and to reinvent that sense of wonder … The sheer ubiquity of moving images has steadily undermined the standards people once had both for cinema as art at its most serious and for cinema as popular entertainment … Now the balance has tipped decisively in favor of cinema as an industry. The great cinema of the 1960s and 1970s has been thoroughly repudiated … Cinephilia itself has come under attack as something quaint, outmoded, snobbish. For cinephilia implies that films are unique, unrepeatable, magic experiences …” – From A Century of Cinema, by Susan Sontag
In today’s age of fragmented, corporate-controlled media, do movies challenge you? Are they relevant? How do a movie’s dialogue, music and imagery impact you? In The End of Cinematics, Mikel Rouse examines the dramatic evolution of cinema, from its early days when it was set to live music, to today’s blockbusters featuring super-sized sound and visual experiences. The End of Cinematics turns Hollywood-style special effects inside out with a mosaic of real and virtual sets, multiple video screens, six live actors and a score flavored with Beatle-esque, electronic and hip-hop sounds. As thought-provoking as it is eye-popping, Rouse’s work is an immersive, sensual experience.
For the last 15 years, composer and performer Mikel (pronounced “Michael” – he decided at an early age to spell his name the way it sounds) Rouse has been developing a technically and thematically adventurous trilogy of multimedia operas that have played in theaters and at festivals worldwide. The first installment, Failing Kansas, examined the perception-altering, manipulative power of media as well as Americans’ approach to religion and spirituality – themes that also appear in Rouse’s second work, Dennis Cleveland, and in the trilogy’s final chapter, The End of Cinematics.
352-392-ARTS (2787) or 800-905-ARTS (2787) Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
The Next Art Form
By: Margaret Hair, Diversions Editor
Issue date: 9/28/06 Section: Diversions
Multimedia performances: They deal with a non-narrative state of mind, an amalgam of visual, sound and sensory experience, an immersion in a carnival of music and drama.
Beginning, some say, with Wagner’s operas in the late 19th century, on to stage productions by John Cage and Philip Glass in the mid-to-late 20th, and expanding further into the 21st, artists have toyed with developing technologies to take what were once individual mediums and combine them into one cohesive artwork.
And as digital recording and film technologies become affordable for burgeoning artists, experimenting in new ways of experiencing old media is becoming a tangible reality.
“Because we have technology at our disposal … now people can do anything, so why would they want to just make a movie?” says Mikel Rouse, composer of “The End of Cinematics,” which will take the stage as part of the Carolina Performing Arts Series at Memorial Hall tonight and Friday.
The show, Rouse says, uses prerecorded film, a pop-tinged score and live actors to create an atmosphere for its audiences that starts out familiar and slowly introduces viewers to something altogether new.
Shot on the streets of Paris, in honor of famed French avant-garde director François Truffaut, the work removes characters from the film and places them in altered form on the stage.
“It started off as a critique of cinema and sort of created an alternative to cinema,” Rouse says. That alternative, he affirms, is much more engaging than your run-of-the-mill two-dimensional film.
A commentary on corporate-run media and its Hollywood-centered bastion of power, Rouse says, “Cinematics” asks its audience to question the impact dime-a-dozen blockbusters have on American spirituality, by inviting viewers into a familiar environment and then fragmenting its elements.
The result, a composer would hope, is a multimedia event that is impossible for even the most disinclined audience members to ignore.
Artists long have used music, film, drama and dance to provide consumers with both a form of entertainment and a form of intellectual stimulation.
Rouse’s work, along with mixed-media acts booked in last year’s Performing Arts Series – including DJ Spooky’s “Rebirth of a Nation” and the three-artist collaboration “Still Life with Commentator – is no different.