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2006 Media Releases - Events - Mikel Rouse

Issued Tuesday, 7 February 2006


A composer many believe to be the best of his generation.
New York Times

Erase your images of opera. [Failing Kansas] is a multimedia experience that shatters the boundaries of conventional thinking.
United Press International

American composer, performer and filmmaker, Mikel Rouse, has been on a mission to combine music and visual arts in a manner that carries forward the tradition of opera into a contemporary time zone. He brings to the Playhouse two very different examples of his multimedia music theatre.

From 23 - 28 May, Mikel Rouse’s Music for Minorities has its Australian premiere. On split screens, moving stories are told in fragments, while on stage Rouse plays guitar and sings smooth songs inspired by ‘60s pop and delta blues. Accompanied by a recorded soundscape of percussion and multiple guitars, Rouse weaves stories and interacts with synchronised video cut from interviews with a range of personalities from Louisiana and his hometown New York City. Parody and tragedy aren’t far apart and Rouse’s sense of humour is evident in Music for Minorities. The resulting combination of sound and imagery has been described by the creator himself as romantic channel surfing.

Failing Kansas, which opens on 30 May, has a very different kind of soundscape. Inspired by Truman Capote’s desire to initiate a new art form with his true crime novel In Cold Blood (based on events surrounding the 1959 murders of the Clutter family and the subsequent execution of their killers), Rouse invented “counterpoetry” (the strict metric counterpoint of multiple voices speaking), to take audiences inside the minds of the killers. Rouse performs solo with his own voice multi-tracked on tape together with pre-recorded electronic music. The libretto is composed of actual transcripts and testimony from the murder events, as well as fragments of verse, songs by one of the killers and the text of Pentecostal hymns popular in the late 1950s. The music and libretto are set against a backdrop of black and white images by Cliff Baldwin, cut to the music but not obviously related to it. This complex, non-narrative exploration of the dark side of America began its life in New York’s infamous avant-garde venue, The Kitchen and has since been acclaimed at arts festivals around the world.

Mikel Rouse studied theory and composition at the University of Missouri Conservatory of Music and filmmaking and painting at the Kansas City Arts Institute, so it is not surprising that he always works in multiple genres and media. What makes his music so fascinating is that it completely merges speech and song into a rich overlay of textures. This is evident in the accessible and emotionally compelling Music for Minorities and the complex, yet mesmerising Failing Kansas.

Rouse’s visit to Australia coincides with the Sydney Writers’ Festival where he is appearing as a featured guest.

Program Details: Music for Minorities / Failing Kansas
Venue: The Playhouse
Dates: Music for Minorities 23-28 May, 2006
Failing Kansas 30 May-4 June
Times: Tues-Sat 8pm, Sun 5pm
Artists Talk: Sunday 28 May (post show)
Tickets: $45/$35
Special Offer: Buy tickets to both shows for $70

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