Photograph by Eric Calvi
"Unleashing a Creative Deluge"
The New York Times, December 7, 2010
A preview story regarding the composer, performer and director Mikel Rouse, whose latest stage creation, Gravity Radio, opens tonight at the BAM Harvey Theater with additional performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For many folks, the Thursday performance will be the must-see show, since it comes with a post-performance artist talk conducted by Evan and Andrew Gregory of the Gregory Brothers, the creative force behind the insanely popular web-video series Auto-Tune the News.
Try to imagine doing an important interview and having your subject start to sing, "Those geese are cooked / those geese are cooked." Yes.
This is, if memory serves, the longest feature I've written to date for The New York Times -- a very generous word count, especially for the daily -- and still there are literally dozens of things I'd like to have included but couldn't. Mostly these are bits of older history, like the fact that nearly all of Rouse's Broken Consort music is available from his label via iTunes, since he had the amazing foresight to structure most of his record deals -- even the major-label releases by his alternative-rock group, Tirez Tirez -- as licensing deals for a finite period, after which all rights reverted to him.
Rouse will surely issue the Tirez Tirez material some day. Meanwhile, go here for an earful of a young Rouse smitten with David Byrne and Philip Glass.
I'd also like to have gone into greater detail about the process by which Rouse's archive was acquired by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which celebrates its arrival with a visual-art exhibit, "Passport: 30 Years Drawn on the Road," on Wednesday. That process, an extension of the library's earlier aquisition of collections from Meredith Monk and Ping Chong, shows the way in which the institution's staff is learning how to categorize collections from artists whose work transcends genres not occasionally but defiantly, and how to preserve and make available the archives of artists whose work is seldom if ever codified into a score or printed instruction manual.
How great is it that you can look at an online gallery as extensive as this one, by the way?
Some day, it seems, I'll need to write a bigger, longer and more comprehensive piece about Rouse, whose work, I think, is both popular and underappreciated, immediately comprehensible yet deeply misunderstood. On a different note, I'd love to see Rouse pull out his old Broken Consort charts for a spin; I bet they'd go over well at (Le) Poisson Rouge, the Bang on a Can Marathon or Big Ears. But it might be even cooler to think that some enterprising younger conductor, composer and/or bandleader could go to the library and look them up, too.
Finally, there's one certain word I didn't use at all in my preview. See if you can figure out what it was. Here's a hint:
Sketch of Mikel Rouse, Kyle Gann and Ben Neill by Mikel Rouse, borrowed without permission from Kyle Gann, who tells the story behind it here.