Mikel Rouse’s Gravity Radio

Mikel Rouse’s Gravity Radio

Friday-Saturday, January 29-30, 2010, at 7:30pm | Studio Theatre

He changed the spelling of his first name when he was a kid to make it read like it sounded. Plus it looked a whole lot cooler. He ran away to join a carnival (but not for too long). His band Tirez Tirez opened for the Talking Heads in 1978 in Kansas City before new wave music had fully rolled in. He played a Jerry Springeresque talk show host in an exploration of TV as ceremony. He creates drawings on his iPhone with one finger.

This slightly askew approach to the world has fashioned a defiantly receptive visionary who sees art everywhere. He calls his theatrical musical pieces “operas” simply because there’s no other way (yet) to name them. They’re larger-than-life spectacles in the way that we expect an opera will be, yet they incorporate contemporary technology and focus on our own society today—not some make-believe long-ago realm. His inspiration comes from Truman Capote’s approach to In Cold Blood: melding art forms with reality as a way to condense and expand creativity.

In his newest exploration, Gravity Radio, Rouse has composed a song cycle for string quartet, singers, guitarist, bass, drums, and keyboard that soars within and above shortwave radio squeaks, squelches, and static. Through this sound texture slices a voice intermittently reading AP wire reports and making comments tying these impersonal words to the lyrics. Buoyant images from earth will flash on video screens as gravity waves—those forces generated in any interface between media—wash over you, while the intricately rhythmic songs with world beats and the infectious appeal of pop music will make you rethink what true innovation is.

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