Steve Rouse and The Inside Story: Composing Solo Works

Composer Steve Rouse debuts as a PARMA artist on Ravello Records with his second solo works album MORPHIC RESONANCE.  This album includes Rouse’s chamber music from the last two decades and beyond, and the works featured on MORPHIC RESONANCE demonstrate Rouse’s powerful gifts to create compelling and idiosyncratic musical statements. Today, Rouse is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover more about Rouse’s second solo works recording.

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up? 

I think I was torn between Fats Domino and Beethoven. Fats came first…probably inevitable for a childhood in southern Mississippi. For my twelfth birthday, I asked for a boxed set of the Beethoven symphonies. That’s all I wanted. In a town of about 5,000 people, we had to order them at the local furniture store that sold big console record players. The only available seat was Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus on Angel Records. I would stand in the living room after school and conduct, playing the music as loud as our console stereo could handle…no score to follow, just me feeling the music in my body. There were gators in the marsh across the street.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, what are the three things you absolutely can’t live without? 

If I’m fighting zombies to stay alive and struggling to find food, water, and shelter, I want super effective zombie killing weapons and plenty of ammo. But assuming I’m not doing any of those things, and I’m mostly just alone in the world, I’d like the following, please: 1) a piano, 2) endless blank notebooks, manuscript paper, and pencils, and 3) regular visits by a good piano tuner. No zombies, please.

If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be? 

I’d be a composer. Seriously. Although for a brief period of my life I stayed alive exclusively by composing and arranging, the music that I created was dictated by other people: advertising executives, recording artists, session producers, and the like. I was a mercenary. A gunslinger. It was fun and an exciting challenge for a short while, but it was not “composing for a living” as I like to think of it. Other than that period, I’ve taught college for a living and composed in the cracks of teaching. So, yes, I’d love to be a composer for a living!

Morphic ResonanceWhat would you say that you’ve never said to artists performing your work?

I’d say that I love my music, and if you can love my music just a little bit as much as I do, I will be grateful and happy.

Most composers feel this way, at least some of the time, but it’s not really socially acceptable to say it. Not fashionable. Awkward, even. It’s OK to say you love your family, school, even your house, car, or some piece of clothing. All OK. But say you love the art that you create? Hmmm. Not so much. It’s a little like saying, “Hey, I love meeee!”

But I do love my music. I love it when I’m creating it, and I love it later, often even much later. I am my own worst critic, so I can always find things that I believe I could have done better. But I still love it. I have a piece that no one likes. Really, no one. I still love it!

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose/perform than the others?

No, but there is a piece that takes the prize for longest gestation. Form Fades (2014) was started as a flute solo fragment composed in 1994 while on a flight to attend a recording session of my Enigma with the Seattle Symphony. This ultimately became the beginning of the first movement of Form Fades. I pulled out this piece many times after 1994 and never stopped thinking about it. It was only on a commission related to the National Symphony that I was ready to finish it. When I hear it now, I also still hear the original flute solo music.

Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

I believe that music is a balanced fusion of emotion/feeling on one hand and thought/logic on the other. Although it is possible to create music that is primarily only one or the other, the music that means the most to me fuses both to create something that is so much more than either. It’s always my goal to do the same, and I always try to be aware of what the music is expressing both emotionally and logically.

Ultimately, each listener has to decide what, if anything, the music means and whether it deserves attention or revisiting. I sure hope it does.

Steve Rouse’s Ravello Records releases MORPHIC RESONANCE is now available for purchase and streaming on Amazon, iTunes, and Spotify

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