By Justin Davidson
Don't be fooled by the professorial mien: Christopher Rouse likes his music as loud as any teenage headbanger does. He's the sort of composer who wouldn't trust a battalion of trombones to play out enough without some encouragement — half a dozen or more ƒs, say. Judging from Mark Swed's eloquent review, Rouse's cloud-stirring Requiem, which had its premiere in Los Angeles over the weekend, sounds like it doesn't just honor the dead: it wakes them.
Rouse descends from a proud lineage of cacophonizers. The first episode of Michael Tilson Thomas's forthcoming public radio show, "The MTT Files" proposes that the ever-increasing noise factor in music comes from the need to compete with an ever more deafening urban environment. (More about DJ MTT anon.) Rouse writes for a generation reared on stadium concerts, but he does so in the spirit of the late 19th century. Even when he emerged from the morbid mode that occupied him through the 1980s, he remained one of our loftiest, most passionate and most anachronistically sincere composers. Not for him the finely wrought irony of postmodernism, or its ethnic potpourris. He means what he screams.
I'm looking forward to the day when Rouse's monster of a piece finally slouches towards New York.