Friday, May 10, 2013

CCC 071 - Joey Roukens

Dutch composer Joey Roukens is today's feature in the Consonant Classical Challenge series. The manifesto on his website says it all:
Roukens strives to move away from modernist ways of thinking in search for a more eclectic and more direct idiom, without reverting to some naive neo-style. In doing so, the composer doesn’t shy away from the use of triads, tonal or diatonic harmonies, a regular rhythmic pulse, directness of expression, simplicity, references to popular music and vernacular culture, ‘stealing’ from the musical heritage of the past and the odd trivial turn. Consequently, in most of his works, Roukens seeks to organically integrate elements from highly diverse influences and aesthetics - including the rhythmic energy of early Stravinsky, the late-Romanticism of Mahler and Sibelius, the ethereal qualities of Debussy, Ravel and Takemitsu, American mavericks like Ives and Nancarrow, post-minimalism (John Adams), but also certain kinds of pop music and jazz. Not because Roukens cannot choose, but because he feels they are all part of the musical air he breathes. For a long time, Roukens has also been active in pop music.
Basically, Roukens combines influences from both classical and pop to create worthwhile compositions in his own voice. And his works testify to the success of that profess. His Concerto Hypnagogique is strongly rhythmic and uses harmonies the way pop does. Roukens' high-energy and appealing melodies are both catchy (in a pop/jazz sense) and well-constructed (in a classical sense).

Out of Control for orchestra shows Roukens' inventive gift for melody. This video excerpt provides a quick overview of the entire work. Listen especially to the evocative slow section. The finale has Roukens' characteristic propulsive rhythms that drive the work forward to a breathless and satisfying conclusion.

From Funeral to Funfair is a more modest work, yet still one with all the hallmarks of Roukens' style. The title suggests the emotional direction of the piece, and it concludes with a transformed version of the opening material.

Un Quadro de Yucatan is a work for solo violin. This is Roukens' music stripped down to its very essence.

Joey Roukens is part of a younger generation of composers who are equally at home in both classical and pop music. That's a good thing -- because increasingly newer audiences coming to classical music will also have a pop background. And when (we hope) they do come, they'll find composers like Roukens who speak their language, creating works that are meaningful to them.

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