Preparing Preparations for Cello


The visual layout of any objects to be used is an important consideration in my musical performances. Some objects may not be touched during the performance but will play a part in the composition by their presence alone.

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String Trio

I have been fascinated by the free improvised acoustic string trio format in the last two years. This is surely related to my love of the Lachenmann string quartets. Below is a list of my current favorites. I’m still looking to start/join a similar trio in Washington DC.

Bern                                    London                               Buenos Aires
Kimmig                                 Wachsmann                           Tierhs
Zimmerlin                            Guastalla                                Quinteros
Studer                                    Lash                                        Vazquez


NYC                                     Berlin                                   London
Mattrey                                Ellenbogen                            Blunt
Bordreuil                             Lin                                          Kallin
Ali                                         Goodwin                                Marshall

trio (2)


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Cello mit Sofa

My living room sofa provided an accompaniment to cello lines that float above in conversation with an imaginary house guest.

Gary Rouzer – cello, living room sofa

Photo – drawing for wall hanging by Anni Albers 1925

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Soon I will open a video site to document my cello playing. These videos were done to present my interest in gesture as an equal with music/sound. “I endow a gesture with a value equal to that of sound” says composer Vadim Karassikov. The cellist Seth Parker Woods calls his playing  “choreographic performance”.

I think about gesture often when I play cello. The physicality of playing the instrument is very visible and apparent for all to see when performing. This is not the case with all instruments. Whereas with a piano, clarinet, or trumpet the movements of the player gives little information about how the different sounds are being produced and what degree of effort is required. Everyone know how a cello should be played but my intention is to approach it as a basic sound producing object as well as a familiar instrument.

My live performances contain much material that is not captured by an audio recording. The physical relationship between instrument and performer can be material for composition as well as for improvisation in performance. Both hands can be set up as protagonists in a choreographic game where they work separately as well as together. Also it is possible to present physical activity that produces no sonic result. This concept of “choreographic performance” is not new but can be found in the works of many modern composers such as those listed below.

Capriccio per Siegfried Palm (1968)– Krzysztof Penderecki
Pression (1969) – Helmut Lachenmann
10 Etudes (1974) – Sofia Gubaidulina
Opus Breve (1987) – Klaus Hübler
Study for String Instrument (2007) – Simon Steen-Anderson
Capriccio (2009) – David Gorton

Nate Scheible and I making sounds with Dance Performance Group.

My interest in music and dance started with my discovery of John Cage and Merce Cunningham in the 1980s. I am currently working with Nancy Havlik’s Dance Performance Group in Washington DC. In this context dance/movement equates with music/sound, stillness equates with silence, and everyday pedestrian movements equates with everyday objects/sounds. I sometimes use household objects (chopstick, plastic cup, paint stick, cardboard) to create new sounds along with the cello. This practice of “preparing” an instrument started with John Cage in 1938 with his prepared piano piece and has now spread to all instruments. Seeing these common objects used in a musical context can expand our concept of what is music. When we were children we did not judge…if it sounded good or was fun and interesting that was enough to continue. I use the gestures and movements of the dancers during improvisation as possible material for my own playing.

These videos can be watched with the sound muted to focus 100% on the gestures. All are very short and represent my current musical practice and focus.

Merce Cunningham and John Cage, 1963

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Zwischenzug is a brand new project. Listen to some sounds here.
Phong Tran – zither, electronics     Chris Videll – synth, electronics    Gary Rouzer – cello


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Gray Curtain Call


Photo by Daniel Barbiero at Dance Exchange 25 Feb 2017

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Gesture on Paper / Gesture in Space



One of my 2017 New Year’s resolutions is to seek out more interdisciplinary projects. Two weeks ago Daniel Barbiero (double bass) and I (cello) provided the sound score for an improvised session involving four dancers and charcoal on paper. This was a collaboration between artist Donna McKee and the Nancy Havlik Dance Performance Group. Brian Harris was there to capture it on video. The large wonderful dance studio space made the smallest string sounds audible. See/listen for yourself here.




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