The Mystery of Music as an Art Form

Aug 13, 2017

Music can be mysterious, even to those who spend their lives creating it. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, composer Christopher Rouse ponders the profound power of music with his concerto for organ and orchestra.

Radio script:

[MUSIC: Rouse's Organ Concerto]

Susan Lewis: Unlike some of his other works, Rouse’s organ concerto has no program or story. Instead, it explores the music itself—a combination of notes, rhythms, harmonies, and dynamics—and its ability to express emotion.

Christopher Rouse: The first movement is meant to be joyous and festive, the middle movement...spiritual; the last movement is kind of a wild dance, a little diabolical perhaps.

SL: With multiple colors and color combinations, the organ—and orchestra—are apt vehicles for this exploration. In writing music, Rouse says, technique and style are less important to him than expressivity.

CR: Is it communicating something meaningful to the listener on an emotional level? That is the only thing I care about as a composer. 

SL: He marvels at the mysteriousness of music.

CR: By which a series of vibrating frequencies, which inherently mean nothing—what does a C sharp mean? In and of itself it means nothing. Yet there’s this process of combining musical pitches and rhythms into an art that profoundly speaks to the human spirit.

SL: Christopher Rouse, who’s won Pulitzer and GRAMMY Awards, has written 10 other concertos, four symphonies, chamber music, and works for voice and orchestra.  

On Sunday, August 20th at 1 pm, listen to organist Paul Jacobs and The Philadelphia Orchestra perform Christopher Rouse's organ concerto on WRTI.