Joey Roukens

Contemporary Composer


“I am a composer who doesn’t shy away from the use of simple triads, unashamedly tonal harmonies, rhythms based on a regular pulse and references to both the music of the past and popular music”.


My music is eclectic, which is a reflection of my musical DNA and growing up with so many different musical genres.


Nonetheless, I do think something of a personal signature is audible in each of my works. My music often exhibits hectic contrasts, fast change and vitality, but also serenity and slow-moving landscapes.


It draws on a multitude of influences, ranging from Early Music to Romanticism to pop, jazz and techno. However, I am not interested in simply mixing style quotations into one endless grab-bag of music.


Rather, with each piece I am aiming for a coherent, organic musical whole that somehow reflects the diversity of styles and genres that are all part of the musical air we breathe today.


I tend to view my musical language as protean: a language that is easily capable of plastically transforming from one type of music to another in a natural way. I try to write ‘good notes’ which make intuitive sense to the ear, finding most of my ideas by improvising at the piano.


My music often sounds like a spontaneous musical stream, even though my composing does involve a great deal of deliberate organization and construction. In the end, however, I always let my ear, my intuition, and not some kind of rational compositional system decide whether the notes are good or not.


I believe compositional systems and intricate structures are only useful if they enhance the actual audible result, not because they look interesting on paper or in the program notes. To me, the most important thing is how a piece actually sounds, not how it is constructed or how interesting the score looks. My music is far removed from the the modernist tradition that has long dominated modern music.


I have nothing to add to that tradition. Although I greatly admire figures like Boulez and Xenakis for what they have done, I feel they represent an aesthetic that has lost its actuality and seems unable to capture the Zeitgeist.

I believe modern classical music cannot survive as a living artform if it remains this ivory-tower practice closed to vernacular influences. My aim is to write the music I want to write, yet at the same time I’m aiming for a musical language that’s communicative and more in tune with the present-day time and culture.