Dennis Cleveland aint no stinkin Traviata

You can hear that impact in the complexity of his word-driven music, or "counterpoetry." Rouse writes his own lyrics, recited in a layered counterpoint of mixed meters that wildly changes the meanings. He says he hated the style at first but eventually bonded with it. Wrestling with new styles, though, isn't as bad as suffering from postmodern disease—i.e., a conflicted love-hate relationship with nostalgia, extending even to his beloved rock & roll.

"It's not like I'm saying rock's great," he demurs. "Quite frankly, I wish it was dead because that was music from my generation. One of the reasons I like hip-hop so much is because it feels like the first time that we're finally getting away from the consumer strangulation that rock and pop culture have put on society."

Dennis Cleveland has its West Coast premiere at Founders Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (949) 553-2422. Tues.-Sat., Nov. 6, 8 p.m. $25.

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