Joey Roukens was born in Schiedam, the Netherlands, in 1982. He studied composition with Klaas de Vries at the Rotterdam Conservatory and psychology at Leiden University. Roukens also studied piano privately with Ton Hartsuiker. His works have been performed by major ensembles and soloists in the Netherlands and abroad, such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, ASKO|Schönberg, Britten Sinfonia, Tokyo Sinfonietta, the Nieuw Ensemble, the Rubens Quartet, the Storioni Trio, the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, Lavinia Meijer, Ralph van Raat and Colin Currie.
Joey Roukens was born in Schiedam, the Netherlands, in 1982.
Roukens studied composition at the Rotterdam Conservatory and psychology at Leiden University. Roukens also studied piano privately with Ton Hartsuiker.
His output includes orchestral works, ensemble works, chamber music, solo instrumental works and an opera. In his music 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 orchestral colors of early Stravinsky, the late-Romanticism of Mahler and Sibelius, the ethereal qualities of Ravel and Takemitsu, the pulsating rhythms of American composers like Reich and 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 was also active in pop music.
His works have been performed by major ensembles and soloists in the Netherlands and abroad, such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, ASKO|Schönberg, Britten Sinfonia, Tokyo Sinfonietta, the Nieuw Ensemble, the Rubens Quartet, the Storing Trio, the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, Lavinia Meijer, Ralph van Raat and Colin Currie.
Joey Roukens first came to the public´s attention while still in his late teens, when he wrote his first orchestral works Titaantjes (1999) and Symphony (2000), both of which were performed by the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest in 2001. During his studies, he wrote pieces using a more modernist aesthetic which Roukens would later depart from.
After his graduation from the Rotterdam Conservatory, his compositions gradually became more tonal and more expressively direct. During the Dutch Music Days in 2007 the orchestral work 365 was premiered, one of the first works in which Roukens did not shy away from the use of unabashedly tonal harmonies and kitsch elements, which subsequently caused a bit of controversy. Roukens then wrote the three-movement string quartet Earnest and Game in 2007 for the Rubens Quartet – the beginning of a long-standing collaboration with this quartet.
During the next few years, Roukens further worked on developing himself as an orchestral composer, creating a number of colorful orchestral works such as From funeral to funfair (and back…), written for the Nederlands Studenten Orkest in 2008, the playful Alto Saxophone Concerto written for the Noord Nederlands Orkest with Arno Bornkamp as the soloist, and the atmospheric Out of Control (2010), premiered by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by David Robertson.
Roukens also wrote a number of vibrant pieces for chamber ensemble, including the energetic Fast Movement and Epilogue (2009), written for the Japanese ensemble Tokyo Sinfonietta, who premiered it with great success in Tokyo, the cartoon-esque chamber concerto Scenes from an old memory box (2010), written for ASKO|Schönberg, and a Percussion Concerto (2011) in four movements, written for the celebrated British percussionist Colin Currie. After the premiere, Currie called the work “one of the five best percussion concertos ever written.”
His next string quartet, Visions at Sea (2011) was written on a commission from the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam. A musical depiction of a surreal sea voyage, it was again premiered by and written for the Rubens Quartet, who gave numerous performances of the piece. Roukens’ kaleidoscopic Concerto Hypnagogique, for piano and orchestra with Ralph van Raat as the soloist, was performed on May 12th 2012 during the NTR ZaterdagMatinee concert series at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
In 2013, Mr. Finney de Opera, Roukens’ opera for both children and adults based on a children’s book by Laurentien van Oranje and Sieb Posthuma about a fish-like creature going on a journey around the world, was premiered in the Koninklijke Schouwburg in The Hague. After its premiere the opera went on to a successful tour throughout the Netherlands.
In 2014 Roukens wrote Rising Phenix, a large-scale work for mixed chorus and orchestra to celebrate the re-opening of the renovated TivoliVredenburg Utrecht, where the piece was premiered by the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest and Groot Omroepkoor conducted by Markus Stenz; the work was met with public and critical acclaim. Other recent works include the psychedelic chamber work Lost in a Surreal Trip (2014), written for Britten Sinfonia’s ‘At Lunch’ series, and a two-movement violin concerto entitled Roads to Everywhere (2015), which was premiered in 2016 by talented young violinist Joseph Puglia and ASKO|Schönberg. The medium of the symphony orchestra has continued to interest Roukens: his very latest work is a 25-minute symphony in one movement called Morphic Waves (2016), written as part of his composer-in-residence position with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra during the 2015-16 season. The piece will be premiered on June 18th 2016.