Ruehlen's musical works are a performance focused, experimental project. He composes with and repurposes an array of instrumental objects, both traditional and unconventional, warping together live actions and shifting material archives in pursuit of a sonic anarchism.
These works meld together restless, long form soundscapes with the traditions of spiritual music, the avant garde, and contemporary electronic composition. His interest in multimodal and feral sound encircle noise-centric and broadly defined woodwind synthesis, utilizing exploded super-impositions and timbres as a method for improvising perpetual difference in live settings.
The proposition of this music takes place as often in remote settings as they do in front of a live audience. Audio/video transmissions and recordings take the place of the stage when performances happen outside of urban events.
For Ruehlen, the saxophone is an instrument that extends and highlights the breath of the body--not just a series of notes but an inhalation/invocation and exhalation/exhaltation. Through coupling the acoustical body with an extended layout of synthesis, mixers, microphones and liminal effects, "Sheets of high-pitched ambience lay the groundwork for the saxophone meditations, (while) program glitches and shorting nodes accompany slow marches toward completion. Tones hang in the atmosphere in humid ambience, the sax slowly stirring them until they curdle," writes Ryan Masteller of Tabs Out / Critical Masses.
The performance of patching the horn and other acoustical objects into a complex system of filters in various settings allows Ruehlen the chance to inhabit multiple voicings and rhythms at once. Feeding off of his own playing, the soloist feels more like they are in conversation with several versions of their location; an ethereal duet with the immediate and imagined environment. Much of Ruehlen's inspiration that develops during the composition process (both live and built upon) draws heavily on ecosophy, geography, and how landscape transforms, deteriorates, becomes unrecognizable, and reawakens amidst human consequence.
For years, the desert Southwest and West of the US has been a situated environment for considering how music, noise, and place envelop one another. Ruehlen, "Signifies the desert as much more than a remote, desolate, forbidding, eerily silent place without much of a human footprint. Once someone moves off the grid and finds the sweetest isolated spot, there is opportunity to capture noise that compels the listener to consider it in a whole new realm. The deepest listening experience occurs with the focus on the music of a place being transmitted from a remote location where the sensations of time, sound and space synthesize into a different realm," Les Roka writes in The Utah Review.