what does a photograph sound like?
Pretty cool to see Arctic, my piece for the Mivos Quartet inspired by the photography of Chris McCaw, featured in the New Yorker’s photobooth blog. Check it out, here! Scroll through the images, we’re the last one.
Robert Honstein: Oblique Strategies from NewMusicBox on Vimeo.
I am ever so grateful to Frank Oteri, Molly Sheridan, and NewMusicBox for putting together this generous and thoughtful profile of my work. I’ve been a fan of NewMusicBox since it’s early days so it’s a real honor to have been featured. Thank you!
Check out the full article here.
Piano solo – 25 minutes
Grand Tour is a musical diary of time I spent living in Venice. For centuries the Grand Tour was a rite of passage to budding young aristocrats. Privileged offspring of wealthy European families ventured south for months at a time, paying homage to the decaying relics of antiquity. For many the trip ended in Venice, a place of decadence and exotic splendor. While far removed from its past opulence, vestiges of the Grand Tour linger, bringing millions of tourists a year to Venice’s well-worn landmarks. Today the old idea of travel as self-realization remains, but now resides within the disneyfied marketplace of modern tourism. Romantic visions of antiquity clash with gigantic cruise ships and swarming tour groups as a constant assault of vendors, products, and services target the wayward traveler at every turn. Nonetheless, as a bookish, romantically inclined introvert, I clung to my Byron and sought out that old sense of poetic melancholy as I wandered the labyrinthine Venetian streets.
Grand Tour lives in this conflicted space, somewhere between the Fantasy-class Cruise liner towering over St. Mark’s Square and the anonymous 15th century wood-carving – perfect and splendid – tucked away in an obscure church. Cast in seven movements, the piece roughly outlines what at the time was a typical day: becoming hopelessly lost after a morning walk; weaving my way through the always busy Strada Nuova; a frenetic visit to some beautiful old palace overrun by tour groups; the daily spectacle of massive cruise ships leaving the narrow harbor as throngs of travelers lean over rails, zealously snapping photos and frantically waving arms; an evening stroll, people watching and gelato; a sunset drink on the lagoon; and finally, the nocturnal walk home through dark and narrow streets, at last quiet and empty.
Check out a demo of Per from Grand Tour
To purchase a score please click here
Grand Tour was commissioned by Karl Larson and a consortium of pianists including Stacey Barelos, Erika Dohi, Monika Haar, Mabel Kwan, Charlie Magnone, Jeff Manchur, and Paola Saavidou
premiered 10.17.14 at the Victoria House Concerts series, Quincy, MA by Karl Larson
Orchestra (2222.2210.timp.strings) – 7 minutes
‘Man in Hot Pot’ from ‘Hot Water Suites’ by Roni Horn
Rise is a brief orchestral essay on moving upward. The music is one extended ramp, an awakening followed by a brief fall, landing somewhere different then where it began. It is also a meditation on the idea of the pastoral. From Vivaldi to Strauss, there is a long tradition of evoking the pastoral landscape in symphonic music. What does it mean to romanticize nature in the post-industrial, climate-changing 21st century? Perhaps this explains the somewhat haunting mood of the piece. There is a celebration of the natural world, but also an unsettled feeling that never resolves.
This excerpt is a recording by the American Composers Orchestra from their 23rd annual Underwood New Music Readings, part of the New York Philharmonic’s inaugural biennial. George Manahan conducts.
For information on renting Rise please click here
‘Rise’ comes from material used in ‘Four Midwinter Interludes’ which was premiered 2.10.13 at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA
String Quartet – 16 minutes
Chris McCaw, Sunburned GSP#492 (North Slope Alaska/ 24 hours), 2011.
Arctic is a response to photographer Chris McCaw’s Sunburn series, a body of work exploring extended direct exposures of photo paper to sunlight. The long exposures, sometimes up to 24 hours, magnify the sun’s rays resulting in a literal burning of the paper. The result is an incinerated trace of the sun’s motion across a hazy, negative image of surrounding landscape. Combining pastoral beauty with a visceral physicality, the images evoke feelings of time, materiality and abstraction.
My piece Arctic responds to a pair of photos taken in Alaska, north of the arctic circle. Shot close to the summer solstice they are nearly 24 hour long exposures of the midnight sun. These images, huge 12 panel works, document the sun’s long, sinuous path across a barren, mountainous landscape. Arctic imagines both the midnight sun and the opposite phenomenon, polar night, or the 24 hours of darkness that occur during the winter solstice.
The first movement, Midnight Sun, is short and fast. Its relentless bright energy continues uninterrupted, pausing only to catch quick breaths before pushing forward. The second movement, Polar Night, begins slowly with a simple, undulating theme set against a long passacaglia figure. The music builds in intensity as flickers of color and grit emerge from the texture. As the intensity recedes we are left with the opening theme set against a slowly shifting harmony.
In both movements you will also hear traces of the burning found in McCaw’s photos. Musical lines dissolve into brittle color, harmony grinds into noise, and holes sometimes appear, recalling the seared paper of McCaw’s images.
Arctic was commissioned by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.
Check out an excerpt of the ‘Midnight Sun’ movement. Rehearsal recording by the Mivos Quartet.
Midnight Sun from Arctic
To purchase a score and part set please click here
premiered 11.20.13 in Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York City by the Mivos Quartet
Fl., Cl., Vln., Vc., Perc., Piano – 16 minutes
Composed for Sleeping Giant’s evening length collaboration with eighth blackbird, Hand Eye, my piece Conduit takes its cue from an interactive sculpture by digital artists Zigelbaum and Coelho. In their ’640 by 480′ the human body merges with computational process, facilitating simple copy/paste operations between sculptural elements. Set in three movements— Touch, Pulse, Send—Conduit evokes this man/machine synthesis. The first movement Touch obsessively focuses on the touch gesture. Whether it be a phone, tablet, or interactive sculpture, touch is at the core of human computer interaction. Over the course of the movement, bright waves of color explode from repeated touch actions as the ensemble compulsively activates their collective sound. Pulse, the second movement, explores the transfer of information from man to machine. The music represents a suspension of the nearly instantaneous moment when data moves from finger tip to screen. Waves of repeated notes cascade through the ensemble at varying tempi, as a long melodic line emerges in the flute and cello, moving slowly through the ensemble’s pulsing sound. Finally, the third movement, Send, completes the data transfer. Action follows as the music energizes and accelerates, moving briskly to a noisy conclusion.
Check out this video of ’640 by 480′ to see Zigelbaum and Coelho’s sculpture in action.
Conduit was commissioned by eighth blackbird, as part of a group project with Sleeping Giant.
Violin and Viola – 14 minutes
Duets are always a type of conversation. Talking in Circles is a conversation that becomes an argument. Two characters are in dialogue, talking but not agreeing. They repeat arguments, making the same points in different ways. There is progress, but ultimately the conversation goes nowhere. In three movements – Give and Take, At odds, Agree to Disagree – Talking in Circles traces this evolution. Give and Take features an exchange, a constant back and forth between the instruments. At Odds, is a standoff. Lines have been drawn. Each side pleas their case, but their cries fall on deaf ears. Finally, in Agree to Disagree the pair are at an impasse. There is some common ground. The musicians find a way to come together, but it is an obstinate unity, a begrudging acceptence of differences.
Talking in Circles was written for the andPlay duo
Super excited to announce that my album RE: you is out NOW on New Focus Recordings. The album is a set of wordless songs based on titles from a collection of found emails. Recorded and produced by Ryan Streber, the album features incredible performances by an all-star cast of characters: Concert Black (Owen Weaver, Lisa Dowling, Domenica Fossati), Karl Larson, Mariel Roberts, Tema Watstein, Derek Johnson and Alejandro Acierto.
My long time friend, writer, filmmaker and real-life recipient of these emails wrote a really beautiful liner note, and the amazing Laura Grey did the album artwork and design. I think their words and images express what this album is far more eloquently than my rambling prose, so check out the digital booklet here and see what it’s all about!
You can pick up the disc and hear all of this music Tuesday, May 6 at Roulette on the Ear Heart Music Series. Double Bill with the incredible Mivos Quartet. SOUNDS LIKE FUN!
In the mean time here’s a little preview track:
‘I know the feeling…’
(Alejandro Acierto, Clarinet, Derek Johnson, Guitar, Mariel Roberts, Cello, Lisa Dowling, Bass, Karl Larson, Piano, Owen Weaver, percussion)
You can also download from itunes, amazon, or new focus. Thanks for checking it out!
Excited to announce I’ve been selected as the winner of the Clefworks Composition Competition. The Del Sol String Quartet will perform my string quartet Arctic in Montgomery, AL and the kind folks at Clefworks are bringing me down for the weekend. I’m really looking forward to working with Del Sol and I’m also pretty psyched about escaping this for a bit.
I’ve posted video from my DMA recital. Excellent performances from Lisa Dowling, Concert Black, TIGUE, Karl Larson, Mariel Roberts, and Tema Watstein. It was so wonderful to have had such great friends and musicians together in one place. I felt very lucky. And, of course, they all sounded amazing.