Robert is a composer living in Boston, MA. He co-founded the Sleeping Giant composer collective and co-directs the Fast Forward Austin music festival. Send me emails at rhonstein@gmail.com !

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Events Calendar

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Hand Eye

Trailer for Sleeping Giant’s upcoming collaboration with eighth blackbird. We wrote an evening length work inspired by art work from the Stuart and Maxine Frankel Foundation. My contribution to the project, Conduit, is a three movement piece inspired by a bit of interactive sculpture. Read more about that here. The birds are taking Hand Eye on the road next season and will be playing it around the country. Stay tuned for dates and more information!

HAND EYE from eighth blackbird on Vimeo.

An Index of Possibility, the video!

TIGUE made a video! Videography by Evan Chapman and presented by Vic Firth. I’m so lucky to have such incredible collaborators bring this work to life. Check it out. Tell all your friends! Click here to learn more about the piece and TIGUE.


Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Percussion, Piano – 20 minutes


While for much of the world, 2015 was one of the warmest winters on record, in Boston, where I live, it was one of the coldest. By mid-January it seemed like we might get a pass from mother nature, but in the last week of January, winter storm Juno gave us a visit, launching a series of massive blizzards that would bring a record breaking amount of snowfall to the Boston area. My piece Juno reflects on that moment of anticipation right before the season’s first big storm: a sense of childish delight at the prospect of snow days and sledding tempered by adult worries about the inevitable difficulties and frustrations.

Juno was commissioned by the Mandel Foundation for the 2015 Utah Arts Festival

premiered 6.27.15 at Library Auditorium, Salt Lake City, UT by the Vertigo Ensemble, Andrew Rindfleisch, Conductor.


Utah Arts Festival

I’m very happy to announce that I’ve been commissioned by the Utah Arts Festival to write a work for pierrot ensemble and percussion. The premiere will be June 27, 2015 in Salt Lake City. I can’t wait to visit Salt Lake for the first time! More soon about the piece as I start working on it.

Night Scenes from the Ospedale

Night Scenes from the Ospedale, album out 1.13.15


So excited to announce that my collaboration with the Sebastians is coming out as an album on 1.13.15 We recorded the tracks last November and I couldn’t be happier with how it sounds. The album features my suite Night Scenes from the Ospedale and a collection of concerti from Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico. Read more about the project here and check out a sample track here:

Pre-order a copy now! Click here.

Arctic in the New Yorker

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.

NewMusicBox Profile

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.

Grand Tour

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 for 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 highlights from the piece performed by Karl Larson:

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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.

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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.

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.

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Midnight Sun from Arctic

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premiered 11.20.13 in Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York City by the Mivos Quartet