Robert is a composer living in Boston, MA. He co-founded the Sleeping Giant composer collective and co-directs the Times Two Series. Send me emails at rhonstein@gmail.com !

Check out my store to purchase albums and scores.

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Events Calendar

  • Mo 1.22.18: SH @ Seattle
  • Tu 1.23.18: SH @ Portland
  • Th 2.8.18: SH @ TSU
  • Th 2.22.18: Ash @ Strathmore
  • Mo 2.26.18: TIC @ MEE
  • We 2.28.18: Conduit @ Boston
  • Sa 3.3.18: MG @ MFA
  • Mo 3.5.18: TIC @ MEE
  • Sa 3.24.18: Hymning @ VU
  • Mo 3.26.18: SH @ Cleveland
  • We 3.28.18: SH @ Elyria
  • Th 3.29.18: SH @ U.Michigan
  • Su 4.8.18: Patter @ UNCG
  • Th 4.12.18: Timor @ Shift
  • Th 4.12.18: 3ANM @ Portland
Click here to see past events.


Violin and Piano – 20 minutes


Begun as a response to Beethoven’s first Violin Sonata, Olmsted is at best loosely related to its source. When tasked with responding to the Beethoven I considered more direct, tangible connections, but ultimately felt compelled to toss Ludwig aside and write my own Sonata instead. There are oblique echoes – a whiff of D major persists, small surface details (the four note motive in the third movement, Long Meadow), perhaps the rather Beethovenian obsession with pushing short motives to their musical extremes – but I would say the parallels stop there. The title Olmsted refers to the great American landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. It occurred to me that my entire life has been spent in close proximity to Olmsted parks. This isn’t particularly remarkable given how many iconic public spaces he left behind, but it nonetheless struck me as noteworthy, if not significant.  With this in my mind each movement of my piece refers to a different park. Unfolding like short vignettes, these movements are a collection of fleeting moments from the past. The bright and ebullient first movement, Jamaica Pond, is part of the Emerald Necklace, a string of seven parks gracefully strung through several Boston neighborhoods. The slow, lyrical second movement, The Ramble, is a wooded area of Central Park, full of winding, semi-obscured paths, specifically designed for getting lost, deliberately obscuring the surrounding city. Long Meadow, the playful third movement, is part of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, a vast lawn where kids play and families picnic, a popular spot for winter sledding and summer games. Finally, World’s End is an unfinished project just south of Boston. Preserved as it was left over a hundred years ago, the park is quiet and beautiful, the footprints of a grand design clearly visible beneath the empty meadows and elegant carriage paths. There is a special poetry to these spaces with their winding paths, carefully designed vistas, and perfectly calibrated balance of natural and man-made landscapes. It’s no surprise that in spite of a lifetime of experience – from the mundane to the transformative – they still surprise and delight.

Olmsted was commissioned by Nicholas DiEugenio and Mimi Solomon and premiered October 5, 2017 by Nicholas DiEugenio and Mimi Solomon at Moeser Auditorium, UNC Chapel Hill, Durham, NC.

The Great Marsh

String Quartet – 20 minutes


Stretching across the Massachusetts North Shore from Gloucester to Salisbury, the Great Marsh is the largest salt marsh in New England. My piece is a collection of snap shot impressions, each movement a reflection on some special feature of this beautiful area. On my first visit to the Great Marsh I couldn’t help but think this is what much of the New England coast must have looked like long ago: vast stretches of marsh, barrier beaches, and tidal rivers fanning out for miles, an eternity of mud, grass, and brackish water. The first movement, Salt Hay, refers to the tall thin grass common to the area. Rushing scales, flowing lines, and bright harmonies burst forward, evoking the quicksilver motion of Salt Hay as it flashes back and forth in the wind. In the second movement slowly shifting harmonies, suspended dissonance, and languid motion evoke the oozy muck of tidal Mudflats while a playful, buoyant third movement represents the Seaside Sparrow, a rare bird local to coastal marshes. The final movement, Estuary, reflects on the perpetual tidal ebb and flow, the transition from land to sea, and the ancient, delicate balance of life sustained by the Great Marsh. The Great Marsh was commissioned by Music at Eden’s Edge.

Check out this live recording from the Congregational Church of Topsfield on 7.16.16

To purchase a score and part set please click here

premiered 07.15.16 at the North Shore Arts Association, Gloucester, MA by musicians from Music at Eden’s Edge


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


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 paid us a visit, launching a series of massive blizzards that brought a record breaking amount of snowfall. At the time I was holed up in a small New Hampshire cabin, fireplace and food close at hand, working on this piece, actually. For me the storms brought an eerie, magical calm: leafless trees crackling in the wind; pristine, untouched snow as far the eye could see; deep cold and an endless white horizon. At the same time my wife, eight months pregnant with our son, was alone in Boston, commuting to work on treacherous, ice-covered streets hemmed in by ten foot tall snow banks and a sea of frustrated commuters. The contrast was extreme. My piece Juno, reflects on that time: the anticipation before the first big storm; the beautiful stillness of fresh snow; the loud, dirty, struggles of an urban winter; and the feeling of heaviness as the season drags on seemingly without end. Juno was commissioned by the Mandel Foundation for the Utah Arts Festival and premiered in June 2015 by the Verge Ensemble.

Check out this video by Scott Quade of Hub New Music’s performance at the Fenway Center in Boston:

To purchase a score and part set please click here

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


Down Down Baby

Percussion and Prepared Cello – 22 minutesddb2

Down Down Baby is a childhood clapping game. Kids stand in a circle, clapping hands in choreographed patterns while singing a simple rhyming song. You know – Shimmy, Shimmy cocoa pop / Shimmy, Shimmy pow. When I began the piece my son was four months old. As a new Dad I often found myself trying to remember what being a kid was like. At the same time, perhaps with a bit less frequency, I was also thinking about how to approach cello and percussion in a completely new way. The two thoughts merged and I started to wonder if I were a kid with no prior knowledge of cellos and percussion what would I do? My immediate answer – I would hit and pluck in every possible way other than the normal way.

Thinking about childhood, led to games, which led to clapping games, which led to the amazing way two people facing each other performing the same motions become mirrors, which is a mesmerizing thing to watch; so I decided Hannah and Mike would be mirrors, and the cello would be their shared instrument. They would play, sing, whistle and clap (often all at the same time), and it would be hypnotic and joyful, maybe even capture some of the playful spirit and intricate physicality of the game Down Down Baby itself, or at least that was my hope!

With all this in mind, each movement became a short childhood scene. In Follow the Leader the players discover their new instrument, exploring a series of sounds and imitating each other as they go. Next is a brief Daydream, a moment of repose before a spirited Singing Lesson and a beguiling Strange Dance. After a second short Daydream the piece concludes with the title track, Down Down Baby, a kind of virtuosic romp through intricately coordinated hand gestures and interlocking rhythms.

Down Down Baby was commissioned by New Morse Code and developed with the support of the Avaloch Farm Music Institute.

Check out the official video of Down Down Baby, performed by New Morse Code:

premiered 10.04.16 at Kansas University by New morse Code


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 video of the Mivos Quartet recording Arctic at Oktaven Audio:

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 Hand Eye, Sleeping Giant’s evening length collaboration with eighth blackbird, 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, SendConduit evokes this man/machine synthesis. As bright waves of color explode from repeated sonic bursts, Touch compulsively repeats the gesture so fundamental to how we interact with our devices. In Pulse long lines in the flute and cello move through a cloud of asynchronous repeated notes, evoking that instantaneous moment when data passes from finger to screen. Finally, Send completes the transfer. Action follows as the music energizes and accelerates, moving briskly to a wild conclusion.

Check out this video of ‘640 by 480’ to see Zigelbaum and Coelho’s sculpture in action.

Here is a recording of eight blackbird’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert, performing the second movement Pulse:

Conduit was commissioned by eighth blackbird, as part of a group project with Sleeping Giant.

Talking in Circles

Violin and Viola – 14 minutes

Talking in Circles is a conversation that becomes an argument. Two characters are in dialogue, talking but not agreeing. They repeat themselves, 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 DisagreeTalking 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

Check out this fantastic performance video by Evan Chapman + andPlay


for prepared marimba – 6 minutes

Hannah in the studio recording ‘unwind’

Commissioned by New Morse CodeUnwind is a delicate exposition of off-kilter rhythms and slowly ascending lines. Layers of asynchronous pulses evoke an unwinding music box as cyclical rhythmic patterns move in and out of phase with each other. Initially confined to a narrow range, the musical voices themselves unwind as they slowly ascend the instrument, ultimately resting on the marimba’s two highest pitches. Bell tones, from a set of vibraphone bars placed on top of the Marimba’s ‘black’ keys, provide a bed of resonance to the pulsating marimba tones.

The piece can be performed as a duet, trio or quartet, all musicians playing one instrument.

Hear the recording by New Morse Code, accompanied with visuals by Hannah Wasileski:

Unwind from Hannah Wasileski on Vimeo.



Alone Together

Double Bass Quartet – 8 minutes

There has been so much talk about the internet and social media being both the great connector and the great divider of people. The feeling is that these conduits of information and connectors of people bring with them a kind of odd alienation and disconnect, that we are simultaneous with people and without people. I had been thinking about these things and the image that stuck with me was the physical reality of how we spend so much of our internet time: alone, by ourselves, tucked away in our apartments and homes. My music comes from that place, the quiet times when we commune with our screens and our networks.

Full disclosure, the title Alone Together admittedly takes its cue from the Sherry Turkle book of the same name and not the legendary Arthur Schwarz and Howard Dietz song.

Alone Together was commissioned by the Heavy Hands Bass Quartet.

Check out this video by four/ten media featuring Lisa Dowling:

To purchase a score and part set please click here

premiered 5.10.12 at the Gershwin Hotel by the Heavy Hands Bass Quartet

An Index of Possibility

Percussion Trio – 25 minutes

tigue index

Commissioned by TIGUE, Smoke and Mirrors, and Sonore Percussion, An Index of Possibility explores the secret world of sound in everyday objects. Using found sounds, homemade constructions, and cheap toys, Index unlocks a sonic palette exploding with color and variety. Cast in six movements, the music traverses a symphonic expanse, fluidly moving between ambient textures, visceral unisons and muscular virtuosity. A wistful lullaby tune, Repose, begins the piece. A kind of idée fixe, Repose will return two times, framing the three larger movements – Flicker, Flow and Burst. In Flicker piercing hits punctuate a tremulous layer of pulsating metal and wood. Flow begins with a mesmerizing rhythmic ostinato, gradually moving towards a strange and unexpected place as a new melody emerges on the tuned pipes. Long bell-tones signal a change of direction and then a second Repose appears only to be violently interrupted by the clangorous opening hits of Burst. Erupting into a wild torrent of rhythms traversing the full range of the setup, Burst is the work’s focal point. After barreling through Burst the final Repose brings the music to a hushed conclusion. While virtually the same as the opening, this last Repose feels somehow transformed, touched by the long journey of An Index of Possibility.

A complete instrument list includes –

Kick Drum, 3 Toms, Bongo, 4 jam blocks, 3 metals, 3 glasses, 3 ceramics, 2 Flower Pots, 2 metal mixing bowls, 2 small bells, Caxixi, Log Drum, a chromatic set of Desk Bells, 3 steel pipes (tuned), 9 copper pipes (tuned), 4 wood planks (tuned), 1 shot glass, and one serving platter attached to a foot pedal.

Check out the video by TIGUE

To purchase a score and part set please click here

Premiered 6.13.13 by TIGUE, JACK space, Brooklyn, NY