About

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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Press

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Events Calendar

  • We 4.26.17: RS @ The Armory
  • Th 5.4.17: TINM @ Conn
  • Su 5.7.17: Arctic @ S. Church
  • Mo 5.8.17: Lip Service @ ESM
  • Sa 5.13.17: Index @ NC
  • Su 5.21.17: Hymning @ TIPC
  • Sa 6.3.17: Arctic @ AMF
  • Su 6.4.17: Requiem @ DPO
  • Su 6.3.18: Night Scenes @ DPO
Click here to see past events.

An Economy of Means

Prepared Vibraphone Solo – 30 minutes

Photo Jul 09, 11 45 24 AM

An Economy of Means is a kind of companion piece to my trio An Index of Possibility. In Index I used a wide range of materials—glass, metal, wood, ceramic, drums, toys, found objects—to create a large form that moved between distinctive worlds within a broad sonic palette. With An Economy of Means I’ve done the opposite, deliberately using one instrument, the vibraphone, and forcing myself to make the most out of limited resources. With a few simple preparations—tin foil, a manilla folder—and judicious usage of the vibraphone’s natural properties, I tried to build something vast and varied, as broad and ambitious as the trio but in a narrower, more focused context. Set in six movements, the nearly thirty minute piece doesn’t have a specific narrative. Even so, I think there is always a sense of motion, of drifting from space to space, with little dramas unfolding along the way. An Economy of Means was commissioned by Doug Perkins and a consortium of alumni from the Chosen Vale Summer Percussion Seminar. I think the infectious spirit of friendship and collaboration so strongly felt at Chosen Vale found its way into this work, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Recording coming soon!

Juno

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

DC_Snowstorm_Feb_-_Flickr_-_Al_Jazeera_English_(6)

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.

 

Hymning

solo marimba – 8 minutes

music

I grew up singing and playing hymns. I’m not particularly religious, but somehow they stuck with me. I love them for that. I love how they’ve always been there. How they never fail to reach me, to draw out some long forgotten feeling. They’re like an old friend: we don’t keep in touch so well, but every time we see each other we pick up right where we left off. My piece Hymning is like a daydream, a quiet stroll through hazy recollections of these tunes. I don’t think I quote anything specifically, rather it’s a sort of fantasy, an extended riff on little phrases that feel similar to probably hundreds of different tunes. After a long, meandering first section the music finds it’s way back to the beginning. On second look the tune takes a few unexpected turns. Digressions lead to wistful flourishes and unexpected tonal detours before returning once again to the opening idea. The piece ends, but I think there’s a sense it might still be going, quietly, barely heard, somewhere off in the distance. I can pick up this thread any time. It’s always there.

The score has not been published, but contact me if you’d like to be notified when it is!

Hymning was commissioned by Michael Burritt

premiered 11.11.16 at PASIC 2016, Indianapolis, IN

 

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.

recording coming soon! in the meantime check out these rehearsal videos:

premiered 10.04.16 at Kansas University by New morse Code

Conduit

Fl., Cl., Vln., Vc., Perc., Piano – 16 minutes

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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.

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

Unwind

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 perfumed as a duet, trio or quartet, all musicians playing one instrument.

Recording by New Morse Code coming soon!

 

 

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

Lip Service

Flute, Double Bass, Percussion – 20 minutes

Picture 7

Lip Service is the third and final set of instrumental pieces based on lines excerpted from a collection of emails accidentally received by my friend Jeffrey K. Miller. As with the other two sets–Why are you not answering? and Is it Auburn?–Lip Service, takes its starting point from the strange emotional worlds implied by the extracted lines. For Lip Service the first email, Better find those little blue pills if you plan on giving her more than lip service, is a letter of advice sent to Jeffrey from an unknown friend. The second email, Halfway?, is in fact the entire email. It refers to a meeting point halfway between Jeffrey and the woman’s home. As far as I know, the meeting never took place. The third email, I am hidden my dear for you!!!, perhaps explains the failed meeting, but we cannot be certain.

Lip Service was commissioned by Concert Black. You can find a recording on my album RE: You on New Focus Recordings. Check it out here!

Check out video of Concert Black performing the piece:

video by Evan Chapman

premiered 5.24.11 by Concert Black at Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY.

 

Is it Auburn?

Violin, Cello, Percussion, Piano – 8 minutes

 

Correction Line set up. Great Hall, Toronto.

 

A couple years ago a friend of mine received about 100 emails in error. They had been sent to a man with the same name as my friend and contained a meticulous record of every communication this person had sent or received within a popular online dating site. I found these emails to be hilarious, moving, and bizarre. Both the content and the strangeness of how they entered my life have led me to refer back to them again and again in my work. For these pieces I took the first line of two emails–Just please let me know and that’s all I ask from you, and Is it Auburn?–and composed musical responses to each statement. As much as possible I tried to imagine the emotional impetus for each email. Ultimately these pieces became a set of songs without words, each one underscoring the moment in which this unknown man composed his emails.

I composed these pieces for the Correction Line Ensemble’s November Canada tour. The recordings below are from our 11.23 show at the Manitou Opera House in Manitou, Manitoba and our 11.26 show at the Lorne Watson Recital Hall in Brandon, Manitoba. The musicians are Leanne Zacharias, Cello, Cristina Zacharias, Vioin, Ed Reifel, Percussion, and myself on Piano.

Just please let me know and that’s all I ask from you.

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Is it Auburn?

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To purchase a score and part set please click here

Also, check out this awesome video WNYC’s Q2 made of the piece:

premiered 11.16.10 The Great Hall, Toronto, Ontario, CA

Why are you not answering?

Clarinet, Electric Guitar, Cello, Double Bass, Piano, Drum Set, Glockenspiel – 14 minutes

A couple years ago a friend of mine received about 100 emails in error. They had been sent to a man with the same name as my friend and contained a meticulous record of every communication this person had sent or received within a popular online dating site. I found these emails to be hilarious, moving, and bizarre. Both the content and the strangeness of how they entered my life have led me to refer back to them again and again in my work. For these pieces I took the first line of two emails–My friend, I understand 100%, I have no girlfriend, and Why are you not answering? I do not wish to play games–and composed musical responses to each statement. As much as possible I tried to imagine the emotional impetus for each email. Ultimately these pieces became a set of songs without words, each one underscoring the moment in which this unknown man composed his emails.

This piece was commissioned for the 2010 Bang on a Can Summer Institute and premiered by Evan Ziporyn and six awesome fellows: Lisa Dowling on bass, Owen Weaver on drums, Karl Larson on piano, Nora Krahl on Cello, Daniel Reyes Llinas on Guitar, and myself on Glockenspiel.

The recording is of the premiere.

My friend I understand 100%. I have no girlfriend

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Why are you not answering? I do not wish to play games.

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To purchase a score and part set please click here

Also, check out this video taken from the piece’s premiere at Banglewood:

premiered 7.26.10 MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA.