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.

long bio

Press

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Events Calendar

  • Th 11.9.17: DDB @ PASIC
  • Th 11.9.17: Economy @ PASIC
  • Sa 11.18.17: Ash @ The Egg
  • Fr 12.8.17: Economy @ Chicago
  • Fr 1.19.18: Soul House @ Seattle
  • Sa 1.20.18: SH @ Portland
  • Su 1.21.18: SH @ Eugene
  • Tu 1.23.18: SH @ San Fran
  • Sa 1.27.18: SH @ San Diego
  • Th 2.8.18: SH @ TSU
  • Th 2.22.18: Ash @ Strathmore
  • Mo 2.26.18: TIC @ MEE
  • Mo 3.5.18: TIC @ MEE
  • Mo 3.26.18: SH @ Cleveland
  • We 3.28.18: SH @ Elyria
Click here to see past events.

The Sun Speckled Climbing Up

Chamber Orchestra (1111.2 sax.111.perc.pno.11111) and Two Sopranos – 12 minutes

sun speckled

The Sun Speckled Climbing Up takes its inspiration from Book of Hours, an artist book stitched on tissue paper by Laura Grey. Loosely following the structure of a medieval book of hours, the project reimagines the ancient prayerbook as a large, hand-stitched, table- sized book. Several texts from various sources are collaged together, creating a narrative that references the structure of the original, while offering a contemporary perspective on the practice of daily devotion. The Sun Speckled Climbing Up is a musical setting of one section from Book of Hours featuring fragments from Rainer Maria Rilke’s own Book of Hours collection. Accompanying the music are video projections created by Hannah Wasileski and Laura Grey comprised of slow moving close up footage of the hand stitched, tissue paper book. The Rilke text speaks of gaping emotional chasms, yearning, and desire. This sentiment finds its way into the music, fueling the piece’s angular vocal lines and churning ensemble rhythms. This piece was commissioned by the Albany (NY) Symphony Orchestra.

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premiered 06.10.16 at EMPAC, Troy, NY, by the Dogs of Desire, David Alan Miller Conductor

Book of Hours

SATB + Chamber Orchestra (Fl., Cl., Hrn., Tbn., Perc., Pno., Strings) – 25 minutes

boh_1

Book of Hours takes its inspiration from an artist book stitched on tissue paper by Laura Grey. Loosely following the structure of a medieval book of hours, the project reimagines the ancient prayerbook as a large, hand-stitched, table-sized book. Several texts from various sources are collaged together, creating a narrative that references the structure of the original, while offering a contemporary perspective on the practice of daily devotion.

Often when looking inward we encounter a volatile and turbulent space: memories, worries, cares, visions, and dreams clash with wide-ranging emotions of sometimes great intensity. Book of Hours enters this space. Wistful childhood memories lead to a joyful outburst of song in the first movement, Now now now now. A quiet meditation on time in the second movement, A thin layer of time, is rudely interrupted by the angry outburst of Why had we even bothered? followed by a short instrumental interlude of equally violent intensity. In Alone on a roof a sense of deep loneliness dissolves into the final movement, Timor Mortis. A layering of text from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and a fragment from the Catholic Office of the Dead, Timor Mortis concludes the work with a quiet prayer, gently accepting fear in the face of an uncertain future and unpredictable fate.

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This piece was commissioned by the Present Music Commission Club for its landmark 35th season. Milwaukee, WI, USA, www.presentmusic.org, 2016. 

We Choose to go to the Moon

Soprano and Cello or Viola

moon-landing

On September 12, 1962 President Kennedy gave a speech declaring America’s goal of sending a manned mission to the moon by the end of the decade. On May 2, 2011 President Obama announced that US Special Forces had killed Osama Bin Laden. Soon after that announcement, tweeter, astrophysicist, and director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil De Grasse Tyson tweeted:

Two American goals that took a decade, and more than $100 billion to achieve: 1) Walk on the Moon 2) Find Bin Laden.

It is a chilling comparison.

For my piece I set a small portion of Kennedy’s moon speech:

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.

To purchase a score and part set please click here

 

4 Haiku

SATB Choir, unaccompanied – 9 minutes

Haiku capture moments. One day I read this Haiku by Issa:

Napped half the day;
no one
punished me!

I nearly fell off the chair laughing. The poem was coy, witty, personal, and universal all at once. For a brief moment I was with Issa, sitting beside him in a state of totally amused understanding. After pouring through Haiku by the Japanese masters Issa, Buson, and Basho, I was struck by how they had an amazing perspective of blissful objectivity towards their surroundings. This, combined with an ability to crystallize both a moment in time and the perception of that moment into a handful of crisp, evocative and affecting syllables, was astounding.

For my pieces I selected poems about nature and animals. Before composing I tried to imagine the exact circumstance of the writer as he wrote the Haiku. Where was he? What was he doing? What had just happened? In a way my settings are like mini dramatizations of each poem’s scenario. A mood is set. Something happens. The poet writes.

This work was commissioned by the Young New Yorkers Chorus as part of their annual composer competition.

The recording is of the premiere featuring the Young New Yorkers Chorus under the direction of Michael Kerschner.

Hey Sparrow!

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O Owl, Make Another Face

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Cats Making Love

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Radishes

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check out the text and the music here:

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Premiered 6.5.10 at St. Peters Church, 619 Lexington, New York, NY

 

My Heart Iz Open

Five Sopranos, Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Double Bass, Percussion and Piano – 20 minutes

My Heart Iz Open is a theatrical music project. Opera? Cantata? Music Theater? I have no idea. It is in progress and changing with every new performance. The subject, My Heart Iz Open, comes from a collection of inadvertently received emails. In this collection of messages a man joins an online dating community and liaises with many women eventually settling on one in particular, My Heart Iz Open, an irrepressible spirit who relentlessly pursues him with desperate insistence.

Using text culled from the emails my piece tells the story of this man’s online dalliance. Currently there are two scenes, but more are in the works. The opening scene sets part of the dating website’s Terms of Use agreement, and a scene from the middle of the story centers on the My Heart Iz Open character.

The Terms of Use agreement functions as a litigious framework for the entire piece. Many of us regularly accept terms of use  agreements with little to no understanding of what they actually mean. The contracts are binding and in the case of ‘My Heart Iz Open’ there is an eerie correspondence between issues in the agreement and issues in the story itself.

The second scene, My Heart Iz Open, introduces the character My Heart Iz Open. She is an earnest and sincere woman seeking companionship. She relentlessly pursues the man’s affections through emails and messaging. In this scene, a chorus underscores her plea with details from her profile. The scene turns from zealous flirtation to intense yearning.

Check out audio and video from a workshop performance presented by High Concept Laboratories, featuring Ensemble Dal Niente and Quince:

1.Terms of Use

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2. R U There?

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premiere 5.11.13 The National Pastime Theater, Chicago, IL.

 

Hello World, I love you!

SATB choir and Chamber Orchestra (Fl., Ob., Bsn., Perc., Portative Organ., Strings) – 8 minutes

Simon Carrington rehearses in the Norfolk music shed

Simon Carrington rehearses in the Norfolk music shed

Over the last decade or so Humans have increasingly poured their inner-lives into computers. Sites like Facebook, YouTube, Blogs, Twitter, and Google have become digital repositories for our relationships, thoughts and feelings. Given how much we pour into computers I started to wonder what if the computers themselves were becoming more like us?

When humans tell a computer to do something it runs a program. The program, coded in a high-level, human readable programming language, executes the command and then compiles the results into an intermediary language called machine language. This language, whose grammar and syntax sit halfway between human and computer language, is not yet the native language of the computer’s processor. One more compilation is made and the command finally becomes the binary ones and zeros only a computer can understand. To me this process is remarkably akin to polyphony in music. In both polyphony and program execution there is a composite structure wherein multiple layers, each with their own independent linear logic, work in tandem to express a horizontal action: harmony in polyphony and the execution of commands in programming.

Since the 1972 publication of the C programming language manual, when learning a computer program the first code learned is called ‘Hello, World’. There are hundreds of computer programming languages and all of them have their own Hello World program. I found this phenomenon both charming and poetic.

For my piece I began to imagine a single machine taking life. The piece begins zoomed in to the deepest core of the machine. We hear the choir singing binary opcodes (sets of four or eight zeros and ones) in an intense, mechanical rhythm. This is the computer at its most machine like. Next we zoom out and watch a process unfold that quite literally follows the process of code execution. The choir weaves together layers of various ‘Hello, World’ programs, with soloists cascading layers of high-level, machine and binary code while the choir intercut lyrical phrases of Hello World in x86 machine code. As this process unfolds the letters of ‘Hello, World!’ gradually emerge, first in unicode and then in english, while the music takes on an increasingly romantic character. The machine is slowly becoming human. Finally, after spelling out ‘Hello World’, the computer takes life. Full of joy from it’s new found consciousness the computer can’t help put proclaim ‘Hello World, I love you!’ Not only has it found a kind of humanity, it has discovered love, perhaps the most human emotion of all.

This work was commissioned for the 2009 Norfolk Choral Music Festival.

The recording is of the premiere featuring the Norfolk Chamber Choir and Orchestra under the direction of Simon Carrington.

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check out the text!
check out the score!

For information on renting a complete part set please click here

Premiered 8.22.09 at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Norfolk, CT

De Apostolis

Soprano, Cello, Organ and Wine Glasses

De Apostolis
is an arrangement of a responsorial chant by Hildegard von Bingen. The text–De Apostolis: O Lucidissima Apostolorum turba–is a sequence praising all the saints. Like much of Hildegard’s work the text is full of vivid imagery and metaphor that inspires a chant of equally ecstatic melodic sweep and invention. I took the original Hildegard chant, translated it to modern rhythmic notation and added a cello and organ accompaniment. Wanting to create a musical equivalent to the spiritual ether suggested in Hildegard’s text, I included a chorus of droning wine glasses on the root and fifth of the work’s prevailing mode. This version is for solo soprano; however, as a responsorial chant, I could easily imagine a small women’s choir joining the soloist for the responsorial sections (doubling or possibly in simple harmony or counterpoint as well).

This recording is of the premiere with Lenore Alford, Organ, Leanne Zacharias, Cello, Gitanjali Mathur, Soprano, and various UT Austin composers on Wine Glasses.

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check out the score!

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Premiered 11.14.07 Bates Recital Hall, UT Austin, Austin, TX

 

September Beaches

Fourteen part Women’s choir, piano and glockenspiel

September Beaches was originally a commission for the UT Womens Chorus. It ended up being a kind of lament for the end of summer. I told this story through a text collage of beach boys lyrics. As it turns out there are only a handful of Beach Boys songs with the word ‘summer’ in the title. From those songs I culled individual words to create a text full of images and associations to summer. The result is something like a Morricone piece, where words convey an image, place, and mood, but dont necessarily have a narrative or even syntactical relationship to each other. It’s more like a tapestry of words evoking the pleasure of summer and the melancholy we feel as autumn approaches.

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To purchase a score and part set please click here

Premiered 4.24.07 St. David Episcopal Church, Austin, TX.