Robert Honstein: An Economy of Means

, composer

About

Composer Robert Honstein revels in illuminating subtle corners of textures woven out of limited materials. "An Economy of Means" highlights that quality in two extended fantasies for solo instruments, the title work for solo vibraphone, performed by Doug Perkins, and the Venice inspired Grand Tour for solo piano, played by Karl Larson. Paired together, these thoughtful, expansive works demonstrate Honstein's interest in subverting expectation within a post-minimalist context. 

Audio

# Audio Title/Composer(s) Performer(s) Time
Total Time 59:52

An Economy of Means

Doug Perkins, vibraphone
01Filigree
Filigree
Doug Perkins, vibraphone2:06
02Chorale
Chorale
Doug Perkins, vibraphone5:33
03Fast Notes, Long Tones
Fast Notes, Long Tones
Doug Perkins, vibraphone7:17
04Cross Fit
Cross Fit
Doug Perkins, vibraphone1:57
05Broken Chords
Broken Chords
Doug Perkins, vibraphone6:58
06Bow Lines
Bow Lines
Doug Perkins, vibraphone4:25

Grand Tour

Karl Larson, piano
07Per
Per
Karl Larson, piano3:35
08Strada Nuova
Strada Nuova
Karl Larson, piano1:45
09Palazzo
Palazzo
Karl Larson, piano3:51
10Cruise Ship
Cruise Ship
Karl Larson, piano6:52
11Passeggiata
Passeggiata
Karl Larson, piano1:55
12Lagoon
Lagoon
Karl Larson, piano8:58
13Per
Per
Karl Larson, piano4:40

In his insightful liner notes for Robert Honstein’s An Economy of Means, pianist Timo Andres writes, “isolation can also be an end in itself, spareness an aesthetic impetus.” From the opening fluorishes of the title work for vibraphone, played here with bravura by Doug Perkins, we hear compositional patience and restraint. Honstein limits his materials with discipline, finding “hidden pathos in clean, well-lighted places”(also from Andres’ essay). Subtle of changes become the source of that pathos — an extra repetition in a running passage or a brief harmonic turn sideways. Honstein uses preparations on the vibraphone, shifting timbre similarly to how one might use an alternative manual on a harpsichord. In the first and second movements, the addition of vibrating material to the face of the vibraphone creates shimmering, wave-like sounds. Within this economical presentation of material, “Cross-Fit”, the playful fourth movement, stands out as a radical structural adjustment. Here, the preparations on the vibraphone evoke steel drums, demonstrating the widest timbral palette in the multi-movement piece. “Broken Chords” contains flowing, overringing lines which shift harmonic areas subtly, turning an unexpected corner here, retreating there. The work closes with “Bow Lines”, a meditative bowed vibraphone texture, with preparations on the face of the instrument shimmering sympathetically with its bars. Grand Tour also explores the solo journey of a multi- movement piece, and does so with a similarly spare approach, despite its occasional virtuosic outbursts. The work is a travel log of sorts, an internal dialogue with the city of Venice, a city that certainly comes with its share of historical, and musico-historical associations. Honstein engages with those associations without being swallowed up by them — take for instance the moto perpetuo descending passages of the second movement, “Strada Nuova”, evocative of driving Baroque textures, while subverting regularity with rhythmic displacement. “Palazzo” opens with a motive evocative of the Rococo style, but develops it in all the “wrong” ways, getting stuck on one grouping, inflecting a sequence a few iterations too long, or following a chromatic thread that threatens to send the music right off the edge of the keyboard. It is a remarkable movement that truly captures Grand Tour’s somewhat uneasy relationship to being a tourist in Venice, with the complex dynamic between commercialism and the city’s history that is bound up in the experience. The slow, austere build of “Cruise Ship” eventually opens up into full-throated expressions of wonder and glory for this storied city, a refreshingly “grand” approach to piano writing one rarely hears among contemporary compositions for the instrument. “Passeggiata” begins as a simple minuet but then follows the introspective wanderings we heard in “Palazzo”, bringing us inside the mind of a reflective traveler. “Lagoon” evokes the flowing waterways that give Venice its character and romantic allure — as the movement grows, we hear the drama of waves crashing in a storm. The work ends as it began, with “Per”, a disembodied examination of the self that frames the wide range of emotion through the Ground Tour with question marks. Karl Larson is persuasive throughout, playing with drama and exuberance when it’s called for, and restraint in the most inward moments.

– D. Lippel

tracks 1-6: produced by Devin Maxwell; engineered, edited. mixed by Patrick Burns/Shirk Studios, Chicago, Il.

tracks 7-13: produced by Robert Honstein; engineered, edited, mixed by Ryan Streberand

All tracks mastered by Andreas K. Meyer at SwanStudios NYC.

Design: Laura Grey

Robert Honstein

Celebrated for his “roiling, insistent orchestral figuration” (New York Times) and “glittery, percussive pieces” (Toronto Globe and Mail), composer Robert Honstein (b. 1980) is a composer of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music.

Robert’s music has been performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra,  the New York Youth Symphony, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble ACJW, the Mivos Quartet, the Del Sol Quartet, the Deviant Septet, New Morse Code, Quince, TIGUE, the Color Field Ensemble, Concert Black, the Heavy Hands Quartet, the Sebastians, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Fireworks Ensemble, the Mana Quartet, the Bel Cuore Saxophone Quartet, the Yale Philharmonia, the UT Austin New Music Ensemble, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, the Bard College Orchestra, the Hunter Symphony, the Mannes Prep Orchestra, and the Mount Holyoke Symphony,

Robert has received awards, grants and recognition from Carnegie Hall, Copland House, the New York Youth Symphony, ASCAP, SCI, the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Lake George Music Festival, the Boston New Music Initiative, the Ithaca College Chamber Orchestra, and New Music USA. His work has been featured at numerous festivals including the The Tanglewood Music Center, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Bang on a Can Summer Institute, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Tutti New Music Festival. He has also received residencies at Copland House, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and I-Park.

Robert co-founded Fast Forward Austin, an annual marathon new music festival in Austin, TX. Described as “the first ever classical music event in Austin to make its own beer koozies” (Austin American Statesmen), Fast Forward Austin features local and national, cutting-edge artists in a “welcomingly relaxed venue… [that] tapped into what is so great about the Austin vibe: a community of people who are artistically curious, non- doctrinaire, and unpretentious” (NewMusicBox).

Robert is also a founding member of the New York based composer collective Sleeping Giant, a group of “five talented guys” (The New Yorker) that are “rapidly gaining notice for their daring innovations, stylistic range and acute attention to instrumental nuance” (WQXR). Recent seasons have seen collaborations with Ensemble ACJW and the Deviant Septet. In coming seasons Sleeping Giant will be composers in residence with the Albany Symphony Orchestra as part of New Music USA’s Music Alive program.

Celebrated for his “roiling, insistent orchestral figuration” (New York Times) and “glittery, percussive pieces” (Toronto Globe and Mail), composer Robert Honstein (b. 1980) is a composer of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music.

Robert’s music has been performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra,  the New York Youth Symphony, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble ACJW, the Mivos Quartet, the Del Sol Quartet, the Deviant Septet, New Morse Code, Quince, TIGUE, the Color Field Ensemble, Concert Black, the Heavy Hands Quartet, the Sebastians, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Fireworks Ensemble, the Mana Quartet, the Bel Cuore Saxophone Quartet, the Yale Philharmonia, the UT Austin New Music Ensemble, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, the Bard College Orchestra, the Hunter Symphony, the Mannes Prep Orchestra, and the Mount Holyoke Symphony,Robert has received awards, grants and recognition from Carnegie Hall, Copland House, the New York Youth Symphony, ASCAP, SCI, the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Lake George Music Festival, the Boston New Music Initiative, the Ithaca College Chamber Orchestra, and New Music USA. His work has been featured at numerous festivals including the The Tanglewood Music Center, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Bang on a Can Summer Institute, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Tutti New Music Festival. He has also received residencies at Copland House, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and I-Park.

Robert co-founded Fast Forward Austin, an annual marathon new music festival in Austin, TX. Described as “the first ever classical music event in Austin to make its own beer koozies” (Austin American Statesmen), Fast Forward Austin features local and national, cutting-edge artists in a “welcomingly relaxed venue… [that] tapped into what is so great about the Austin vibe: a community of people who are artistically curious, non- doctrinaire, and unpretentious” (NewMusicBox).Robert is also a founding member of the New York based composer collective Sleeping Giant, a group of “five talented guys” (The New Yorker) that are “rapidly gaining notice for their daring innovations, stylistic range and acute attention to instrumental nuance” (WQXR). Recent seasons have seen collaborations with Ensemble ACJW and the Deviant Septet. In coming seasons Sleeping Giant will be composers in residence with the Albany Symphony Orchestra as part of New Music USA’s Music Alive program.

Doug Perkins

Doug Perkins specializes in new works for percussion as a chamber musician and soloist. His performances have been described as “terrific, wide-awake and strikingly entertaining” by the Boston Globe and he has been declared a “percussion virtuoso ” by the New York Times. He has appeared at countless venues around the world including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Spoleto USA Festival, the Ojai Festival and the World Expo in Lisbon, Portugal.

Commissioning and collaborating to create new works is important to Doug. He has commissioned and premiered nearly 100 pieces works and regularly with such composers as David Lang, Steve Reich, Paul Lansky, John Luther Adams, Christian Wolff, Nathan Davis, Larry Polansky, and Tristan Perich. He founded the percussion quartet So Percussion and the Meehan/ Perkins Duo and performs regularly with groups like Signal, eighth blackbird, and the International Contemporary Ensemble. He has also had the privilege to work with artists like Glenn Kotche, Matmos, Max Roach’s M’Boom, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and pianist Jeremy Denk.

Doug’s critically acclaimed recordings as a soloist, conductor, producer, and member of the Meehan/ Perkins Duo and So Percussion can be heard on the Bridge, Cantaloupe, New Focus, and New World labels. They have been called “brilliant” by the New York Times, named to numerous Top 10 of the Year lists, and the recording that he produced and performed with the Meehan/ Perkins Duo, “Restless, Endless, Tactless: Johanna Beyer and the Birth of American Percussion Music”, was hailed as “immaculately played by the duo” by the BBC Music Magazine and “an engaging experience” by Gramophone. Fanfare Magazine perhaps best sums up the recording by stating “This is a must-hear for anyone remotely interested in the development of music in the past century and is strongly recommended.” Doug’s solo record, Simple Songs was just released in October on New Focus Recordings.

Lately, Doug has been organizing large-scale percussion events that encourage a sense of community and new ways of experiencing live music. His production of Iannis Xenakis’ Persephassa in and around Central Park Lake and John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit in New York City were named Top Ten Performances in 2010 and 2011 by the New Yorker, New York Magazine, and Time Out NY. Alex Ross called Inukuit at the Park Avenue Armory, “one of the most rapturous listening experiences of my life”.

Doug is the Director of the Chosen Vale International Percussion Seminar at the Center for Advanced Musical Studies and serves with eighth blackbird as an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Chicago. Additionally, he served on the faculty of Dartmouth College where he taught percussion and directed the Contemporary Music Lab and the concert series The Way to Go Out.
Doug received his Bachelor’s degree from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Masters and Artist Diploma degrees from Yale University, and his Doctorate from Stony Brook University. His principal percussion teachers were Jack DiIanni, Jim Culley, and Robert Van Sice.

Karl Larson

Brooklyn based pianist Karl Larson, praised for his “thoughtful” and “fervent” performances by The New York Times, is a sought after musician dedicated to the performance and cultivation of contemporary music. Larson has premiered works by notable composers including David Lang, Chris Cerrone, Scott Wollschleger, and David Rakowski. Larson has worked with many notable musicians and ensembles in his field and continues to seek out new collaborations and innovative projects. Recent collaborations include his work with Bearthoven, whose debut record Trios was released on Cantaloupe Music in May 2017, and Ashley Bathgate, with whom he released Restless, a record of Ken Thomson’s compositions, in October 2016. Larson is originally from McFarland, WI, and he holds degrees from Luther College and Bowling Green State University, where his primary teachers were John Strauss and Laura Melton.

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