Composer Robert Honstein releases his third recording with New Focus (follow ups to FCR146 Re: You and FCR202 An Economy of Means), this time featuring percussion trio Tigue, cello and percussion duo New Morse Code, and percussionist Michael Compitello.
An Index of Possibility
|Tigue, Matt Evans, percussion, Amy Garapic, percussion, Carson Moody, percussion|
|04||Repose 2 - Burst|
Repose 2 - Burst
Down Down Baby
|New Morse Code, Hannah Collins, cello, Michael Compitello, percussion|
|06||Follow the Leader|
Follow the Leader
|11||Down Down Baby|
Down Down Baby
Lost and Found
|Michael Compitello, percussion|
|16||Everything is OK|
Everything is OK
Robert Honstein is a New York City-based composer whose output ranges from chamber and orchestral works to vocal and film music. Lost and Found is devoted to his music for percussion. The album notes by Doyle Armbrust resonate with themes of childhood, early parenting, and the timeless animated films of Hayao Miyazaki.
Honstein is a master of process and mood, building and releasing tension in multiple layers. His taut formal clarity balances a slow, organic approach to development; extended sections of complex patterns can suddenly cut to silence or new material, and return later. He counterpoints larger, more virtuosic movements with understated, repeating interludes that outline the structure of each work.
The album opens with An Index of Possibility. “Repose 1” lilts like a sweet, sleepy afternoon, a relaxing bell-like drift of tuned pipes shaded by the breath of a scraped flower pot. “Flicker” is a bright awakening, bells and tuned pipes in constant motion. This texture is accompanied by sharp strikes of a log drum, and initially their relationship is unclear. As the timbres change, the drum strikes open up longer and longer interruptions in the rolls. Five stele of sound, articulated by sharp accents, end the movement with imposing authority. “Flow” begins with a ritual-like gesture — listen for the beautifully strange decays of the sawblade and school bell. It is a stream of energy, driven by an unrelenting quintuplet pattern, shot through with color from layers of quintuplets sliding under and over. A wonderfully lanky assemblage of drums and bells makes a cameo appearance. “Repose 2” is interrupted by the fizz of bells that begins the hugely entertaining “Burst”, a hair-raising ride on a devilish machine built from ever-changing time signatures, unpredictable repetitions, and perpetual motion. “Repose 3” brings the piece to an introspective close. The last we hear is a solemn, mysterious drum roll.Read More
In the performance notes for Down Down Baby, Honstein writes of childhood games. The resulting music, energized and virtuosic, is anything but kids’ stuff. Laid flat, the cello becomes a vibrant percussion instrument speaking with multiple voices. In “Follow the Leader,” additive rhythms build expectation, and complexity grows as each new sound is added. It’s a slow burn that sparks whenever the bells appear. “Daydream 1” is a time-suspension, a lonesome song. “Singing Lesson” unexpectedly combines fleet, scampering hand drumming with mantra-like solfege singing and whistling. Unlike anything else on the album, “Strange Dance” is a delightful woozy trip. Drippy cello glissandi and great arcing gestures played by a hundred hands dance through this gem. “Daydream 2” is a hummed memory from the past. The final movement recalls the first, but its attitude is steelier. You will find yourself nodding in time with its relentless drive.
Lost and Found is written for marimba prepared with small objects like a baking tin, güiro, and glass bottles. Combining the clear pitches of the marimba with noisier, less focused tones, both in counterpoint and as a single terrain, create an expansive musical space. The first movement, “Spiders,” begins in a state the composer calls a “hushed prowl”. The serrations of a güiro sound aggressive in comparison. A four-note gesture grows, full of suspense. “Half Asleep” is just that — a sweet, dreamy world on the edge of consciousness. The gentle piece transforms through transpositions and not-quite-repetitions, gaining force through dynamic swells, to an understated but insistent finish. “Shakedown” rides syncopated ostinatos through playful interactions of the marimba and its indefinite-pitched companions. The mood is light. As it traverses the keyboard, you’ll wish you had a martini in one hand and a maraca in the other. “Spiders” returns in a different disguise clearing the air for the earnest “Everything is OK.” This movement starts with a lyrical, pop-infused melody, on marimba alone, and a new world opens up when the piece abruptly changes key and adds more instruments. Although the world is different, it’s still ok. A final iteration of “Spiders” leads to “Coda”. A single rhythmic motive runs through most of this spare, pensive music; multiple times the instrumentation develops, and more and more auxiliary sounds (a tambourine, a woodblock) are arrayed around it, leading to a melancholic, enigmatic ending.
– Kyle Bartlett
An Index of Possibility, tracks 1–5
Engineered, edited, and mixed by Ryan Streber January–August, 2014, Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, NY
Additional editing by Hansdale Hsu
Down Down Baby, tracks 6–11
Engineered, edited, mixed by Ryan Streber January–September, 2017 and November, 2021, Oktaven Audio, Mt. Vernon, NY
Additional editing by Charles Mueller
Lost and Found, tracks 12–18
Produced by Doug Perkins
Engineered by Stephen Shirk
Edited and mixed by Patrick Burns June 2020 through March 2022, Shirk Studios, Chicago, IL
Additional producing by Doug Perkins
Mastering by Ryan Streber
Design by Grey Studio
Photography: Stills from Lost and Found, Four/Ten Media
Liner Notes by Doyle Armbrust
Celebrated for his “waves of colorful sounds” (New York Times) and “smart, appealing works” (The New Yorker), Robert Honstein (b. 1980) is a New York based composer of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music. Raised in New Jersey, Honstein creates music rooted in performance and personal narrative. His background as a pianist and singer brings a deep love of instrumental and vocal practice to collaborations with leading musicians from around the world.
Fueled by an omnivorous musical appetite, Robert’s compositions are noted for their “dry humor” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “breathless eruptions” (New York Times) and “devilishly fun writing” (The Arts Fuse). At times “profoundly moving” (Shepherd Express) and “genuinely touching” (Chicago Classical Review), Robert combines a fascination with narrative, environment, and everyday experience to create “deeply contemplative” (Bandcamp) works that probe the vicissitudes of contemporary life from the banal to the sublime. A growing interest in story-telling, physicality and expressive embodiment infuses his work with a direct, evocative sensibility that is equal parts riotous frenzy, austere lyricism, and minimalist-tinged romanticism.
Leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists from around the world have performed Robert’s music including the Chicago Symphony, Albany Symphony, Orchestre Symphonique du Mulhouse, Slovenian National Theater Opera and Ballet Ljubljana, American Composers Orchestra, Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble Dal Niente, Present Music, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Third Angle New Music, New Music Detroit, Quince, Mivos Quartet, Del Sol Quartet, Argus Quartet, Hub New Music, Chatterbird, TIGUE, New Morse Code, Colin Currie, Theo Bleckmann, Doug Perkins, Michael Burritt, Karl Larson, Michael Compitello and Ashley Bathgate, among others. A keen interest in interdisciplinary collaboration has led to projects with artists across many disciplines, including photographer Chris McCaw, projection designer Hannash Wasileski, graphic designer Laura Grey, and director Daniel Fish. His music has also been choreographed by numerous dance companies such as the Cincinnati Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Nancy Karp and Dancers, Urbanity Dance, and Frame Dance, among others.
Robert has received awards, grants, and recognition from Carnegie Hall, the Barlow Foundation, Copland House, the New York Youth Symphony, ASCAP, the Albany Symphony, New Music USA, and the League of American Orchestras. His work has been featured at festivals around the United States, including the Tanglewood Music Center, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and the Bang on a Can Summer Institute. He has also received residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Copland House, and I-Park.
Robert is 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). Projects have included evening length works for Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble ACJW and the Deviant Septet as well as a multi-year residency with the Albany Symphony. ‘Hand Eye’ for Eighth Blackbird was released on Cedille Records to critical acclaim, while the Giants most recent project ‘Ash’ was released on New Amsterdam Records with cellist Ashley Bathgate.
With a commitment to building community around the music of our time Robert co-founded Fast Forward Austin, an annual marathon new music festival in Austin, TX and Times Two, a Boston-based concert series that paired artists from diverse backgrounds in a laid back, accessible context. As an educator, Robert has participated in outreach projects around the country, while also serving as Program Manager and Composition Faculty at NYU, Steinhardt.
His debut album, RE: You, was released by New Focus Recordings in 2014 and his second album, Night Scenes from the Ospedale, a collaboration with the Sebastians, was released on Soundspells Productions in 2015. In 2018 his album ‘An Economy of Means’, featuring Doug Perkins and Karl Larson was released on New Focus Recordings. NPR included his piece ‘Pulse’ from Eighth Blackbird’s ‘Hand Eye’ as one of their top 100 songs of 2016. ‘Pulse’ was also featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series featuring Eighth Blackbird.
Robert’s original score to the Showtime Documentary The Real Charlie Chaplin was nominated for a 2022 News and Documentary Emmy for best original score. Recent commissions include, Juvenalia, a percussion concerto for Colin Currie, Endless Landscape, a chamber orchestra work for Ensemble Connect, and Lost and Found, a work for prepared solo marimba, for Michael Compitello and a consortium of percussionists. Upcoming projects include new works for Duo Vis, No Exit New Music Ensemble, and flutist Michael Avitable.
last updated 3/6/23http://www.roberthonstein.com
Tigue is the creatively fluid percussive trio of Matt Evans, Amy Garapic, and Carson Moody. Since 2013, The group has made their own kinetic and hypnotic blend of instrumental minimalism while simultaneously commissioning newly composed works for percussion trio. Their boldly colored output queers typical boundaries of collaboration, challenging hierarchical power structures and embodying ecstatic supportive systems. With a highly collaborative spirit, Tigue has integrated their vocabulary with bands Deerhoof and Yo La Tengo as well as composers Elori Saxl, Lea Bertucci, and Jason Treuting with recordings available through New Amsterdam Records and Cantaloupe Music. Praised for their focused and “high octane” productions (New York Times), the Ohio-born band members have worked together since they were practically children.
New Morse Code (Hannah Collins, cello; Michael Compitello, percussion) is the confluence of two magnetic personalities who have taken up the admirable task of creating a hub for the performance, commissioning, and promotion of new music. NMC is theoretically the alluring and uncommon combination of cello and percussion, but in practice is best described as two musicians of extraordinary depth and skill untethered by their instrumental constraints. This unrestricted approach has allowed them to create a body of work in which Hannah can be found crushing plastic bottles and Michael plucking the strings of the cello––all with the intention of expanding and facilitating the imaginations of their composer-collaborators––while ultimately creating a meaningful and lasting repertoire. As tireless advocates for new music, they seek out diverse venues and strive to connect with disparate audiences by way of their accessible intellect and dynamic musicality.
Over the past decade, the “remarkably inventive and resourceful duo” (Gramophone) has developed projects responding to our society’s most pressing issues, including The Emigrants, a documentary chamber work by George Lam, and dwb (driving while black), a chamber opera by Roberta Gumbel and Susan Kander, called “The Most Relevant, Hauntingly Evocative New Chamber Opera in Years” (Lucid Culture - New York New Music Daily). Their long-term collaboration with Christopher Stark on The Language of Landscapes (commissioned in 2014 by Chamber Music America) incorporates found discarded objects, field-collected environmental recordings, and live electronic processing as a way of making commentary on the urgency of the climate crisis. As the recently named inaugural grand prize winners of the Ariel Avant Impact Performance Prize, they will develop and tour a program featuring Stark’s work alongside new pieces which address sustainability and scientific innovation.
New Morse Code's 2017 debut album Simplicity Itself on New Focus Recordings was described by icareifyoulisten.com as “an ebullient passage through pieces that each showcase the duo’s clarity of artistic vision and their near-perfect synchronicity,” while Q2 Music called the album “a flag of genuineness raised.” In 2019 they collaborated with Eliza Bagg, Lee Dionne, and andPlay on and all the days were purple, Alex Weiser’s Pulitzer Prize-finalist work on Cantaloupe music. They have also recorded for innova, Albany, and Navona Records.https://www.newmorsecode.com/
Michael Compitello is a dynamic, “fast rising” (WQXR) percussionist active as a chamber musician, soloist, and teaching artist.
He has developed sustained collaborations with composers such as Thomas Kotcheff, Tonia Ko, Amy Beth Kirsten, and Robert Honstein on new works, in addition to working with Helmut Lachenmann, David Lang, John Luther Adams, Alejandro Viñao, Marc Applebaum, and Martin Bresnick on premieres and performances of new solo and chamber works. Currently, Michael’s project Unsnared Drum (released August 2021 on New Focus Recordings) seeks to reinvent the snare drum through new works by composers Nina C. Young, Hannah Lash, Amy Beth Kirsten, and Tonia Ko.
With cellist Hannah Collins as the “remarkably inventive and resourceful” (Gramophone) New Morse Code, Michael has created a singular and personal repertoire through collaboration with some of America’s most esteemed young composers.
Michael is also a member of Percussion Collective, an ensemble dedicated to refined performances of contemporary percussion repertoire, with whom he performed as soloist with the Colorado Symphony, and on concert series across the country. Michael is Assistant Professor of Percussion at Arizona State University. He holds degrees from The Yale School of Music and the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.https://michaelcompitello.com