Composer Highlight: Robert Honstein / by and Play

It has been such a blast working with Rob on his new piece for us! We had a great rehearsal together even though he lives in Boston--Skype and the powers of the internet are so magical!

Read his words, have some chocolate and/or whiskey, and then come hear us play the entire dynamic spectrum in his piece Talking in Circles (Wednesday, Dec. 17th at Cloud City @ 8 PM)!

Can you describe your piece in three words?

fast, slow, fast

Now you can use all of the words that you want!

Do I have to? I kind of like the three word description. Ok, fine. So, Talking in Circles is a conversation that becomes an argument. Two characters are in dialogue, talking but not agreeing. They repeat arguments, 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 Disagree – the pieces 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 acceptance of differences

What inspired you while writing this piece?

This is an interesting question because it was never really meant to be a 'piece' in the first place! Each of the movements were kind of homeless scraps, studies, or leftovers from other projects: the first movement contains material that later became a string quartet; the second movement was originally a violin/cello duo that never really had a home in the first place; and the third movement is material that became part of a larger ensemble piece. When I first saw you guys play a year or so ago I thought a) I want to work with these guys! and b) maybe I can find a home for music that I really liked but didn't necessarily have a clear place to live. Then I got to thinking about how/why/if the movements belonged together and I felt like they all had a conversational quality and that idea of dialogue seemed perfectly suited to a duo, so I got really into thinking about each movement as a different take on argument and disagreement, which I think makes sense and is definitely in the music. 

What are you listening to on repeat these days?

There is a three minute piece called 'Liebeslied' by Hans Abrahamsen that I've been obsessed with recently. It's really simple but extremely beautiful. I absolutely love the sound and color, particularly how he takes what essentially is a single-line scrap of melody but makes it sound like so much more. In a slightly different vein I've also really fallen for an album called 'Purcur' by these Norwegian guys Trygve Seim and Andreas Utnem. It's definitely a 'jazz' album but it's incredibly spare and hyper focused on melody and capturing really subtle expressive things like breath and release of notes. Everything feels so well placed and considered. It's also just beautifully recorded so you kind of feel like you are inside the sound at all times. Wonderful winter, headphone music.

What is your go-to midnight snack?

whiskey and/or chocolate

Any fun winter travel plans? Bundled up, bathing suited up, or staying put?

A little of both! Hitting up the family in New Jersey and then Florida. Otherwise it's all bundles and composing up in Boston. 


Check out more of Rob's works on his website!