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Students, Faculty + Alumni

SoundAdvice Composer Spotlight: Robert Honstein

SoundAdvice sits down with Robert Honstein, one of the composers selected to participate in ACO's 23rd Annual Underwood New Music Readings on June 6 and 7, part of this year's inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL celebration. His piece, Rise, is intended to inspire the audience to create their own art.

American Composers Orchestra: What was the inspiration for your piece that will be read by ACO at the Underwood New Music Readings?  How has that been incorporated into the work?

Robert Honstein: I was thinking about the idea of the pastoral, particularly the symphonic tradition of representing nature. It's a pretty old tradition that had a real flowering (pardon the pun) in the 19th century. You've got Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Berlioz, for example, writing orchestra music that expressed a distinctly romantic idea of nature. I love that music but feel like this way of representing nature isn't quite suited for the 21st century. We're still moved by the outdoors, of course, but it's complicated these days. What does it mean to romanticize nature in the post-industrial, climate-changing 21st century? Perhaps this explains the somewhat haunting mood of my piece, Rise. There is a celebration of the natural world, but also an unsettled feeling that never resolves.


ACO: During the Readings your work will be workshopped with George Manahan, mentor composers, and ACO musicians. What do you hope to gain from this experience?

RH: Knowledge, insight, wisdom. It's such a great opportunity to be in a room with this incredible cast of characters. Just watching them work will be a learning experience. The fact they'll be working on my music is an incredible bonus. I know I'll come away with a lot of new ideas and be better prepared for my next encounter with an orchestra.

ACO: Is there anything you'd like the the audience to know about your piece in advance? Anything you hope they take away from hearing it?

RH: The audience can take away whatever they'd like! I'm happy if my music leaves an impression, good or bad.