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Robert Honstein

New York, NY         

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. 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, expression and physicality 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 Albany Symphony, Dayton Philharmonic, Orchestre Symphonique du Mulhouse, Slovenian National Theater Opera and Ballet Ljubljana, Eighth Blackbird, Ensemble Dal Niente, Present Music, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Third Angle New Music, Mivos Quartet, Argus Quartet, Hub New Music, TIGUE, New Morse Code, Colin Currie, Theo Bleckmann, Doug Perkins, Karl Larson, Michael Compitello and Ashley Bathgate, 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.

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. 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 recently completed, Juvenalia, a percussion concerto for Colin Currie as well as Lost and Found a work for prepared solo marimba, for Michael Compitello and a consortium of percussionists. Upcoming projects include new works for the Arx Duo, No Exit New Music Ensemble, and flutist Michael Avitable.


‘An Index of Possibility’ explores the secret world of sound in everyday objects. Using found sounds, homemade constructions, and cheap toys Index unlocks a sonic palette exploding with color and variety. Cast in six movements, the music traverses a symphonic expanse, fluidly moving between ambient textures, visceral unisons and muscular virtuosity.

Performance by TIGUE
Video by Evan Chapman

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Down Down Baby

Down Down Baby explores themes of childhood, asking the question what would a kid do with a cello if they had never seen or heard one before? The title references clapping games and much of the music emulates some of the rhythms and symmetries of those games. Set in six movements, each movement is like a scene, exploring the many sounds available when a cello becomes a percussion instrument.

Recording by New Morse Code
Video by Four/Ten Media

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Commissioned by the Utah Arts Festival, ‘Juno’ takes its title from a massive winter storm that hit the Northeast in 2015. Over five contrasting movements, ‘Juno’ contrasts an idyllic pastoral experience of winter with the gritty slog of urban winter. This recording is by Hub New Music with video by Scott Quade.

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NewMusicBox Articles

NewMusicBox March 19 2008 | By Robert Honstein
South by Southwest Points To New Directions

If there is a place for Jandek and Bud Melvin at SXSW, then surely there must also be a place for the patriarch of minimalism, right?

NewMusicBox January 17 2007 | By Robert Honstein
Scene Scan: Austin, Texas

In the face of the cultural behemoth that is Austin’s bar/club scene, a handful of dedicated composers, performers, and promoters have succeeded in building a small but vibrant new music...