VIDEO PREMIERE: Robert Honstein’s ‘An Economy of Means’

by Gabriela Tedeschi

Robert Honstein. Photo by Elisa Ferrari.

From Bach to Philip Glass, composers have long been fascinated with economical design. Working with simple materials requires innovative approaches from the composer and impressive virtuosity from the performer—which can often lead to intense, intricate works.

Robert Honstein’s new album An Economy of Means is inspired in part by this long-standing tradition. Featuring two large solo works, the title track and Grand Tour, the album seeks to show what incredible variety and complexity one performer on one instrument can develop within a piece.

An Economy of Means is a six-movement piece scored for solo vibraphone. Performed by percussionist Doug Perkins, the piece utilizes a variety of mallets and props to create wildly different colors on the instrument. Though Perkins makes it sound effortless, a performance of this work requires intense concentration and athleticism—which is why one of the piece’s most rigorous movements is titled “Cross Fit.”

It’s dazzling to watch Perkins’ coordination as he develops an intricate polyrhythmic pattern with four mallets. Making use of a metal sheet over the keys as well as tapping the sides and sliding across the resonators, Perkins generates an array of percussive sound and crisp melodic motifs. Without seeing it, you wouldn’t believe only one performer was playing.

Luckily, you can see it right here in our video premiere for “Cross Fit” from Robert Honstein’s new album An Economy of Means, created by Four/Ten Media.

Robert Honstein’s new album An Economy of Means comes out May 18. Click here to purchase the album.

Staff Picks: Friday Faves

Second Inversion hosts Rachele, Geoffrey, and Maggie S. each share a favorite selection from their Friday playlist! Tune in at the indicated times below to hear these pieces. In the meantime, you’ll hear other great new and unusual music from all corners of the classical genre 24/7!

Andrew Skeet: “Setting Out” from Finding Time (on Sony Records)

download (6)The textures of Andrew Skeet’s “Setting Out” seem to glow and shimmer and are so evocative of evening images that it’s no wonder that this music gave birth to an amazing visual creation as well. The video for this track is a must-see if you enjoy contemporary dance, or minimalist-influenced chamber music, or both. The lighting effects appear to flicker in the same manner as the piano and Skeet’s twinges of electronic effect, visually mirroring the twilight colors of the music. – Geoffrey Larson

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 1am and 1pm hours to hear this recording.

Glenn Kotche: “The Haunted Suite” from Adventureland (on Cantaloupe Music)

“The Haunted Suite” is a 5 movement work interwoven throughout the album Adventureland by Glenn Kotche. Each vignette depicts an eerie place (Dance, Hive, Furnace, Viaduct, and Treehouse), in a “piano vs. percussion” duel between Lisa Kaplan, Doug Perkins, Matthew Duvall and Yvonne Lam. My favorite movement of the lot is “The Haunted Dance,” which sounds a bit like a music box possessed by dark, mysterious forces with a ghoulish figure instead of a graceful ballerina spinning. Twisted, eerie, and captivating. – Maggie Stapleton

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 7am and 7pm hours to hear this recording.

Christopher Tin: “Come Tomorrow” from The Drop that Contained the Sea (on Tinwoks Music). Performed by Soweto Gospel Choir, Angel City Chorale & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.


Do your soul some good and explore the vocal traditions of the Xhosa with an uplifting, spirited choral piece. The Soweto Gospel Choir is an international treasure exuding joy that cannot be faked. Here they sing from Christopher Tin’s beautiful choral album The Drop That Contained The Sea, a collection of 10 vocal works, each sung in a different language and all exploring water in a different form. Climbing through the mist toward the steepest summit is a cinch with “Come Tomorrow” as your exuberant musical companion. – Rachele Hales

Tune in to Second Inversion in the 8am and 8pm hours to hear this recording.

ALBUM REVIEW: Tristan Perich’s Parallels

by Maggie Molloy


For many composers, a little bit of musical material can go a long way. For New York-based composer and sound artist Tristan Perich, even just 1-bit has a world of musical potential.

Throughout his career, Perich has created a variety of innovative works combining 1-bit electronics with traditional forms in both music and visual art. But what exactly is 1-bit? Perich describes it as music that never has more than one bit of information being played at any given time.

“In my work with 1-bit music, the audio waveforms are streams of 1s and 0s, on and off pulses of electricity that the audio speaker turns into sound,” Perich said. “I build my own circuits to make the connection between code and sound as direct as possible.”

Tristan+Perich+-+Portrait+(White,+courtesy+Perich)Among Perich’s most famous 1-bit works is his 2004 composition “1-Bit Music,” the first album ever released as a microchip programmed to perform an entire electronic composition live. The piece takes the form of an electronic circuit assembled inside a transparent CD case—and the microchip performs the music through a headphone jack attached to the case itself. (Perich later created an entire “1-Bit Symphony,” also housed inside a single CD case.)

His latest musical venture? A series of four imaginatively packaged recordings, each featuring a single work composed for 1-bit electronics and acoustic instruments. The collection, titled “Compositions,” artfully captures Perich’s background in music, math, computer science, and visual art.

Each recording is set to be released individually throughout this calendar year, beginning with the March release of Perich’s “Parallels,” the first composition in the series. The piece is scored for tuned triangles, hi-hats, and 1-bit electronics, a fascinating combination of timbres which pushes the boundaries of music and sound art.

The recording features a performance by the Meehan/Perkins Duo, comprised of percussionists Todd Meehan and Doug Perkins. The sonic interaction between human hands playing instruments and computer codes generating tones creates a truly mesmerizing electroacoustic soundscape.

(Buy the album on iTunes)

Furthermore, the piece echoes an intriguing theme present in many of Perich’s artistic works: the intersection between music and math, mere mortal and machine. For Perich, the physical aspect of performance (by both human and computer) is a crucial component of his artistic vision.

“Similar to performance, computation itself is a physical process, so these compositions are essentially duets between human and machine, explorations of this soundmaking process,” he said.

“Parallels” seeks to draw comparisons between the duality of 1-bit sound (on vs. off) with the duality of tuned triangles and hi-hats (open vs. closed timbres)—hence the title. The 50-minute piece restlessly experiments with a unique fusion of pure 1-bit tones combined with pitched and unpitched percussive sounds. With rhythmic verve and mathematical precision, the music skitters, jitters, and glitches, relentlessly oscillating between tone and noise.

If you’re looking for a little bit more Perich, stay tuned for the rest of the “Composition” series. Next in the collection is “Telescope” for two bass clarinets, two baritone saxophones, and 1-bit electronics, followed by “Dual Synthesis” for harpsichord and 1-bit electronics, and “Active Field” for 10 violins and 1-bit electronics. Each installment of the series (including “Parallels”) comes as a CD package with a poster-sized print of the entire musical score.

In itself, “Parallels” is a hypnotic fusion of creativity, code, and computer science—an imaginative glimpse into the intersection of music and mathematics. And in a world full of composers competing for novelty and innovation, Perich has certainly made a name for himself as a 1-bit wonder.