Robert Honstein ~ Middle Ground

Middle Ground is an accessible experiment, a solid metaphor, and an engaging triptych.  But the most memorable aspect of the 20-minute EP is the light show.  It’s not clear how it’s being done, but dancing spheres frolic around violinist Kate Stenberg’s wrist first like a bracelet of fireflies, then like glowworms. The combination of music and light suggests pixies, sprites, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Robert Honstein‘s piece explores the middle ground between the high and low registers of the violin: first one, then the other, than the resolution.  In an era of partisan politics, the music suggests a way forward: full, intent listening to each perceived side, then an exploration of common ground: not eliminating the differences, but highlighting the harmony.

The title of the first movement, “Too Far,” is easy to connect with the idea of extremism.  Ironically, the music, despite lying on one side of the spectrum, doesn’t go “too far.”  One receives the higher notes as delicate, ethereal, heaven-sent, descending from the clouds; and even they are eventually joined by more earthen tones.  There is, however, a noticeable difference in “Too Close,” which is immediately faster, more frantic, immediate and attacking.  In the center the music starts to flow like a churning ocean that despite its turbulence possesses a violent predictability.

And then both sides speak at once.  One might guess they would be arguing, yet instead they are synthesizing.  Neither seems to cede ground to the other, and yet the tension in the room soon dissipates.  “Bridging the Gap” does exactly what it promises, like “The Creation of Adam,” two sides reaching for each other while retaining their essential identity.  If the dream doesn’t quite reflect the current political landscape, it at least offers a way forward.  (Richard Allen)

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