Stephen Horenstein
Music, Arts and Society



Mindscapes. The rush of the heater masks the pelting rain on my windows, while the birds have found their evening peace.  Soon it will be midnight.  I am cuddled up in my robe and scarf, not waiting for the news, because it is all the same.  I decide to fantasize, opening a large page of April cruises on the Mediterranean.  My late father dreamed of cruising to exotic places, but never realized his fantasy.   Today cruises are mildly affordable, but grandiose affairs, certainly not for Robinson Crusoes.  I like my meat medium rare, but by my journeys raw.

All this is fantasy of course.  This evening Jerusalem is drenched.  Few emerge from their caves.  The choice is to watch a situation TV comedy or not to.  I am snuggled up in a slightly worn blue fluffy robe and a grey scarf my daughter gave me for my birthday.  Snug in a rug.  The Danish call it “hygge” (pronounced hoo-gah). They know how to live in the colder climates.

On shore, a right-wing extremist has, like a siren song, put out the word that if he is elected to the Knesset he will promote legalized weed, primarily to sedate young radicals to become patients “etherized on a table”.   (The spell check thinks I should write “catheterized” but I think not.)

Occasionally I hear a tune.  But most of all I hear immense rushes of sound, like the sea, but inside that sound are all kinds of “imaginables”, scary voices, mother’s cries, helicopters, multiple histories filled with horror, joy and then repose. This circus surrounds our lives, whether real or fantasy.  These rushes are what are inside me and are dying to emerge, their birth time well overdue.   Yes, sometimes it takes nine months, but sometimes nine minutes.

My motto to my apprentices is “by any means necessary”.  No, this is not a cry for radicalization, but a philosophy of musical (and I guess any) composition.  Whether meticulously writing the notes on a page for duplication, or somehow indicating the shape, or in the medium of electro-acoustic music shaping the sound so it matches what one hears in one’s inner ear…it’s all legitimate, if it eventually helps to give birth to the imagined idea.

Sometimes the idea is like a pearl.  Short, succinct and to the point. Sometimes it needs more time.  Sometimes it can only be realized by two or more like-minded souls who collaborate together in real time. There are many paths to what’s imagined in the inner ear. I have been privileged to try nearly all of them.  If one is honest about what one hears, they all work.

Attached are two links to two musical “pieces” (click the blue-printed titles to hear). The first is an electro-acoustic piece “Circus” from a recent album of mine entitled “Private Collection”. It is the first section of a larger work. Here are the liner notes:

  • Circus (2016) (for electronics). The piece explores our struggle for solitude and ultimately its impossibility. Designed as a sound analogy to Joseph Cornell’s famous “boxes” (dioramas).  To be developed into a full-length “oratorio” for electronic media.

The second is “fresh of the press” (from a session last Thursday!), entitled “Opening”  a meditation and collaboration by two seasoned friends sharing thoughts and feelings through music (Steve Peskoff, electric guitar, live electronics; yours truly, soprano saxophone).

I wish you all happy listening.  Any questions about these two pieces can be sent to my email as listed in my blog profile. I will gladly answer you.  Some answers can be found on my website.

About the Author
Stephen Horenstein is a composer, researcher and educator. His repertoire of musical works has been performed and recorded worldwide. He has been a recipient of the Israel Prime Minister's Prize for Composers and the National Endowment of the Arts (USA). His teaching has included Bennington College, Brandeis University, Tel Aviv University, Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance; residencies at Stanford University, York University, California Institute of the Arts, and others. He is Founder and Director of the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Music, established in 1988 to bring the music of our time to a wider audience.
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