The violin’s airy tones complement its full-bodied resonances, as if they might be a perfect blend in some alternate universe—or perhaps they already are. Composer Robert Honstein explores this very contrast, and its potential commonality, on Middle Ground, which funnels his unembellished compositional style into a search for the middle ground between far-reaching pitches and tonalities. The work, performed by violinist Kate Stenberg, is subdued and poignant, imbuing powerful sentiment into each bold, unadorned melody and subtle electronic manipulation.
Cast in three movements – Too Far, Too close, and Bridging the Gap – Middle Ground searches for a common space between opposites. The first movement, Too Far, emerges quietly from the highest range of the violin. Barely audible, fingers at the instrument’s edge, the music hovers in a cloud of ethereal tones before slowly descending. In an abrupt shift, the second movement, Too Close, lives in the violin’s lowest range. Distorted, rhythmic bursts hammer away at chopped up scales and jagged arpeggios. Eventually waves of sound surge upwards, only to plummet back down, pulled by a relentless, unyielding gravity. The final movement, Bridging the Gap, seems almost without hope. Exhausted by the previous movement’s struggle, the music searches for a new path forward. Two lines, one descending and the other ascending, gradually, methodically move towards each other, steadily intensifying as they approach "middle ground."