Middle Ground by Robert Honstein

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.

Middle Ground was commissioned by Kat Kroll, Barbara Sapienza, and Nancy Karp + Dancers and premiered February 10, 2016 by Kate Stenberg at the ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA.