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Raphael Mostel

Sounding the Space

2019 Season

Raphael Mostel has created a special adaptation of his piece “Sounding the Space” for the opening of Brice Marden’s Cold Mountain Studies exhibition. The spatial-environmental work embodies the Eastern idea of sound bound with nature and landscape. Performed in conjunction with Bill Porter’s poetry reading, four Tibetan singing bowls will “tune” the space and will play in concert with nearby breezes through the trees, birds, insects and frogs.


Based in New York City, Raphael Mostel is a composer, writer and lecturer known for the exceptionally broad range. His compositions have been presented by such organizations as the Berliner Philharmoniker, New York Philharmonic, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra (U.S.), Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, New York City Opera, Asia Society, WNYC-FM, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

His most-performed composition is “The Travels of Babar,” based on the classic 1932 picture-book of the same name by Jean de Brunhoff. The New York Times hailed it as “a miniaturized history of classical music” with “charms hard to resist.” Originally commissioned for a limited CD release in Japan, “The Travels of Babar” has already been presented over 65 times, and in five languages, in the original octet version and — more recently — in the new version(s) for orchestra. The Bibliothèque nationale de France has supplied Jean de Brunhoff’s original watercolors for the elaborate new HD slideshow Mostel has created (with help from a team of technical assistants) to accompany his score. The one and only collaboration between the Metropolitan Opera Guild and New York City Opera was on an 80-page teaching guide for Mostel’s work by their education programs when these major opera institutions used performances of the full production of this one-of-a-kind work for over 8,000 students as a first introduction to music and to music theater.

Twelve CDs of Raphael Mostel’s compositions have been released, on Toshiba/EMI, Angel, Point/Polygram, Innova, digital fossils, Infinity Series and his own Mostel.com label. Selected by Alex Ross as one of the new and notable compositions of the year, his “Night and Dawn / Nacht en Dageraad”, commissioned by the American Friends of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi rule was performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Brass Ensemble conducted by Ivan Meylemans, and was released on the Innova label. “Night and Dawn” has been presented 10 times, including by the brass of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Hailing the recording as “mesmerizing”, Los Angeles Times chief classical critic Mark Swed selected Mostel’s Ceremonial for the Equinox on his short list of major American compositions with Jewish elements, noting the singularity of this work in context: “There is nothing so far afield as the likes of Mostel”

Mostel is also well-known as composer/director of the noted contemporary New Music group Tibetan Singing Bowl Ensemble: New Music for Old Instruments [sm]. When he founded the Ensemble in 1982 to realize a new kind of composition it was the first of its kind in the world. Although frequently mistaken for something from another place and time, the Ensemble is named after its main instruments, the so-called “Tibetan” singing bowls — which were barely known in the west at the time. While Mostel’s sometimes theatrically ritualistic and frequently spatial compositions for the Ensemble are respectful of the sources of the instruments (and traditions associated with them), the compositions and the Ensemble are not associated with or derived from any particular national, spiritual or ethnic group. The New York Times noted Mostel has “created a repertory of entrancing works”… “worlds away from any popular, classical, or even Asian tradition.” John Cage wrote a mesostic on the name “Raphael Mostel” entitled “Song for the Tibetan Singing Bowl Ensemble: New Music for Old Instruments”. In 1987, Mostel was invited to compose music for, and perform at, the commemoration ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. These two compositions, “Swiftly, How Swiftly…” and “The River”, co-presented by Source Music, inc. and the Asia Society, and dedicated to the victims of the bombs, were also played live for broadcast on WNYC and remain one of the most often requested “New Sounds” programs John Schaefer has ever broadcast, in every market in the world where the show has been broadcast. This music was also used to inaugurate the new Asian service of the Voice of America. The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC both honored Mostel by mounting two separate multimedia retrospective exhibitions on his compositions for his Ensemble. In 2010, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Musical Instrument Collection and Education Department, in association with Source Music, Inc., presented had Raphael Mostel present a lecture with demonstrations and performance in its main auditorium — “The Mysteries of Tibetan Singing Bowls”

Raphael Mostel has written for The New York Times, Architectural Record, the Forward, NPR, Klassisk Musikkmagasin (Norway) and numerous other publications in Europe. He has received fellowships from the Japan Foundation, NYFA, Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, NYFA, Thomas Watson, Jr., Columbia University Kinne, American Academy in Berlin. He has received commissions from WNYC Foundation, Toshiba, Friends of Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Harriman Institute, Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He was graduated from Brown University. Among his numerous credits as an undergraduate at Brown was producing the New England premiere of Terry Riley’s now-classic “In C” — at the time only the seventh performance ever of this work. Upon graduation he became the first arts recipient of the then-new Thomas Watson, Jr. Fellowship (then named for the former dean, Samuel T. Arnold).

Mostel has lectured at the American Academy in Berlin, Institute of Fine Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Columbia Umiversity, the New School, University of Chicago, Princeton, Vassar, Brown, NYU, American Center of Tokyo. Since 2008, Raphael Mostel has been teaching with architect Steven Holl the internationally acclaimed senior Advanced Studio “Architectonics of Music” at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. In September, 2018, the “Architectonics of Music” was selected (by anonymous submission) for the Studio Award by Architecture, the journal of the American Institute of Architects, as tops in the country. Mostel has also consulted on a number of Holl’s architectural projects, such as the recently opened Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University. and Maggie’s Centre St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London

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