Robert Winokur

Robert Winokur at his keyboard

Robert Winokur’s music has been featured in documentaries, video games, on PBS, and in concert halls around the country. While primarily a composer of instrumental concert music, Robert has also written for jazz big band and combo groups, bluegrass groups, mixed-media and laptop-driven performing groups, and various chamber ensembles.

Robert was named as a finalist for his piece A Rabbit Tale (for narrator and orchestra) by Reno Pops Orchestra for their 2014 Composer’s Night Competition. In January 2014, My Brother’s Keeper (a rondo for concert band on themes from the American Civil War) was commissioned by Dr. David Kendall premiered by the UC Riverside Concert Band. Mi Calida Forno, a song about the American Southwest, was included in the regular set during the 2013 concert year by bluegrass group the Rivertucky Ramblers. Achilles and the Tortoise (for viol consort) was premiered in 2012 by the UC Riverside Collegium Musicum. Self-Portrait (for chamber ensemble) was performed numerous times under the direction of the composer throughout Southern California for the 2012 concert season.

In 2011, Robert completed his PhD in Music Composition with specializations in: eighteenth-century counterpoint, orchestration, the programmatic music of Richard Strauss, and jazz criticism and analysis. His dissertation, Trinity, which combines a larger symphony orchestra with two electric guitars, electric bass guitar and drumset, is a commentary on the meaning and function of God – as human construct – as proxy for the fully-realized human potential.

In 2014, Robert founded the jazz group Little Mountain Big Band – a
community-based ensemble which draws together musicians of all backgrounds, from high-school students and professional musicians to college professors and amateur players. Robert regularly performs throughout Southern California as a music director and bassist. He plays bass with the Redlands Community Orchestra.

Currently, Robert teaches music theory and music history and at Mt San Jacinto College and Crafton Hills College. He makes his home in the city of San Bernardino with his wife, the artist and author Beth Winokur, and their three wonderful children.

Explore Robert’s music and stay up to date with his projects here:

Listen to the recording of the RCO’s performance of Robert’s piece from November 15, 2015:

Listen to Robert talk about composing in a live recording of the “Ask the Composer” session during the concert:

Program Notes

Scenes From The Odyssey
(a tone poem for trumpet and orchestra)

Scenes From The Odyssey is a tone poem inspired by Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. Where The Odyssey is told “in medias res” – starting from the midway point then using flashbacks and non-linear storytelling to heighten dramatic tension – Scenes From The Odyssey starts at the chronological beginning of the story – the warriors’ triumphant return from Troy – and ends with shipwreck and the total loss of Odysseus’s crew to Scylla and Charybdis.

The women in Odysseus’s life play a critical role: the goddess Athena (his patron), his wife Penelope, and his consorts Circe and Calypso. In the middle section and cadenza, I focus on his relationship with Circe – their bittersweet love side by side with Odysseus’s resentment at being held captive and Circe’s anger and jealousy.

The piece opens with the Greeks departing Troy; boastful and proud, the brass fanfares portray the victorious and proud crew. Then, “the man of twists and turns,” their leader, Odysseus, portrayed by the solo trumpet, arrives. After a journey at sea, the sailors arrive at the island of the Cyclops and enter the cave of the “one-eyed giant” where Odysseus blinds the Cyclops Polyphemus and boasts,

if any man on the face of the earth should ask you
who blinded you, shamed you so—say Odysseus,
raider of cities, he gouged out your eye,
Laertes’ son who makes his home in Ithaca!’

The crew sets sail again and eventually arrives at the island of Aeaea – the home of the bewitching Circe the sea witch, who is portrayed by the harp. This is an extended scene between Odysseus and Circe – with whom Odysseus and his crew stayed for a year – before she sends him away to Hades to consult with the prophet Tiresias. Upon leaving Hades, Odysseus and his crew return to Circe’s island one last time before heading back to sea and into the straits of Scylla (the six-headed sea monster) and Charybdis (the whirlpool).

The sections in Scenes From The Odyssey are (in order): Fanfare, Victorious Return from Troy, Odysseus, a Man of Twists and Turns, the Solitary Hero, the Crew, the Sea, Cave of the Cyclops, Circe, Hades, Scylla and Charybdis, and Shipwreck.