Malcolm Goldstein

(b. 27 March 1936, Brooklyn, New York, New York).

American composer, now resident in both Canada and the USA, of mostly chamber and electroacoustic works that have been performed throughout the world; he is also active as a violinist and writer.

Mr. Goldstein attended Columbia University from 1952–59, where he studied composition with Otto Luening for one year and where he earned his BA and MA. He later studied violin privately with Antonio Miranda in New York, New York from the mid- to late 1960s.

Among his honours are the Artists Foundation Fellowship in Music Composition in Boston, Massachusetts (1988), the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award in New York, New York (1990) and the Prix Acustica International from WDR (1994, for between [two] spaces [zwischen (zwei) räumen]). He is also the subject of the film Espace Ouvert – Portrait of Malcolm Goldstein by Thierry Collins.

As a violinist, he performed with the Judson Dance Theater in New York, New York from 1962–64, the New York Festival of the Avant Garde in the 1960s and the Experimental Intermedia Foundation in New York, New York in the 1960s. He later performed primarily as a soloist, both in improvised and notated music, and has performed in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA. He has performed numerous improvisations with the title Soundings since the late 1960s.

As a writer, he has contributed articles about improvisation to various journals, including Perspectives of New Music, many of which appear in From Wheelock Mountain: Music and Writings by Malcolm Goldstein (1977, in Pieces: A Profile, edited by Michael Byron). In addition, he wrote the book Sounding the Full Circle: Concerning Music Improvisation and Other Related Matters (1988, self-published, now available through Frog Peak Music).

He is also active in other positions. As a performer of contemporary music, he has been active as an improviser and vocalist and has played various found and natural objects, among other instruments. He co-founded with Philip Corner and James Tenney the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in New York, New York in 1963, a group for contemporary music that performed until 1970. He later served as director of the New Music Ensemble of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire in the 1970s and of the hr-Ensemble für Neue Musik in Frankfurt am Main in the 1990s.

He taught various subjects at Columbia University from 1961–65, The New School in New York, New York from 1963–65 and 1967–69, the New England Conservatory in Boston, Massachusetts from 1965–67, Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania from 1969–71, Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont from 1972–74, Dartmouth College from 1976–78, and Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine from 1978–82.

In addition to the works listed below, he received commissions from the Charles Ives Society to prepare critical editions of Symphony No. 2 in 1976 and String Quartet No. 2 in 2002, both by Charles Ives.

His primary distributor is Frog Peak Music.


E-mail address for consulting scores:


SELECT LIST OF WORKS (note that all works are structured improvisations)


Marin's Song, Illuminated (sound/theatre ritual, vocalise), any number of voices, any number of players, 1979–81 (also concert version for violin [+ voice, any number of metal objects], fixed media, slide projections [by the composer])

Aparición con vida (theatre piece, text by Marjorie Agosín), violin (+ voice), 1993

a convergence of distances, any number of dancers, any number of players, 1994

Fragments of the Wall, dancer, saxophone, trombone, violin, double bass, percussion, 2008


a breaking of vessels, becoming song (concerto), flute, orchestra, 1981

Cascades of the Brook: Bachwasserfall (concerto), violin, orchestra, 1984

Two Silences, 2003

a cultivation of field (for Morton Feldman), small orchestra/orchestra, 2005

In Search of Tone Roads No. 2, small orchestra in antiphonal groups (winds, brass, strings), 2013


Majority – 1964, violin, viola, cello, piano, 1964

frog pond at dusk, any number of players, 1970

upon the string, within the bow...breathing, any number of strings, 1972

Yosha's Morning Song Extended, any number of players, 1974

Hues of the Golden Ascending, any number of flutes, 1979

The Seasons: Vermont, any number of players, fixed media, 1980–82

Jade Mountain Soundings, any string instrument, 1983

Of Sky Bright Mushrooms Bursting in My Head, any 3 winds, violin, piano, percussion, 1983

my feet is tired but my soul is rested, violin, 1985

...that hung like fire on heaven, English horn, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, French horn, trombone, cello, double bass, piano, percussion, fixed media, 1985

Soweto Stomp, any number of players, 1985

qernerâq: our breath as bones, violin (+ voice), 1986 (version of vocal work)

Sounding the Fragility of Line (in memoriam Morton Feldman), violin, 1988

Ishi/'man waxati' Soundings, violin, 1988

through deserts of time, string quartet, 1990

gentle rain preceding mushrooms (in memoriam John Cage, vocalise), violin (+ voice), 1992

an enactment of absence, violin, piano, 1995

Configurations in Darkness (improvisations on a folksong from Bosnia and Herzegovina), any ensemble, 1995

as it were, violin, double bass, percussion, 1996

Regarding the Tower of Babel (texts from definitions in a dictionary; all players also speak), any number of players, 1997

Divisions of Ground, any 3 winds/strings, piano, 2 percussion, 1998

it were another (texts by the composer, an acrostic by John Cage–Jasper Johns), violin (+ voice), 1998

Hardscrabble Songs (text by the composer), violin (+ voice), 2000

A New Song of many faces for In These Times, string quartet, 2002

where are we going when we're standing still, looking backwards?!, violin, 2002

Two Silences, any number of players, 2003, revised 2013

what can be said of our differences?, any 8–20 players, 2005

a meditation/responses to Charles Ives' 'Unanswered Question' (texts from the questions "why is life like this?", "pourquoi est-ce que la vie comme ça?"), violin (+ voice), 2006

out of nowhere... and there to again (text by Matsuo Bashō [English translation]), violin (+ voice), 2007

darkness becoming narrative, 2/3 percussion, ensemble of strings, 2009

the sky has many stories to tell, flute, violin, cello, piano, 2010

Espace en mouvement, any ensemble, 2010

Found Harmonies – in memoriam Jim Tenney, string quartet, 2011

Broken Canons – for Charles Ives, any ensemble, 2011

on and on and always slowly nowhere (vocalise), violin (+ voice), 2011

Scuttling a Space of Time, Slowly, any ensemble, 2014


Illuminations from Fantastic Gardens (text by Arthur Rimbaud [translated by Louise Varèse]), 3–5 mixed voices, 1964

Overture to Fantastic Gardens (vocalise), mixed chorus, piano, 1964 (also version for mixed chorus, any number of players, 1976)

death: act or fact of dying (texts from random definitions in a dictionary), mixed chorus/any number of speakers, 1967


Yosha's Morning Song (vocalise), voice, 1973

qernerâq: our breath as bones (text by Padloq [transcribed by Knud Rasmussen]), voice, any number of players, 1986 (also version for violin [+ voice])

...out of changes: Keeping Still/Mountain (vocalise), voice, any number of players, 1994


State of the Nation (sound environment), fixed media, audience, 1967

Marin's Song, Illuminated (sound/theatre ritual, vocalise), violin (+ voice, any number of metal objects), fixed media, slide projections (by the composer), 1979–81 (concert version of stage work)

The Life Cycles of Stones (visual/aural installation, text from a 16th-century hymn from North America), violin (+ voice), fixed media, 1987

Violin Solos the (Whole) World Plays, or the 'Third' World within Us (visual/aural installation), violin, visual art (by the composer), 1992

Résonances de La Fontaine (soundscape, with musicians recording their environment), any number of players, 2012


The Edges of Sound within, 1985

Ishi/timechangingspaces, 1988

Topography of a Sound Mind, 1991

between (two) spaces [zwischen (zwei) räumen], 1993

Versuch einer Gründlichen Violinschule, 1996

as it were, another, 1998

DISCOGRAPHY (recent selection)

Hardscrabble Songs. Malcolm Goldstein, voice, violin (In Situ, 2004)

Live at Puget-Ville. Malcolm Goldstein, violin; Barre Phillips, double bass (Bab-lli, 2007)

Configurations in Darkness (2 versions); Ishi/timechangingspaces; Ishi/'man waxati' Soundings. Philippe Racine, flute; Philippe Micol, bass clarinet; Radu Malfatti, trombone; Malcolm Goldstein, violin; Beat Schneider, cello (New World Records: 80676-2, 2008)

Along the way. Liu Fang, pipa (lute from China); Malcolm Goldstein, violin (Philmultic: PMPCD809, 2010)

Configurations in Darkness; Scuttling a Space of Time, Slowly; In Search of Tone Roads No. 2; Broken Canons – for Charles Ives; Two Silences; Soweto Stomp. Malcolm Goldstein, violin/Ratchet Orchestra (Mode Records: mode 291, 2016)