Martha Horst, composer

Martha Horst headshot

Ms. Horst is a composer who has devoted herself to the performance, creation, and instruction of classical music. Her music has also been played by performers and groups such as the Fromm Players, CUBE, Earplay, Alea III, Empyrean Ensemble, Susan Narucki, Left Coast Ensemble, Dal Niente, The Women's Philharmonic, Composers, Inc., members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Eric Mandat, and Amy Briggs. Ms. Horst has won the Copland Award, the 2005 Alea III International Composition Competition for her work Threads, and the Rebecca Clarke International Composition Competition for her work Cloister Songs, based on 18th century utopian poetry. She has held fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Wellesley Conference, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Dartington International School in the UK. Her work Piano Sonata No. 1, recorded by acclaimed pianist Lara Downes, was released nationally by Crossover Media.

Dr. Horst currently teaches composition and theory at Illinois State University and has also taught at the University of California, Davis, East Carolina University, and San Francisco State University.  She currently serves as the composer-in-residence for the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra in Chicago, IL.


Martha Horst's piece The Universe Remembers Gravitational Waves premiered with the Grossman Ensemble on March 12, 2021. 

Program notes: 

Scientists recently discovered that as gravitational waves — faint ripples in space and time — pass by us, they leave behind a sort of memory of their crossing. These memories are even fainter than the original gravitational waves themselves. As these “memory waves” pass, objects are shifted slightly out of place and the positions of bodies drifting through space are altered. Even time itself might end up slightly out of sync, running briefly at different speeds in different parts of the Earth. In a similar fashion, this trio for harp, violin and viola features undulating gestures of sound traveling in time and space. In the first half of the work, these gestural waves generate musical momentum. The harp part features tremolo chords that swell and subside. Against this, the strings play a rhythmically accelerating ostinato in canon. In the middle of the piece, the momentum generated from the string part transfers over to the harp part; rapid glissando figures ensue. As the momentum of the work unwinds, the gestures fall apart and become something akin to musical memories of the previous forward moving music of the first half. The work ends with single pitches in different registers — a sort of musical dust of decaying memory, sound, and time.


Grossman Ensemble premieres Martha Horst's "The Universe Remembers Gravitational Waves"