Writings about Music

This Mild Equator

Having made the move from Manhattan to Los Angeles, with a one-year stay on Maui in-between, I can attest to an elusive hypnotic quality stemming from the climate here. Most surprising and fortunate was discovering the wealth of musical cultures flourishing in the City of Angels, together with a calmer and more welcoming attitude afforded by leading practitioners towards outsiders. Perhaps even more astounding than finding myself a regular visitor to the homes of Harihar Rao and Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy was becoming friends with a teenage idol, Ray Manzarek, who earlier formed a band named The Doors.

Drawing upon concepts imparted from my Hindu and Muslim Indian teachers together with earlier dictates gleaned from a Jewish jazz teacher, and directed towards Guillaume de Machaut by Steve Reich, here is a composition whose title, Lucknow Shimmer, suggests more India Dreamin' than California Dreamin'...

Speaking of which, I learned last weekend how the song California Dreamin' came to have a flute solo. Originally, there was a harmonica solo included, but the producer, Lou Adler, was dismayed by this stereotypical, out of place utterance. Frustrated, he wandered out into the hallway of the studio, fortuitously spied the great jazz woodwind player, Bud Shank, and thought to ask him for advice. Bud listened to the track, intuited that his alto flute would blend beautifully, and proceeded to nail a perfect improvised solo on the first take! I was listening to all this on the car radio last Saturday morning, and the song was finally played after the story was related just as I approached the sunbathed Sunset Strip heading east on Sunset Boulevard; a lyrically dramatic moment of memory suffusing historical and personal swaras.

Here are lyrics (text) from Douce Dame Jolie by Machaut, the composition quoted in Lucknow Shimmer:

Sweet, lovely lady
for god’s sake do not think
that any has sovereignty
over my heart, but you alone.

And here are related lyrics by Ray’s friend and colleague, Jim Morrison, from Indian Summer:

I love you, the best
Better than all the rest
I love you, the best
Better than all the rest
That I meet in the summer
Indian summer

The title of this writing was found admist the lyrics of The Soft Parade by The Doors.

- Michael Robinson, February 2016, Los Angeles


© 2016 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer.