Writings about Music

Always New

Michael Robinson (Los Angeles)

Asked to contribute a track for the 21st anniversary of dublab last October, I opted for a relatively shorter work, Viridian Seas, informed by a spirited positivity. At first listen after a number of years, I was overwhelmed by the pouring forth of so many notes to the point of feeling disoriented. Only after several listens did the formal virtues of my composition take hold, acclimating myself to the unique musical properties contained.

Given how the composer himself was initially unable to grasp the true musical meaning of a work not listened to in years, it is entirely reasonable to expect others to have a similar experience. One hopes there exists enough interest and curiosity generated from the first exposure to re-listen and re-explore until the full import of a composition is received rather than dismissing something unfamiliar and seemingly incomprehensible at first aural glance to the detriment of one's potential musical and aesthetic growth.

Overall, this is definitely a positive because my passion and instrinsic nature is to have every composition be something new and different from previous efforts in varying degrees. With the consensus being that my music is highly original, there are no similar listening experiences elsewhere, so encountering one of my own compositions from the past is very much like entering virgin terrain far from whatever current piece being worked upon. Most importantly is how we strive for compositions to possess timeless qualities transcending whatever year they were created, always sounding fresh, and allowing for varied perspectives and details to immerge with every listen.


After first being taken aback by the fury of notes in Viridian Seas, a number of subsequent listens had me admiring how all the elements appeared in perfect balance, including the tensions and releases of the virtuosic main melodic voice played by piano. Other central parts are the through-composed skin drum voice comprised of tabla, dholak and dhol bols, the alternating percussion ostinati, and the gradually rising vocalisms serving in the manner of a tamboura drone. Adding delicious spice are the opening and closing vocalisms colored with Indian bells.

My immersion into the jazz of artists like Charlie Parker, Lee Konitz, and John Coltrane, together with the Indian classical music of artists like Shivkumar Sharma, Anindo Chatterjee, and Ravi Shankar, taught me the essential lesson of viewing virtuosity as an opportunity for communicating musical meaning and substance. And the same principles apply for slow-moving music, too, of course, which is equally challenging.

- Michael Robinson, November 2020, Los Angeles


© 2020 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


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