Writings about Music

Crossing Lines

At a certain point, being back in Maui for the first time since the pandemic began, I transitioned from feeling like a city person who lives mostly in Los Angeles, and began feeling like an outdoors person in the relative "wilderness" of Maui, crossing a line of living sensation. But the truth is that here on this Pacific island, the ocean, land and sky overwhelm you, becoming more a part of you, including actually seeing the stars and planets at night like you're in a planetarium.

Similarly, being a composer, and normally always at some point in a composition, either the composition phase, the meruvina programming phase, or the orchestration phase, this process was interrupted in order to leave for Maui. More specifically, I left Los Angeles towards the end of the meruvina programming phase. After arriving in Maui, I did continue a relatively new musical activity, namely piano improvisations, so this temporarily became the dominant music involvement over composition, effectively crossing another line from composer to improviser. Feeling like a fish out of water, I did sketch out a new composition, but decided against actually beginning the notation, generally not being comfortable with doing this before the work already in process has been completed. The reason for not feeling entirely comfortable focusing on improvisation is because this remains a secondary or ancillary practice compared to composition. Today, I even began feeling that perhaps I might prefer thinking while playing that I am enacting separate compositions in real time as opposed to improvisations. I'm going to try that.

Related to our sense of nature, transcending whether our lifestyle is urban or rural, helping to save the earth for future generations is abiding by a profoundly true traditional Hawaiian belief: "Land is chief and we are its servant." This concept represents a line we know from experience not to cross, demonstrating another traditional Hawaiian belief: "The future is in the past." The meaning here is how lessons learned from the past are essential towards guiding us moving forward.

- Michael Robinson, Kula, Maui, November 2021


© 2021 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and musicologist. His 161 albums include 148 albums for meruvina and 13 albums of piano improvisations. He has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University.