Michael Robinson - EthnoMuse Spotlight

UCLA Ethnomusicology Department

January 1999

The Ethnomusicology Archive received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to transfer ten collections from analog tape to CDR and hired Michael Robinson to do the recording.

Michael, who is working with Archivist Louise Spear and Doctoral Candidate John Hajda on the one-year project, is a composer and computer-instrumentalist who specializes in making CDR recordings for his own label Azure Miles Records. He is also a student of world music with a special emphasis on Hindustani music, having studied with Harihar Rao, the senior disciple of Ravi Shankar, Professor Emeritus Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy and violinist Kala Ramnath, a leading disciple of Pandit Jasraj.

Earlier this year, Kyle Gann of the Village Voice, added Michael’s name to a select list of composers that includes Harry Partch, La Monte Young and Robert Ashley, describing him as “a west-coast live-electronics composer of wild imagination.”

Michael has released twenty CDs of his music to date, with compositions voiced and colored by world music instrumental timbres and tunings all performed by a computer which he programs after completing his compositions using standard notation. For example, “Red Painting,” found on the CD titled “Hamoa,” features the Korean piri playing a Tibetan tuning along with Near Eastern percussion and an Australian didgeridoo playing the traditional role of the Indian tanpura. In recent years, Michael has focused on compositions inspired by the ragas of North and South India. For more information visit azuremilesrecords.com

A concert on January 22 at 8 PM in the Gamelan room will mark the debut performance of a new collaboration between Michael and dancer/choreographer Taembe Orismekusa, a graduate student in World Arts & Culture. Titled “New Connections,” the artists describe their joining as “a confluence of West African-inspired dance and Indian raga-inspired music.” Taembe creates structured improvisations that provide a visual dimension for Michael’s music. The three works featured on the program will be “Chinese Legend,” “From Hills of Snow” and “Porcelain Nights.”