Writings about Music
From Sea of France to Morning-Star
Missing Discreet Music with Dean Suzuki
One of myraid Discreet Music programs featuring the music of Michael Robinson.
How encouraging it was first learning in the summer of 1997 how Discreet Music, hosted by Dean Suzuki, a professor at San Francisco State University specializing in new-music, played my Sea of France on his show. Subsequently, I came across a playlist including Adorned with Pearl on Discreet Music in December 1996, and there are likely others instances earlier than this, too. And this most fortunate attraction to my music continued unabated for over twenty years, apparently ending with Morning-Star in 2017.
Dean Suzuki, who hosted Discreet Music, one of the world's leading new-music radio shows for over twenty years.
A number of times my music was played by Dean alongside one of my teachers, Steve Reich, with other included composers and musicians being Morton Feldman, Brian Eno, La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Pat Metheny, Harry Partch, Moondog, Harold Budd, Robert Ashley, Philip Glass, and King Crimson among myriad other luminaries and newcomers.
Sea of France was one of the first albums by Michael Robinson heard on Discreet Music.
Morning-Star, music associated with Christmas and Hanukkah, was heard several times on Discreet Music.
Perhaps most memorably, in 2000, I was a live guest on Discreet Music, including playing an hour-long work, Kaunsi Kanada. During the interview part, I enjoyed sharing with Dean how I had worked into my composition varied rhythmic phrases and patterns based upon the numbers of my birthday, March 11 (3 and 11). Most Sunday evening radio programs playing new-music tend to focus on the Alap or Adagio recordings from my oeuvre, the more dynamic works not really being for the faint of heart, so to speak, many of these akin to a volcano going off, so including the second half of Kaunsi Kanada was most welcome.
Kaunsi Kanada was heard in its entirety on Discreet Music.
At the end of our show, Dean invited me to return another time, as did the host of the show following us, Carl Stone. Two invitations at once for a composer - imagine! Most regretfully, in all the excitement, I forget to secure the cassette tape recording of our show, and it was lost.
Now, I'm overwhelmed looking for the first time at dozens of additional playlists including my recordings because I was unable to open the attachments when they were first emailed to older email addresses, and somehow neglected to address this issue until today.
After learning how Dean was featuring my music on his show in the mid-nineties, we exchanged some emails, and he suggested sending recordings with his recommendation to a local NPR station he had hosted at previously when living in Los Angeles, KCRW FM. When they opted not to program any of my music, Dean was astonished, but it appears they had headed in a more mainstream, commercial direction after Suzuki left for Northern California. My recordings have been played on KUSC FM and KCSN FM, two other NPR stations in Los Angeles. Martin Perlich, formerly voice of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, even interviewed me several times on KCSN FM before their format shifted from classical to rock, as did Chuck Jonkey, who hosted a World Music show there. Titus Levi and Perlich both played my music when they were KUSC FM hosts.
Sadly, I recently learned online after carelessly and stupidly neglecting to send my 2018, 2019 and 2020 recordings to Dean, how his show was brutally removed by KPFA without any prior notice. This was something not only contrary to the spirit and mission of Pacifica Radio in terms of common decency towards all people, but also a disservice to the creative and intellectual spirit embodied by Dean Suzuki. At the very least, they should have found another time slot for his magical, inspiring show.
Summer Morning is the recording included in the playlist for Discreet Music at the top of this page.
Hopefully, Dean, who also enjoyed my California Dreamers essay, will find another medium to transmit and share his unique musical insights and enthusiasms, for we certainly benefit from people like him who thirst for new musical voices, believing music is something that evolves, embracing the real meaning of new-music: aural emanations truly original, beautiful and substantial in their own charmed way.
Hearing how Discreet Music was removed in the dead of the night without my knowledge or any warning, it felt like I left the heart of my music in both San Francisco and Berkeley. No doubt, may others feel the same way.
- Michael Robinson, December 2020, Los Angeles
Please note this is a brand new essay with additions and edits likely over the next day or two...
© 2020 Michael Robinson All rights reserved
Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).