Cover art is handmade paper from India
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Michael Robinson introducing Gregorian Winter on dublab
"I like it. It is very musical to me." (Swapan Chaudhuri)
"Very cool!" (Claude Picasso)
Voices Heated With Love of the Divine (Carla Crow)
Stars Punctuated By Comets (Vince Guarino)
"I enjoyed this, I'll let you know when we play it." (Benjamin Shapere, New Music Head, WKCR FM)
1. Gregorian Winter (56:38)
meruvina: Hammond organ, choir, wind chimes, synthesizer
Composed, Programmed and Mixed by Michael Robinson
Recorded and Mastered by Catharine Wood at Planetwood Studios
Visiting a harmonic passacaglia replete with major, minor and suspended chords, a seraphic melodic voice stays for seventy-four cycles. The chords are colored with Gregorian chant aspects, thus the need to be conjoined with kindred rasa.
Gregorian Winter was composed in late summer and early autumn while in Los Angeles. Uncharacteristically, the programming was interrupted midstream due to the necessity of returning to Maui, where I hadn't been in over two years because of the pandemic. This separation from a new composition did cause some anxiety, and upon returning to Los Angeles after a period, it took some days to acclimate, getting back inside of my work.
After the programming and proofing was completed, the orchestration phase began, and as is often the case, I was initially filled with despair when finding a proper timbre for the main melodic voice seemed hopelessly elusive. Then, most fortuitously, after painstaking auditioning of myriad keyboard sounds, I happened upon one fulfilling my quest, derived from the bountiful assemblage of Hammond organ templates.
Using chords has traditionally been a rare occurrence for my compositions, but two of my last three works have done so, and Gregorian Winter ventures further than before into that domain.
Just intonation worked better here than equal temperament tuning even with the relative complexity of chords and melodies, enhancing the wintry stream.
As is often the case with a new composition, Gregorian Winter overwhelms me, being different from earlier works; an aesthetic ideal one endeavors for. I suppose the closest musical analogy is somewhere between the Alap and Jor of Indian ragas and the Baroque passacaglia with melodic invention born from complimentary jazz and Indian classical music orientations.
We do our best to know when less is more, and with the exception of both wind chimes and the sound of wind for accentuated texture and expression, I refrained from adding any more embellishing parts to the shimmering directness of the harmonic passacaglia and melodic variations informing Gregorian Winter.
It is a daunting challenge building something relatively simple, revealing all inside and out with nowhere to hide, being true to one's self and musical vision. The organ voice here enters into realms of musical activity going beyond human performance capability at times together with a gradual gaining of complexity, providing contrast with the sustained entreaties of the chords.
Initially, I also momentarily anticipated Gregorian Winter being a relatively straightforward composition to complete in comparison to other works with more variable designs. However, such a notion is never the case because my tendency is to gravitate and explore towards a level of byzantine labyrinth reflecting my adventurous spirit irrespective of how complex or simple the original premise may appear on the surface.
Gregorian Winter does seem like a living spirit which one yearns to embrace or touch, if abstractly through the illusory physicality of invisible sound, having a totality of presence all there at once, oscillating between earth and sky with ascending tendencies.
While summer is my favorite season, the winters of Los Angeles and Maui possess their own unique virtues, together with charmed memories of winters with snow in New York.
Listening to the completed Gregorian Winter during the past holiday season added yet another dimension, and I even considered rushing the release date to coincide. However, we are still in the deep of winter, not to mention how my music is never intended to be literally programmatic.
There are varying ways of listening to this album. You may follow closely every detail of the melodic arabesques and lilas adorning the chords; let the music envelop you as if in a trance; or combine both approaches. Those who enjoy going to sleep with music on loop play may find this album especially appealing as well.
Gregorian Winter is for Jocelyn, my recent piano teacher. She left us one grief-stricken September night at the age of 96 while I was writing this music becoming a Kaddish and Requiem. Jocelyn unexpectedly and uncannily turned me into a pianist; something I now find enhances being a composer while still preferring to compose at a desk.
- Michael Robinson, January 2022, Los Angeles
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