Writings about Music

Keyboard Magazine Discoveries column

Michael Robinson

The first time I heard Michael Robinson's music, it seemed almost too minimal: a single horn-like whistle sounding several times, then a baritone foghorn in 5/4, followed by a repeated 2/4 figure entering inside of that, with a melodic line in 7/4 joining in on top. And through all these rhythmic figures a certain spare, crystalline iciness prevailed.

"I'm not interested in making my music sound like it comes from live musicians," Robinson explains. "Quite frankly, I'm tired of the gestures used by human musicians; these gestures are just too ego-driven. Rather, I'm interested in discovering and liberating the expressive quality - the essence - of computer-controlled music. I want this music to emanate from the computer in the same way other sounds emanate in nature, like wind and water."

It's an ambitious goal, one that places special demands on the listener. Robinson's sense of timing, phrasing, form, and flow guide listeners toward his alternative vision. His music has the clarity and ingenuousness of Chinese brush painting, some of the hard geometric edginess of Kandinsky, and a detached, ethereal, and abstract quality that nonetheless seems bound to the tight forms found in some abstract Expressionist paintings.

"When I lived in New York," he reports, "I saw a painting by Ad Reinhardt, and it inspired me to make music in a different way. It was a watershed artistic experience."

- Titus Levi, Keyboard (1991)