Writings about Music

Martin Perlich

Embodying the Soul of Western Classical Music

Martin Perlich

A highlight of my life in music was being interviewed three times by Martin Perlich while he was directing the classical music format of KCSN FM Southern California, a station that subsequently converted to a rock format.

Prior to exchanging thoughts with Martin, he had presented the title track of my Chinese Legend album on KUSC FM Los Angeles where he was a most formidable presence possessing a brilliant intellect, infectious enthusiasm and uncommon articulative gifts. There is a recording of how Perlich described Chinese Legend I hope to locate, if and when I will add it here. My recollection is how he introduced the composition and performance with considerable excitement, including taking the time to detail all eleven of the instrumental tone colors utilized during the eleven minute work as if KUSC listeners were hearing of these timbres for the first time. Additionally, Perlich enthused about the album cover art, this being handmade paper from Japan selected to enhance the musical experience. Five years later, Amanda MacBlane expressed similar admiration for the Azure Miles Records cover art while praising the Bhimpalasi three album set.

Martin was one of the first people to voice pleasure with the Chinese Legend album, later joined by Pandit Jasraj, Ravi Shankar, Lee Konitz, Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, Joel Chadabe and others.

Soon after presenting Chinese Legend during prime daytime hours, Martin left the station for unknown reasons, and my sense at the time is how he may have had a conflict with that most conservative of stations over his programming preferences, perhaps even my music, but I really don't know for sure, and never specifically asked Perlich about this.

Titus Levi, who wrote the second published article about my music, appearing in Keyboard, was a weekend evening host at KUSC, where he also programmed my music. It was Lorelei Bode at the Lahaina News who wrote the first article about my music. Levi later wrote a notice for Keyboard about my Hamoa album, and also interviewed me on KPFK FM Los Angeles.

For each of the three hour-long interviews with Martin, I came with a cassette tape to make sure there was a recording of our show, but each time I was so utterly swept up by the sheer magnetism of his personality from the first, I completely forgot to do so, bemoaning my lapses afterwards.

On KUSC, Martin had programmed my music in-between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and C.P.E. Bach, recommending my recordings "for those interested in music of living composers." He has prodigious knowledge of Western classical music from the beginnings to the present time, and is as passionate about discovering new composers as he is with music of the past, exemplifying the true spirit of Western classical music. Perlich was stimulated by the concept of new instruments, ultimately attracted by the music itself, unhampered by ideological hangups. Having spent time with Ravi Shankar related to the United Nations, Martin was beguiled by how I had assimilated elements of Indian classical music in novel and noteworthy ways.

Not having recorded our three interviews, I wish there was more to recall, including what albums were played, excerpts from Puriya Dhanashri being the only music I know was played for sure, but the conversation was at such a high level of energy and insight, truly keeping me on my toes and more so, my recollection is of three beautiful hurricanes, if such a thing is possible, meaning it was thrilling with no damage done. Martin Perlich is a genuine dynamo.

Checking online, it shows he is living in West Hollywood, and I will make an effort to reconnect. His career includes notable work and interactions with George Szell, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Pierre Boulez, Bill Evans, Judy Collins and Frank Zappa among myriad additional luminaries.

Capturing Martin's attention with my music was a most welcome and fortunate validation even if self-validation is paramount.

- Michael Robinson, August 2022, Los Angeles


© 2022 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, jazz pianist and musicologist. His 180 albums include 151 albums for meruvina and 29 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.