Writings about Music

Mathematical and Spiritual Exaltation

I believe what mathmatician Paula Tretkoff is referring to is how Glenn Gould blends remarkable spontaneity with profound clarity of articulation, including shining a light on every detail with stirring presence. Expanding upon these qualities, one may explore the music of Shivkumar Sharma, who plays santoor, and Anindo Chatterjee, who plays tabla. These monumental Indian classical artists exemplify the qualities mentioned above together with an abundance of additional musical attributes, including an uncanny wedding of mathematical and spiritual exaltation. In this context, "intellectual" is interchangeable with "mathematical."

Paula is a mathematician writing about music, and her highly advanced prose reminds me of a woman who originally studied chemistry, and later turned to writing about poetry, this being Helen Vendler, who I believe is the preeminent living practitioner of the English language together with Bob Dylan.

Key to Paula’s remarkable insights are how great recordings afford myriad perspectives and experiences, hearing and feeling the same music a bit differently, and sometimes dramatically differently, every time we listen. This includes the interpreter, the composer, the environment, and the sound delivery mechanism, all interacting with the listener, who is the one variable, being physically and emotionally different at any given time. Paula is obviously deeply simpatico with Gould’s playing as myriad music lovers are, if not to the dramatically wonderful extent she expresses, including transcending whatever composer’s music he has recorded.

Leonard Altman, Pandit Jasraj, and Shivkumar Sharma have all shared a keen interest in the therapuetic properties of music with me.

- Michael Robinson, November 2021, Los Angeles


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Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and musicologist. His 161 albums include 148 albums for meruvina and 13 albums of piano improvisations. He has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University.