Composer Michael Robinson Statement, Biography & Quotes
Wikipedia ~ Autobiography ~ New Music USA Library ~ Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians
Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, pianist and musicologist.
He voices and colors his compositions with instrumental timbres and scale tunings from diverse world music cultures including India, Africa, the Near East, Japan, China, Korea, Bali, Java, Cuba, Brazil, Australia, Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.
Robinson composes using traditional Western notation and programs a computer and electronic sound module to perform his music in real time without overdubbing.
"I'm interested in discovering and liberating the expressive quality - the essence - of computer-performed music. I want this music to emanate from the computer in the same way other sounds emanate in nature, like wind and water." (Michael Robinson quoted in Keyboard)
Statement from Michael Robinson:
Asked about my approach to composition and performance, one thought is the reimagining of musical syntax from jazz and Indian classical music through prisms of personal temperament and body chemistry guided by raga elements. Ragas are a wondrous musical form from India believed to be based in divinity, and used as a basis for improvisation and composition with unlimited developmental potential. European classical, rock, and myriad American popular and esoteric forms are part of who I am musically, too.
Meruvina is my orchestra and instrument at once, consisting of a sound module with sampled and synthesized timbres, a computer, and miraculous software programmed to perform my compositions in real time working from fully notated scores. Meruvina is a name invented by combining my initials, MER, together with the Sanskrit word for musical instrument, "vina". "Mer" was extended to "Meru" when I recalled the mythological mountain where the Hindu gods reside, Mount Meru. My reason for devising a new musical moniker came with the realization that beautiful sounding instruments deserve beautiful sounding names as opposed to technical, scientific designations. For example, we don’t call the flute the "metal blowhole", or the piano the "wooden-boxed, metallic-hammered mechanism"!
I compose for close, even meditational, listening on both intellectual and spiritual planes, including elements of adbhuta rasa (wonderment, exhilaration), shanta rasa (tranquility, peace), and veera rasa (majesty, valor). Rasas are nine transcendental emotional states or sentiments forming the aesthetic basis of Indian music, drama and dance, reflecting the belief that all of human experience may be described as expressing one or several combined rasas. In confluence with the concept of rasa, every composition has a unique personality I endeavor to enhance through vibrant musical color, melody, rhythm, language and architecture.
Azure Miles Records was formed to present the changing seasons of my music. The name of my label is after William Butler Yeats, "Maybe in some isle of isles, In the South Seas azure miles..." and I now have a catalog of 198 albums from 1991 to the present. Cover art for each album uses hand silkscreen and hand woodblock printed papers from Japan, India, and Nepal. I choose these designs to reflect and enhance the music. Azure Miles and the poetic phrase it originates from brought to mind new musical vistas of previously unimagined beauty and enchantment.
Quality is my only musical consideration, and the amount of music I've composed and recorded seems entirely natural. Perhaps part of the reason for my prolificacy is how notation only begins after a composition is completed internally without any changes made after the score is finished. Pencil is used because occasionally there is a misstroke that needs to be erased and corrected. I also much prefer the feeling of pencil on paper.
Adding to an oeuvre of nearly 500 compositions, Michael is a writer (musicologist) focusing mostly upon music, but also art, basketball and other topics.
In recent years, Robinson began developing a personal style of jazz piano and jazz improvisation drawing upon his jazz and Indian classical music orientations at once, uncovering new connections between the two traditions.
There are 198 albums available from Azure Miles Records featuring the music of Michael Robinson, including 151 albums for Meruvina, and 47 albums of piano improvisations. Azure Miles albums may be heard on NPR, Pacifica, college, and community radio stations. These recordings are in the collections of many music libraries with complete catalogs at New York University, Princeton University, and the University of California at Los Angeles. A comprehensive collection of the composer's scores are available for study and teaching purposes at New York University.
Robinson has given numerous solo concerts in New York City, Los Angeles and Maui; music-visual performances and installations at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and Borders; and live radio concerts in New York City and Los Angeles. He has been interviewed numerous times on radio in New York City, Los Angeles and Berkeley by a host of distinguished interviewers, in addition to several cable television interviews.
The composer was awarded the Louis Armstrong Award in New York; received six grants from Meet the Composer California; and The City of Pasadena gave him a grant to introduce school children to Indian classical music, world music, and computer music. UCLA's Department of Ethnomusicology received a one year grant from the National Endowment For The Humanities that enabled them to hire Robinson to transfer fragile field recordings from all over the world onto CDRs.
Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College, and California State University. He has over 250 Writings About Music of varying lengths, including a series of interviews with Indian masters and a jazz master. These writings have been quoted by Carnegie Hall and MIT publications; used for classes at CalArts, New York University and the University of California at Berkeley; and are included at the Bob Dylan Archive in Oklahoma. A university music department chair stated these writings deserve to be compiled in books.
He was born in Manhattan's French Hospital in Chelsea, and raised in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and North Merrick and Wantagh, Long Island.
Robinson received a BM in Composition from the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, where he studied composition with Don Funes, Elliot Del Borgo and Arthur Frackenpohl, and also Bulent Arel at SUNY Stony Brook. This was followed by graduate study with Mel Powell at CalArts. He spent two summers at Tanglewood in the Listening and Analysis Seminar taught by musicologists Leonard Altman and Peter Gram Swing. Altman made special arrangements for Robinson to attend the Composition Seminar taught by Gunther Schuller, Jacob Druckman, Paul Zukofsky, John Chowning and Ralph Shapey. He also attended conducting classes and rehearsals of the Boston Symphony Orchestra given by Leonard Bernstein and other prominent conductors.
Robinson's private studies include jazz improvisation with Lee Konitz, Rollan Masciarelli, Paul Jeffrey and Makanda Ken McIntyre; and Indian classical music with Harihar Rao (the senior disciple of Ravi Shankar), Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, Pandit Jasraj, Anindo Chatterjee, Swapan Chaudhuri and Kala Ramnath. He had private composition lessons with Leonard Stein, and composition consultations with Charles Dodge, David Lewin, Steve Reich (via correspondence), John Cage, Salvatore Martirano and Morton Feldman.
The composer's unique involvement with Indian ragas is largely a result of his study of recordings, live performances, and books, in addition to the studies mentioned above. He is self-taught in using the meruvina.
A native New Yorker, Robinson resides in Los Angeles and Maui.
These acoustic recordings showcase another facet of Robinson's musicianship. They are as exciting and sui generis as anything Robinson has produced. They're also a testament to his consummate artistry no matter what "tool" he uses, computer or piano. (Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz)
It’s like the best kind of garden — very organized, but with plants and flowers growing in their own profusion. It’s a delight to hear, with so many fine and unexpected details in the smaller notes. And of course the emotions, reminiscent and a little bit melancholy, though seen with wise understanding. You have a great touch with music, however you create it. (Greg Sandow, Juilliard)
You are reaching into the core of the spirit of Indian classical music, which is a spiritual yearning. (Harihar Rao, senior disciple of Ravi Shankar)
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. (Titus Levi, Keyboard)
Making use of alternative tunings, and blending tradition and technology, Robinson is able to transcend cultural and spiritual boundaries. (Amanda MacBlane, NewMusicBox)
Very nice - swings good! It's great doing the whole thing yourself. I just go in and play, and the rest is out of my hands. (Lee Konitz, alto saxophonist)
Michael Robinson makes great music. (Pandit Jasraj, North Indian classical vocalist)
Depending on the source, New York native, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist/composer Michael Robinson is associated with the electronic, classical, world, or jazz genre. The ambiguousness is a byproduct of an artist whose more than one-hundred-sixty albums have touched upon all those categories. Robinson's influences include Bartók, Yeats, Chinese poetry, Morton Feldman, Lennie Tristano, John Coltrane and Lee Konitz. (Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz)
Each Robinson release is a natural outgrowth of the one preceding it, such that a through-line of sorts could be identified that extends across decades; in that regard, Tunis Phantom is a natural sequel to last year's Ocean Avenue and a stellar addition to Robinson's amazing discography. At some future date, one imagines some enterprising young graduate student in a university music program will discover how effective Robinson might be as a subject for academic study. Said student will quickly realize that the composer's body of work lends itself to an incredible case study of artistic evolution, not just in terms of the impact of technological advances on the music's character but most importantly artistic development. (textura)
I am playing all your CDs (especially when I am driving and have peace of mind and no one to interrupt being able to LISTEN!!!) and see that you have your OWN course that you are pursuing and that’s the best that any composer can do for a life’s work. Edgard Varèse, Ornette Coleman, Charlie Parker, Harry Partch, sculptor and mobile maker Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Jack Kerouac and so many other artists I have been blessed to know all found their way and their own voices and often confused connoisseurs because they couldn’t be classified because they were ORIGINAL!! You have your OWN VOICE, and that’s the most and only really important thing. (David Amram, composer)
Your music has lowered my blood pressure by miles. It's very, very beautiful. (Susan McClary, musicologist)
"Thank you for the notes and the music, with its shimmering version of the music of the spheres. "Your intriguing set of instruments suggests that you are doing something quite new in American music. (Helen Vendler, author)
I believe that future composers will be influenced by your innovations. (Charlie Colin, music publisher)
"Michael Robinson is a renowned composer. "His music is a refreshing alternative to traditional Indian classical music. "He probably knows as much about improvisation as anyone. (Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, musicologist)
Maria, as never heard before. Michael Robinson's cool raga-riff on Lenny's hit tune. (Norman Lebrecht, musicologist, author, radio host) Great musician, great fingers to express his musicality and invention. It is a pity that improvisation is no longer generally encouraged among young classical pianists. I was given British Grenadiers, in the style of Prokofiev. O Dear! (anonymous comment responding to Lebrecht post)
The main thing is that his music is a definite grower. I've listened to the whole album several times at different times of the day and found myself increasingly drawn to the creativity that creates spaces that are quite unique to this composer. (Paul Clarke, electronicmusic.com)
He writes tonally and atonally at once with refreshing naivete, and is much taken with Asian timbres. Jade Streams and Ghosts are drone meditations, March Wind and Fire Monkey are whirlwinds, and the magna opera, Year of the Rooster and Mountain Temple are his schizo counterpoint pieces that, on repeated listening, I like best of all. No telling where he's going to spin off to, but he's an original. (Kyle Gann, Village Voice)
Michael Robinson is a composer of the modern age. Unlike composers of yesteryear, the Beverly Hills resident uses high-tech equipment to create his music. (Christina V. Godbey, Los Angeles Times)
"He has amazing success bringing to life music performed by a computer. "Gorgeous! (Dean Suzuki, KPFA FM)
Robinson feels that using a computer as a medium for his music has been rewarding. He has the opportunity to use many different instruments while creating something totally original that expresses our times of technology with talented content and depth. (Michelle Zubiate, Daily Bruin, UCLA)
He has developed a rather individualistic approach to music making and is perfecting his own style. He obviously has been influenced by a number of sources, including music of various world folk cultures. Underlying much of his music are rhythmic ideas that resemble ethnic traditions outside the Western Hemisphere. The resulting effects are almost overwhelming. (Rodney Oakes, Journal SEAMUS)
The work of composer Michael Robinson, for example, is based on the dual Indian concept of anahata nada (unstruck sound) and Ahata nada (struck sound). It has proved a fertile source of inspiration: Today, Robinson's oeuvre encompasses almost one hundred full-length albums exploring the subtle and less subtle nuances between the two approaches. While the latter corresponds with aforementioned musica instrumentalis, only slightly expanding the term to include all sounds produced by men, animals and living nature, the latter is a brother of musica mundana, denoting the vibrations experienced within – a thought very much in tune with the more recent scientific insight that our senses of hearing and touching are closely related or even, strictly speaking, identical. While many artists have tried to attain the state of anahata nada through their music, none has taken it quite as far as Robinson. (Tobias Fischer, tokafi)
"Nightmarchers is over too soon, in just over half-an-hour, but it leaves a deep impression and there’s plenty to take from the music over repeated listens – just try following each instrument on repeated for an immersive and enlightening experience. "Nightmarchers is an album unlike any other I’ve heard whilst writing for A Closer Listen, and for a long time before that, probably since Moondog. (Jeremy Bye, A Closer Listen)
Robinson's intimate and heartfelt rendition flows with a pensive, brooding mood. The pianist maintains the simmering passion of the original while musically analyzing its building blocks. Despite an increase in the sophistication of the improvisation it remains warmly raw in its emotions. (Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz))
His creations are future-oriented. Just like the famous contemporary master, Ad Reinhardt, using colors and shapes to create “eternal purity,” Michael uses notes and instruments to convey his musical understanding and aspirations. His love of nature allows him to often draw inspirations from rivers, clouds, trees, the sky and chirping birds. His curiosity and exploration of human nature, his contemplation of religion and philosophy, all provide his compositions with a transcendent nature, sometimes even bordering the whimsical. Just as Michael described, “I’m looking at another world, where space and time are eternal. Here, the vast variety of musical forms continuously evolve into the simplest, most primal and purest stage. Michael’s music not only brings us dreams and poems, but also meditation and enlightenment." (Joanne Cheng, Eastern US Times)
Finally, had a chance to listen to the whole track [Taffeta Patterns]. A tour de force - brings back Dance Music and Studio 54. Like a fine wine it has complexity - British Rockers, Morrison, Ravi and of course your chord play. Then there is the bi-neural, almost hemi-sync quality of the electronics. Definitely, 21st Century Synergism. Thank you for the musical journey and experience. You never cease to amaze. (Vincent Guarino)
Weird as fuck but dope as hell. (Marleys World)
"He's broken the mold." (Marcia Godinez)
"Must Hear" (IrasciblePoss)
"Your music is a wonderful mix among a lot of genres and subgenres of electronic, contemporary and ethnic Asiatic musics (Indian, Chinese. gamelan ...) and I'd say these influences are expressed from a cosmic point of view. I would say that your style is between the past and the future, between musical primitivism and avant contemporary. The variety of moods and settings in your music albums is great. Your music is very dynamic, but also very hypnotic. At this point in your career as a recording artist, you've spread your stylistic boundaries further than most would ever dream." (Rafa Corado, Margen, Spain)
"Robinson's highly rhythmic phrases and contrasting left give new life to even the most overdone standards, as heard on "My Funny Valentine." Permeated with the blues, the pianist opts for a somewhat starker treatment here. The ancient "Indian Summer" predated jazz but was later absorbed by the likes of Sidney Bechet, Gene Krupa, and Benny Goodman, and kept on ad infinitum. Robinson's avant-garde rendition makes it, perhaps, the most intriguing version in a long time." (Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz)
"Tune in now for another mysterious set by Michael Robinson and his original compositions, happening live now on dublab.com." (dublab)
"... I thought I’d end by recommending some work to your attention that you may not be as familiar with: someone whose resolutely electronic compositions do use raga forms, and do so in a way that’s nowhere near pastiche or casual plunder." "... he’s done such a good job and created such a believable audio world that it’s not only satisfying, but makes you wonder about what might be next… “music that makes you want to make music,” so to speak." "I’m still trying to digest his most recent 4-CD performance Dhani, whose time scales are really demanding (the pulseless Alap section alone is 2 CDs in length), but it’s interesting to see how this stuff breathes over the long haul (and I do mean long), and Michael has created a really personal and compelling body of work that serves as an antidote to superficial cultural plunder." (Gregory Taylor, WORT FM)
"Todays new music recommendation: Spirit Lady, a new album by Michael Robinson of electrified raga performed by Vox organ, tamboura & percussion (& influenced by Lennie Tristano). Robinson says the 19-beat pattern is based on Tristano's March 19 birthday. Some more information on this hypnotic (and unconventional) new album - an hour-long roller-coaster raga track - by Michael Robinson. He claims the final score was 500 pages. (Ted Gioia, author)
"Multi-instrumentalist and composer Michael Robinson utilizes a unique amalgam of acoustic and digital technology to create captivating sonic tapestries. His genre-defying pieces are crafted with the rigour of a classicist yet they brim with a dynamic jazzy spontaneity and eastern mysticism. On his fourth 2020 release, Lotus-Pollen, Robinson performs four kaleidoscopic and mesmerizing originals, each with its own distinct captivating pattern." (Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz)
"The rasa I feel most strongly in your music is adbhuta rasa." (Harihar Rao, senior disciple of Ravi Shankar)
"I would like to say I am beginning to feel and thoroughly like your music, in that it fills me with the balance between the very primitive and the very evolved, plus your music is mesmerizing. My sense is you are one of the formidable composers of this and the last centuries. There is NO ONE doing this and I think you have the genius and sensibility to have captured this moment in ART, in Vision, in the expression of Sound in this very complex world." "You are a light in this world that brings a very interesting array of sound to us as language to the inner and deeper mind. Its a learning curve as there is nothing like it. People need to learn this music as they have learned other music. Learning is discrimination." (Francine Rosenbaum)
"Hummingbird Canyon is an entirely enchanting work, what with its diverse use of percussion infusing the various (especially woodwinds) parts with a pulsating music of its own, but which also perfectly complements the idiosyncratic melodic and harmonic structures that constitute an album's worth of highly inspirational listening. The charming ingemination of some of the melodies is a welcome reminder of the influence of the raga renascence that surfaced in mid-1960s SoCal and beyond. All in all, this is a very fine, astounding and unique masterpiece, as refulgent in sound to captivate the ear, as the very best exhibit of Japanese flower arranging can delight the eye." (Declan "Degsy" Lewis)
"Your recording sounds great. I think there is a big difference between your music, which can have a powerful subjective effect on the listener (i.e., can arouse strong emotions), and John Cage's music, which seems truly detached and therefore without much visceral effect, evidently by his design. (I mention Cage because you seem to share some of his attitudes about the role of ego in art). Some of your pieces have a paradoxical effect on me: on one hand, the music conveys a certain benign indifference which I can only liken to the concept of enlightenment as understood by Zen Buddhists. I feel neutrality but not despair. On the other hand, the same piece that creates this sort of transcendental mood also evokes strong emotions." (Peter Jablonski, WKCR FM, Columbia University)
"Perhaps the most remarkable composition in this recording is of the title composition, Tendrils. Periodic downward spiraling bell figures mark segments of this work. A resonant wind sonority is heard soloing vigorously in an Eastern scale, yet articulated in an angular jazz-inflected post-bebop style, reminiscent of Josef Zawinul. One thinks that the piece is winding down at the fifteen minute mark, only to discover that the percussion beat will change and spark the mix, as 'Tendrils' continues in a new manner for the closing fifteen minute section, ending with a flourish of activity and energy." (CDeMusic)
"Robinson's spontaneously composed melodies create an atmosphere of dazzling speed and invention. They sound so much like keyboard music that it is hard to believe that no physical keyboard was involved in their creation or performance." (Mark Sullivan, All About Jazz)
"Your knowledge is very deep. (Pandit Jasraj, Hindustani music vocalist)
Robinson mixes the organic virtues of raga with the synthetic ability of MIDI to create 3 CDs, each a different section of the one piece. The introspective nature of the music grows and changes over the course of three CDs, creating a spiritual journey of sound. (Amanda MacBlane, NewMusicBox)
"The delightful contrast between his right hand and his left consists of melodic segments bouncing off of dense, block chords. Gingerly the improvisation progresses into building captivating and crystalline forms that are bluesy and flirt with dissonance." (Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz)
"You are an Explorer. You hear and see new horizons in the distance. You go there and explore and then through your music you share that journey to new lands.” (Vincent Guarino)
"For anyone who doesn’t know Michael’s music, I’d recommend following the link he gives, and listening to it. It’s unique, extraordinary, absorbing, exhilarating. A major discovery for me, when Michael contacted me some time ago about hiring me as consultant. That’s when I first heard his music, and — I mean this very seriously — there’s nothing else like it." (Greg Sandow, musicologist)
"There's mood and tone and feeling in your music; it's not sterile." (Samantha Black, WKCR FM, Columbia University)
"Michael Robinson is a jazz-influenced composer who bases (at least in part) his compositions on the ancient Indian (long) musical form of raga, but the two pieces on this CD do not consciously attempt to "sound like" ragas in particular or Indian music in general. Robinson is no mere copycat or cultural/colonial imperialist - he's studied and absorbed the essence and approach of musics of not only India but other Asian cultures as well. I’m not certain if all the sounds on this disc are created via computer, overdubbed live instrumentation or both - and I’m not sure it matters at all." "Luminous Realms has shades of "light" or "dark" coursing through it - it's a truly cerebral, challenging listen though never self-consciously or defiantly difficult." (Mark Keresman, jazzreview.com)
"Unique artistic voices are rare indeed, but if anyone can lay claim to possessing one it's Michael Robinson. Having developed his artistic sensibility over the course of many decades, the Los Angeles-based composer's productions are self-contained universes that reflect the remarkably fertile imagination of their creator." "The result is a sensual music whose luscious sonorities dazzle the ear and captivate the mind." (textura)
"Just sending you a quick note to thank you for this REALLY OUTSTANDING piece of music. It is truly original and makes you want to LISTEN!! I enjoyed it and all those ragas intertwined with Lenny’s use of the tritone are very moving and like the Prélude à l'Après-midi d'un faune, it has its own category." (David Amram, composer)
"I love listening to your recordings." (Ali Ahmad Hussain, North Indian shehnai artist)
"Thanks for sending this! Very beautiful." (Amanda Petrusich)
"Michael Robinson has carved out a niche in the music world." (Christina V. Godbey, Los Angeles Times)
"wonderful, sometimes astonishing private press electronic music ranging from the whimsical (gift) to the meditative/affecting (delayed response). an incredible find. Favorite track: Delayed Response." (bccl)
"The music struck me as the soundtrack for dreaming... so ethereal and pure. I admire the style/format you've chosen for sharing your work... the music, the words, the teachings that they hold. You have a way of personalizing your communiqués that allow access to your soul. You have a beautiful gift." (Carla Crow)
"Your continuing fruitful work amazes me!" (Timothy Snyder, historian)
"Robinson is one of the individuals currently using the resources of technology and information to create sound combinations which stretch the boundaries of the definition of music. Like the innovators of the past, he leaves behind all previously created forms and has produced something truly fresh and exciting." (Lorelei Bode, Lahaina News)
"Lively, all right; as you said, "corybantic" -- I had to refer to Webster, like, thanks -- and the sound found for your piano (nice one, RM) is perfect for its manic-darting-of-a-part. Percussionings, performancings, designings of sounds, and its all-over splendour in mixings, combine to result in a jolly resounding and uplifting piece. Naturally. FUN. (Can't get enough of the stuff)". (Derek Lovelady)
"Much enjoyed listening to your piece!" (Ramon Sender, composer)
"Strictly based on the structural underpinnings of the raga commemorating the monsoon rains, Michael Robinson’s Mian ki Malhar encompasses a profoundly spacious quality." "By the half way point of “Vilambit, Madhya & Drut Gats,” the music has already swelled to a frenzy that is marvelously sustained until the end of the disc. As with all of Robinson’s releases the unique packaging, in this case a vividly colored silk-screened pattern on handmade Japanese paper, is equally exquisite as the music contained on the CD." (Randy Nordschow, NewMusicBox)
"Beautifully musical." (Joel Chadabe, composer)
"I admire artists like yourself who find new connections and deeper meaning." (Judy Mitoma, World Festival of Sacred Music)
"Thanks for the CD. Great stuff! Congrats! Fun playing and singing with, too!" (Lee Konitz, alto saxophonist)
"Built primarily around Eastern instrumentation and percussion, the four works on Rainbow Thunder are very much "big picture" works. Those looking for traditional song structure or three-minute verse/chorus/verse sonic narrative should look elsewhere." "Forest Regions is a slow, lingering work full of bell-like tones; it's extremely evocative, and paints a vivid sound-picture of the distant, alien stillness of the titular location." "The Angel Of Ankara, my favorite, is a 25-minute epic of Indian instrumentalism in which oud, tabla and others create a slow, elegant, powerful sonic texture in which they play little, melodic cat-and mouse games. I thoroughly recommend Rainbow Thunder to anyone who wants to broaden a horizon or two." (George Zahora, Splendid E-zine)
"Lucknow Shimmer presents itself as a forty-three-minute stream of uninterrupted radiance." "A harmonious mood of controlled jubilation establishes itself as fluttering drums and lead voices (shahnai, clarinet, and trumpet respectively in the sections) keep up a constant, ecstatic exchange. Each appearance of the theme is itself a delight, not only for how mesmerizing its chiming melody is but for the ululating babble of three cuicas that follows its statement every time" (textura)
"Organized like ragas and involving a small set of timbres per piece, this is music of a great tranquility, sounds consciously breaking the routines and expectations of daily life to allow for a clearer glance at what lies underneath – as, for example, on 2003's composition Dhani, a blissful raga-dream spanning four full CDs." (Tobias Fischer, tokafi)
"Elevate, levitate, airborne soaring heights of love." (Carla Crow)
Robinson clearly has musical skills, and is following an iconoclastic path much like Schoenberg and Cage before him. "Educated at the Tanglewood Music Center, the State University of New York at Potsdam and Stony Brook and CalArts, does have a keen sense of modern compositional techniques. His opening piece, the discordant and arhythmic "Mountain Temple" demonstrated a wide range of influences from Ornette Coleman to Japanese Koto Drumming." (Peter Lefevre, Gardena Valley News)
"So interesting how you conceptualize as though you were an Angel flying about the world and reporting on its phenomenal tapestry of interconnections. The way you put together thoughts, as in the Judy Collins piece, is the same way you layer music with a myriad of interesting and provocative sound and texture. I think Music has an organic and systemic quality reflecting the patterns of the earth. You capture the idea that Melody and Rhythm express their archetypal nature through artists and composers couched in large time, hence the relationship between Yeats and Collins." (Francine Rosenbaum)
"Charukeshi, a modern update to the ancient tradition of North Indian classical music, stands at the crossroads between new tools and traditional forms. Michael Robinson, who's been doing this kind of thing for some time now, takes a holistic approach to his projects." "Charukeshi is a raga (in a Karnatic form popularized by Ravi Shankar), though its highly stylized approach renders irrelevant any simple comparisons to North Indian classical music." "Robinson plies the sounds of his esoteric drum collection in a dense, interwoven fashion to create thick sonic meshes which evolve relative to each other and the melody." "Having said all that, there's really no point in over-intellectualizing this music. Whatever ideas the artist used to put it together, Charukeshi relies first and foremost on a tidal flow." (Nils Jacobson, All About Jazz)
It's more than the sounds, though. It's the textures that are so beautiful and pleasing. And Robinson's general sense of rhythm suggests that this music can continue forever in its lovely world. (Joel Chadabe, CDeMUSIC)
"Your Spirit Lady caught me off guard. It removed me from my living room, closing my eyes the instruments and electronics took my mind’s eye into a Tron-like world. Interestingly, it made me feel like moving. You combine modern with ancient, primitive structures in very original ways. I was just taking a second twirl with Spirit Lady. You have deep bebop roots. And the “Just a whisper of Doors” used like some exotic spice." (Vicent Guarino)
Michael Robinson, a west-coast live-electronics composer of wild imagination - (Kyle Gann, musicologist)
"Trailblazing composer" "Electronic music pioneer" (Catharine Wood, engineer)
"Dark Yellow was such a melodic and subtle piece with its varying rhythmic patterns and smooth modulations through the growing depth of the music. I have listened to this particular piece of Michael's work so much that it grew to be a near meditation each time I listened to it. It brought to me a sense of tranquility." (Spencer Grendahl, healer)
"Michael Robinson, who has released 50 self-produced CDs of computer-generated performances of music inspired by world music traditions, each packaged with a beautifully-designed cover on hand-silkscreened mulberry tree paper from Japan, has really outdone himself this time… His latest release is a performance lasting nearly 3 1/2 hours, divided onto a total of 4 CDs. Based on the pentatonic Hindustani Raga Dhani, which features a minor third and a minor seventh along with a perfect fourth and perfect fifth, Robinson's Dhani (2003) is arguably the longest-ever pentatonic composition." (Frank Oteri, NewMusicBox)
“Michael Robinson has found a notable niche for himself, including documenting in detail his life's work to a depth that goes beyond the level of a doctoral thesis.” “…there is incredible diversity in the albums produced by him…” “His music is beautiful, timeless…” (jazzdimensions.com, Germany)
"What Robinson does on the platter in question is produce an hour-long soothing yet engaging tapestry of sound that captures the meditative, mood/mind-altering aspect of the raga form while having a heartbeat-like pulse throughout. Please don’t be put off by that word "soothing" - the sole piece here "Jor & Jhala" has heart and intelligence, though the latter is definitely of the sub-conscious, intuitive variety. Best of all, Bhimpalasi, while suitably enigmatic, sounds natural, as opposed to similar projects that can come across as self-consciously difficult and/or labored." (Mark Keresman, jazzreview.com)
"Robinson's spontaneously composed melodies create an atmosphere of dazzling speed and invention. They sound so much like keyboard music that it is hard to believe that no physical keyboard was involved in their creation or performance." (Mark Sullivan, All About Jazz)
"Michael Robinson has released a new CD titled Hamoa. This release represents a very new and different direction for Robinson, whose earlier releases include Fire Monkey and Trembling Flowers. Using new equipment has opened up totally new musical vistas. This complements his study of Hindustani music with teacher and tabla player Harihar Rao. The impact of North Indian music is ubiquitous on Hamoa. But by moving out into worldly influences, Robinson also leaves the door open for Middle Eastern, African, East Asian, Australian, and other influences to seep into his music. This, the curious tunings used, and Robinson's particular ability to use mechanical sounds musically makes for a listening experience that is at once dreamy and astringent, beautiful and a tad disorienting." (Titus Levi, Keyboard)
"Wow! Hamoa is terrific - a big step forward for you. I'm really enjoying listening." "Please visit SF and be on my show." (Carl Stone, KPFK FM and KPFA FM)
"Listened again to Chinese Legend - very nicely done. You are really doing great." (Lee Konitz, alto saxophonist)
"Your tape just came back from traveling to Asia with me - great - really live and sparkling - good to hear it." "Your tape and disc have been to So. America and Spain as I listened at 35,000 feet! Yes - Fire Monkey and Summer Streams are cooking - thanks and stay in touch." (Joseph Celli, musicologist)
"Something very sincere and breathtaking is owned by you." (Diamanda Galas, vocalist)
"a gift of true friendship is a most adorned pearl scented with indian jasmine amongst the thunder of rainbow piercing through tendrils into a one dot world adventure" (Eleanor Academia, recording artist)
"His compositions are rich in musical ideas." "Robinson is a composer with a vision." (Rodney Oaks, Journal SEAMUS)
"Amazing music." "I love this piece." "Wow! You're great." (Halimah Collingwood, KHLU FM)
"Michael Robinson is one of my favorite composers." (Martin Perlich, KUSC FM and KCSN FM)
"Overlapping percussive elements meld with fragments of drones resulting in a stimulating urgency. Galloping rhythms collide with resonant thuds and thrums resulting in a passionate and soulful call and response." (Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz)
"Sound pours forth in a dazzling array of timbres and audio textures" "Music with its own endless source of complexity and variety" (Joe Morris, Westwood News)
You have been blessed with genius. (Kitty Pilgrim, CNN)
"You are a creative genius. You are royalty." (Jarvee E. Hutcherson, Multicultural Motion Picture Association)
He's a genius. He deserves to win a Grammy Award. (Clive Fox, MGM Records)
"How nice to have your genius recognized." (Aaron Mendelsohn, The Maestro Foundation)
"He's a total genius." (Catharine Wood, engineer)
"Hopefully the "right" person(s) who is "well connected" will appreciate your genius." (Barney Bragin, piano teacher)
"That's part of your genius." (Don Funes, educator)
"The full genius of your music has flowered." (Joanne Cheng, filmmaker)
"A true musical genius" (Rollan Masciarelli, educator)
"I am truly staggered by your output in so many genres. Genius comes to mind!" (Paula Marvelly, the Culturium)
"...your musical genius..." (Ron Schepper)
"I have been an admirer of Indian sitar music ever since my visit to India in 1980. You've captured the rhythms and broadened the tonality hugely. Bravo! (H. Kenneth Fisher)
"Michael Robinson is an American composer who bases his music on Hindustani and Karnatic classical ragas which, he says, he regards as "one of the finest forms of music in the history of the world." And he thinks he can make that judgment, having studied Western classical music, jazz improvisation and world music, and later learning extensively from Indian masters the finer notes about Indian classical music. Also striking about his music is that he composes it entirely on a computer, creating musical notes and instruments' sounds in computer language. "Many people find my music very expressive and very spiritual," he told India Abroad over the phone. "There are always those, however, who are turned off to it because they know it's coming from a computer and won't even listen to it. I don't let that deter me, however. I just follow my instincts." (Kuhu Singh, India Abroad)
"The influences Robinson cited ranged from the Doors through John Coltrane to Morton Feldman, all of which could be heard in his most distinctive music. Robinson relies on additive motivic layers, ostinatos and absolute clarity of texture in his work, expressed through computer-controlled synthesized sounds. The chief exception to the dominance of pulse and linearity was "Delayed Response." Inspired by Feldman's String Quartet, it presents a slowly shifting harmonic pattern, conveyed in lush orchestral synth washes. In sharpest contrast was "Trembling Flowers," from 1985 the oldest piece on the program. Through sheer speed and polymetric complexity it was the most dense in information ..." "Perhaps the most structurally and thematically interesting of the works surveyed was "Summer Streams," dedicated to Leonard Bernstein. It proved much more spicy in chromatic inflections and engaging in its intimations of traditional polyphony. (John Henken, Los Angeles Times)
"Michael Robinson, a west-coast live-electronics composer of wild imagination." (Kyle Gann, musicologist)
"With his most recent works, Puriya Dhanashri and the three-CD set Bhimpalasi, Michael Robinson fuses raga music with traditional Western orchestral instruments and computer-generated sounds. As if this weren't original enough, each recording comes with a one-of-a-kind cover made from paper imported from Japan and India. This recording [Puriya Dhanashri] consists of a single hour-long piece that explores raga form. It is Los Angeles-based composer Michael Robinson’s musical personification of India. Robinson centers the piece around the clarinet tuned to an Indian scale and surrounded by a gentle maelstrom of electronically-created sounds and drumbeats." (Amanda MacBlane, NewMusicBox)
"Michael Robinson's electronic realization of Puriya Dhanashri, the early evening raga. Robinson offers a playful, gentle opening for this challenging raga, gradually building his composition into a musical hurricane. Reflecting upon the opening sections the composer notes: "This non-traditional composition expresses wonderment (adbhuta rasa), and some fear (karuna rasa) for the mysteries and uncertainties of life. At the same time, there is a feeling of playful sensuality and joy (shringara rasa)." The featured instrumental sound on this recording is sampled Western clarinet, tuned in an Indian manner, accompanied by the sounds of Japanese kane, African kalimba, Indian tabla, dholak and dhol, drums from Indonesia (wadon, bebarongan and pelegongan), and additional percussion from China (tang gu and shu gu), Japan (wadaiko and shimedaiko), and Korea (buk and changgo). Robinson's use of the clarinet is unusual and evocative, moving it into the lower registers, and intertwining it with rainstick sounds. His use of percussion in this composition, and his angular melodies, give the work an exotic, shimmering quality." (CDeMUSIC)
"Los Angeles, Calif.-based composer/performer Michael Robinson will present the world premiere of Mian Ki Malhar, a composition based on an ancient monsoon raga, during the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood, Calif. April 25. Robinson will accompany his computer-performed music with improvised visuals. He plays an elaborate color synthesizer to produce an innovative and vibrant symbiosis of music and image. Titled “Painted Ragas,” the music and visual performance presents a new interpretation of the ancient Indian tradition of ragamalas in real time." (India West)
"Night-Incense lurches at a dirge-like tempo, with in this instance the electric piano and chiming finger cymbal melodies doused by rain showers of bells and rotating drums and punctuated by mouth-generated percussion effects. The result is unlike anything else in Robinson's discography, or at least the substantial portion of it with which I'm familiar. Decades on from his first released material, Mango-Bird sees the composer discovering new ways to keep his music fresh and startling the listener with inspired moves." (textura)
"Ingenious composition." "Exciting and innovative." (Andrea K. Garcia, The Occidental, Occidental College)
"Your music is so beautiful." "I'm curious to know how you do it!" (Liona Boyd, guitarist)
"Thanks for your CDs. You are extremely innovative, unique, and talented. I am enjoying a new musical experience." (Robert Ruder)
"Excellent. Very cool". "You have those rhythms down." (Ray Manzarek, the Doors)
"Tunis Phantom presents two compositions with dramatically different instrumentation. The title piece features a Hammond organ as the melodic voice, a sound which Robinson associates with Steve Winwood's playing in Blind Faith—although of course the instrument is prominent in lots of other music, ranging from jazz organist Jimmy Smith to rhythm and blues organist Booker T. Jones ("Green Onions") to rock/soul organist Felix Cavaliere's Rascals's playing with The Young Rascals ("Groovin'"). It also includes a broad array of percussion instruments—Indian and Western—including two tambouras providing the drone, and an amazing fast percussion section juxtaposed over a calm ostinato. Parts of this exceed even the remarkable speed of virtuoso human tabla and ghatam players." (Mark Sullivan, All About Jazz)
"Earlier this year, Kyle Gann of the Village Voice, added Michael’s name to a select list of composers that includes Harry Partch, La Monte Young and Robert Ashley, describing him as “a west-coast live-electronics composer of wild imagination.” Michael has released twenty CDs of his music to date, with compositions voiced and colored by world music instrumental timbres and tunings all performed by a computer which he programs after completing his compositions using standard notation. For example, “Red Painting,” found on the CD titled “Hamoa,” features the Korean piri playing a Tibetan tuning along with Near Eastern percussion and an Australian didgeridoo playing the traditional role of the Indian tanpura. In recent years, Michael has focused on compositions inspired by the ragas of North and South India." (Ethnomuse, UCLA)
"Meditative in the slow parts, and groovin' in the parts with percussion. You are really doing great. Keep up the ragas!" (Lee Konitz, alto saxophonist)
"Robinson's "Silk Dyed" is made up of crisp and muscular lines that take on taut and angular shapes. The resulting spontaneous piece is crystalline and delightfully atonal at times. The themes explored are primarily American with rock-influenced rhythms and agile pianism reminiscent of the Harlem masters of the 1930s. The intelligent refrains that form the core of this ad lib melody simmer with passion and brim with warmth. The tune comes full circle as it closes with understated exuberance." (Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz)
"This Robinson fellow is a jazz-influenced electronic/world composer, in the sub-strata of the world music and electronic genres where he utilizes technology to evoke and manipulate ethnic sounds and elements." "Robinson has absorbed the principles and essence(s) of the raga form and uses them as a point of departure for his compositions (the "jazz" side of his nature, no doubt) - he doesn’t try to "simulate" Indian ragas with electronic means." (Mark Keresman, jazzreview.com)
"Thank you for the CD. It is very impressive, and it does me good to learn that you are using your unique creative talent. Your layering of sound reminds me of the Baroque organ, which has no small pedal, and gets dynamic contrast through changing registration." (Perry Yaw, educator)
"Michael's music is unique and fascinating." "He has taken Indian classical music to a new dimension." "Yours is a rare example of truly contemporary, modern, avant-garde raag-and-taal-based music." "Wonderful colors, textures, gestures, references, and structures. Remember, a prophet has no honor in his own country." (Amy Catlin, educatort)
"That's very good. Whatever it is you're doing, keep it up!" (Salvatore Martirano, composer)
" The important thing is that without fail, people feel that an exuberance prevails in your music, and they desire to learn more when I come back again." (Barney Bragin, piano teacher)
"You are the prince of ragas." (Ginger, yogi)
"Exquisite" (Geeta Iyer, yoga teacher, India)
"You have the quality, Mike." (Myron Dunayer)
"If you have a performance with dance, please let me know; I would enjoy hearing it in a situation involving movement." (John Cage, composer)
"He's going to make it." (Lee Konitz, alto saxophonist)
"Both releases, that come in attractive silkscreened cover art, are equally enjoyable, textured, and enthralling. Much like the rest of Robinson's recorded output, they are ethereal, ruminative, and quite moving. Most importantly, their multiple layers can be freshly rediscovered at an emotional and cerebral level with every "spin." (Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz)
"You got it!" (Quincy Jones, producer)