Writings about Music

New Music USA Online Library - Michael Robinson

This is the New Music USA Online Library page for Michael Robinson created in 2002. New Music USA announced they will be deleting their entire Online Library in July 2020, so here the original page is reproduced.

Michael Robinson has received international praise for compositions that combine computer instruments and ragas. A musical visionary and technical wizard, Robinson engenders performances by programming a meruvina to play his fully notated scores in real time, voicing each work with sound samples of acoustic instruments from world music cultures using Indian tunings. The mesmerizing originality of Robinson's music sets him apart from his contemporaries, inspiring one reviewer to write, "Robinson is following an iconoclastic path much like Schoenberg and Cage before him." His music has also exerted an influence on Indian classical musicians. There are 33 CDs available from Azure Miles Records featuring compositions based on ragas, in addition to 37 CDs featuring earlier music. Azure Miles CDs may be heard on NPR, Pacifica, college and community radio stations, and are included in the collections of music libraries from Princeton University to the University of Hong Kong. Robinson has given numerous solo concerts in New York City, Los Angeles and Hawaii, music/visual performances at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and Borders Westwood, and a music/visual installation at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. He has also given live radio concerts in New York City and Los Angeles. He has been interviewed many times on radio and television in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Interviewers include Martin Perlich, Carl Stone, Dean Suzuki, Rod Oakes, Tim Page, Titus Levi, Cynthia Bell, John Schneider, Peter Jablonski, Samantha Black and Neil Strauss. Robinson's music has been discussed in a wide range of American publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Keyboard, Village Voice, India Abroad, India West, NewMusicBox, CreativeSynth, The New York Times, CDeMUSIC, Chinese Community News, Journal SEAMUS, jazzreview(dot)com and All About Jazz. Publications from Europe, South Asia and the Far East have also covered his work. (A sampling of quotes are included below.) He has received six grants from Meet the Composer/California, and a grant from the City of Pasadena. He also received the Louis Armstrong Award for jazz improvisation upon graduating from Wantagh High School. Robinson has a BM in Composition from the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam, where he studied composition with Don Funes, Elliot Del Borgo, Arthur Frackenpohl and James Ball. In conjunction, he studied electronic composition with Bulent Arel at SUNY Stony Brook. The composer's studies include two summers at Tanglewood in the Listening & Analysis Seminar taught by Leonard Altman and Peter Gram Swing. Altman, his compositional mentor, made special arrangements for Robinson to attend the Composition Seminars taught by Gunther Schuller, Jacob Druckman, Paul Zukofsky, John Chowning and Ralph Shapey. Robinson's private studies include Indian classical music with Harihar Rao, Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, Kala Ramnath and Pandit Jasraj, and jazz improvisation with Lee Konitz. He also had consultations with composers Charles Dodge, David Lewin, Steve Reich, John Cage, Salvatore Martirano and Morton Feldman. The composer's unique involvement with Indian ragas is largely a result of his intense study of recordings, live performances and books. Robinson also has a series of published interviews with Indian masters that are linked to his web site. A native New Yorker, who has also lived in Hawaii, Robinson has resided in Los Angeles since 1990. Composing new music and releasing new recordings is an ongoing process. He also enjoys performing and giving seminars. "You have been blessed with genius" - Kitty Pilgrim, renowned television journalist, Council on Foreign Relations member "A fascinating musical odyssey based on Indian Ragas, Jazz, Asian and African influences, computers and mice, to produce vast epic compositions, ...with no musical instrument involved at all" - The IDEA (New Delhi) "Robinson mixes the organic virtues of raga with the synthetic ability of MIDI" "Making use of alternative tunings, and blending tradition and technology, Robinson is able to transcend cultural and spiritual boundaries" - NewMusicBox "A truly cerebral, challenging listen though never self-consciously or defiantly difficult" "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" "Has heart and intelligence" - jazzreview(dot)com. "Michael has created a really personal and compelling body of work that serves as an antidote to superficial cultural 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." - Gregory Taylor, RTQE FM, CreativeSynth.com, Cycling '74 head "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." - Keyboard "A west-coast live-electronics composer of wild imagination" "He's an original" - Village Voice "He's a genius" "Deserves to win a Grammy Award" - Clive Fox, executive, MGM Records (included Verve) "A modern update to the ancient tradition of North Indian classical music""Stands at the crossroads between new tools and traditional forms""His highly stylized approach renders irrelevant any simple comparisons to North Indian classical music" - 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." - CDeMUSIC "Michael Robinson makes great music" "His knowledge is very deep" - Pandit Jasraj, legendary Hindustani music vocalist “I believe that future composers will be influenced by his innovations” – Charlie Colin, renowned trumpet teacher, author, publisher and performer "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 "It has lowered my blood pressure by miles" "It's very, very beautiful" - Susan McClary, Chair, Musicology, UCLA "One of my favorite composers" - Martin Perlich, KCSN FM, KUSC FM "Great stuff" "Swings good" "Meditative in the slow parts and groovin' in the parts with percussion" - Lee Konitz, legendary alto saxophonist "He has amazing success in bringing to life music performed by a computer" - Dean Suzuki, KPFA FM, professor of music, SFSU "A composer of the modern age" "He has carved out a niche in the music world" - Los Angeles Times "His music is a refreshing alternative to traditional Indian classical music" - Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy, President, Society for Ethnomusicology "Considerable energy" "Unusual variation" - The New York Times "I love listening to your music" - Ali Ahmed Hussain Khan, renowned shehnai artist "Rich in musical ideas" "A composer with a vision" - Journal SEAMUS "That's very good. Whatever you're doing keep it up!" - Salvatore Martirano, computer music pioneer "Ingenious composition" "Exciting and innovative" - The Occidental "I love your music" "I'm curious to know how you do it" - Liona Boyd, renowned classical guitarist "Excellent" "Very cool" - Ray Manzarek, keyboardist, the Doors "He has taken Indian classical music to a new dimension" - Amy Catlin, ethnomusicology professor, UCLA "Cosmic rituals" "Very dynamic but also very hypnotic" "He has spread stylistic boundaries further than most would ever dream" - Margen (Spain) “Robinson is following an iconoclastic path much like Schoenberg and Cage before him” - Gardena Valley News