Writings about Music

Piano Improvisation Series

Prismatizing Standards with Jazz and Raga Amalgams, Polymodality and Equal Temperament Tuning

An After the Fact Description of My Piano Improvisations

Michael Robinson (Maui)

My compositions and performances for meruvina almost always use Just Intonation. Sometimes tunings from different cultures are used, as is equal temperament tuning.

When I improvise on jazz standards at the piano, I love interweaving a richly polymodal mix invigorated by a rush of melodic, contrapuntal, chordal and textural possibilities, really like pouring fruit and vegetable juices together creating new blends, or grinding varied coffee beans yielding fresh composite tones, simultaneously harnessing equal temperament tuning onto remote trails previously untouched, beginning with an emotional feeling for the unique rasa of each individual song.

Concurrently, my manner of musical development and expression while extemporizing synergizes a personal assimilation of jazz and raga orientations navigating, discovering and inventing virgin territories.

My descriptive usage of "polymodal" denotes how I'm always inside a tonal melody, mode or key irrespective of how momentary that passage may be.

When Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and others brought Indian classical music here, it was inevitable that new hybrids would be born, as witness my meruvina compositions and performances.

Now, with my piano improvisations, concepts and lessons learned from Frank Sinatra and Pandit Jasraj, Charlie Parker and Ravi Shankar, John Coltrane and Shivkumar Sharma, together with Lee Konitz, Anindo Chattejee, Red Garland and myriad others from both jazz and Indian classical music have been absorbed to the point of invisibility, becoming part of myself.

Jazz, Indian classical and rock all superseded European classical of the time beginning in the mid-twentieth century. My meruvina music was conceived as a new way of approaching Western classical composition and jazz at once. My piano improvisations are becoming another personal vision of jazz.

There was a time when I felt playing a traditional instrument interfered with my music composition, but now I find they are complimenting each other, thankfully, and welcome coexisting in both worlds.

- Michael Robinson, April 2022, Los Angeles


© 2022 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, jazz pianist and musicologist. His 170 albums include 150 albums for meruvina and 20 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University.