Writings about Music

Piano Improvisation Series

Riding Planets and Star Clusters

Michael Robinson

Riding planets and star clusters is one way to describe the sensation of improvising music at the piano, my right hand and left hand in the interplanetary realm each seeding single tones towards weaving phrases of contrapuntal melodic tapestries. And the interstellar travel finds rarefied chords, many, like my contrapuntal mobiles, never heard before, exploiting the various coloristic registers.

My analogy isn't perfect, but close enough, with seven primary swaras and eight planets. The remaining five swaras are either tivra or komal variants, and these might be compared to smaller space bodies such as Pluto and beyond. No doubt, Srinivasa Ramanujan would have been able to calculate the possible number of chords on the piano, equating that summation with the possible number of stars.

Jesse Leitner comments: "That’s a great postulate!"

Srinivasa Ramanujan


Srinivasa Ramanujan front center with other scientists at Cambridge

Pondering the black and white of the keyboard recalls the meruvina for echoing the zeros and ones computers work by. My compositions and performances for meruvina are anahata nada, and my piano improvisations are ahata nada.

So glad to learn of how Thelonious Monk spoke of one unique virtue of the piano, being how you may actually see the tones before you, shared with me by his friend, David Amram. And, too, it follows, you may wish to close your eyes at times without looking while playing, accentuating the feeling of inner space.

- Michael Robinson, July 2022, Los Angeles


© 2022 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, jazz pianist and musicologist. His 177 albums include 151 albums for meruvina and 26 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.