Writings About Music

Sea Turtles and Prince

What most intrigued me about the music of Prince is how he incorporated elements of computer music into his feel and textures. Even in the most driven music there is an attractive limpidity and lightness of musical fabric that recalls a form inadequately termed West Coast jazz.

Last January 13th, I shared with a number of people how I was on the beach in Makena, Maui that Wednesday afternoon, and spied an extremely charismatic man frolicking on the sparsely populated shore with a woman. This person was bare-chested and wearing a white cowboy hat. It appeared to perhaps be Steven Tyler from a distance, someone who was known to live part of the year in that area of Maui. I decided to discreetly attempt to meet him because his uncle, Mr. Tallarico, had been my family’s piano tuner for many years while growing up in Nassau County, so we had something in common aside from music itself. Not wishing to be intrusive, I walked past the couple without staring, proceeded to the far north end of the beach, and sat down on a large rock, hoping that perhaps they would follow. Sure enough, they walked right up to me, and I instantly recognized the man was African American with a light skin tone, and, amazingly, Prince himself. Prince also had a home nearby this beach in Maui, though I'm not sure if he kept it. He occasionally dined at an Italian restaurant there owned by a friend of mine, always seated in a private area or room, and ordering his favorite eggplant parmigiana every time.

Prince was wearing a necklace with a giant diamond encrusted cross that appeared to be made of platinum. Both he and his companion were clearly very happy, even celebratory, and both said hello with beaming smiles. It was a perfect sunny afternoon and the ocean was sparkling. They continued walking past me, and wishing to experience something more than a hello, I asked if they had seen any sea turtles after they reached the extreme end of the beach and approached me again on their way back. They both stopped, and while Prince looked away, the woman shared some thoughts about sea turtles with me for a minute or so, and then they both left with friendly goodbyes. Incidentally, the exquisite beach where we met is adjacent to a hotel formally named the Maui Prince for many years.

For composers of my generation, the music of Prince is part of the wellspring of influences we draw inspiration from. At this sad time, wishing him god speed to heaven, here is a composition inspired by raga Darbari Kanada, the content reflected by the purple handmade paper from India album cover.


- Michael Robinson, April 2016, Los Angeles

Postlude: Today, one week after writing the above, I was having a hard time finding a shirt to go walking in, and after some effort finally found one I had completely forgotten about all the way in the back of a shelf. This was a finely made grey T-shirt purchased at the hotel formerly named the Maui Prince that same day I was on the beach there. Makena Maui is printed on the front and the sales tag was still attached. Proceeding onto the grounds of LACMA, I was greeted by purple blooming jacaranda trees all around, they having come into bloom since my last visit. These glorious trees are common to both Maui and Los Angeles, and it was in upcountry Kula that I first encountered their uncommon beauty.

© 2016 Michael Robinson All rights reserved

Prince with a white hat


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).