Writings about Music

September Response

On the first day of September, I found myself responding to thoughts from New York about Charlie Parker and Merce Cunningham and computers as follows.

Connecting Charlie Parker and hummingbirds, the latter having the fastest metabolism of any animal, Hummingbird Canyon finds the Meruvina performing a score with over 85,000 tones and drum strokes as featured on WKCR FM in NYC.

Artistic creation is centered on the present moment, including the tools of the time, computers being central in our time, all about exploiting their unique virtues, especially openings into unexplored anahata nada, Nagamani being one of myriad varied instances.

While an undergraduate, I once asked John Cage, who was monitoring electronic equipment during a live presentation of his "Bird Cage" in the vast student union hall, if his work had any connection to Charlie Parker, "Bird" being the alto saxophonist's nickname. John answered, "No," with considerable and surprising anger, indicating he knew whom Charlie Parker was, but seemingly had no affinity for his music. I didn't mention this when visiting Cage about seven years later at his loft shared with Merce Cunningham, and he clearly didn't remember me especially since the hall was darkened. Our initial encounter had lasted only a few seconds rather than becoming a conversation I hoped my question might engender comparing and contrasting aleatoric music with different forms of spontaneity informing the finest jazz.

- Michael Robinson, September 2020, Los Angeles


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