Writings about Music

Piano Improvisation Series

Slowly Melting

Entering Musically Into Beatles Songs

Michael Robinson (Los Angeles)

The Beatles songs that enticed me to record piano improvisations are all singularly mysterious and magical. My musical orientations and assimilations are unique for both jazz piano and meruvina composition, filtering and distilling preferred elements of jazz, Indian classical, European classical, rock, and various avant-garde and popular forms through emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual energies yielding new musical manifestations.

It all began with I Am the Walrus, being beguiled by the slippery, transitory introductory melody and harmonies. If these weren't seeds for improvisatory reconnaissance nothing was.

If I Fell is the purest of love songs. Strawberry Fields Forever and Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds are dreamlike fantasies sounding like beginnings.

Within You Without You and Blue Jay Way are entreaties towards the ocean of raga.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a prayer for the survivability of earth.

I Am the Walrus is arguably the magnum opus of the Beatles.

All these songs amount to a daunting and irresistible opportunity for musical exploration in the moment.

Coupling Beatles songs with songs by Frank Loesser and Duke Ellington was as surprising and pleasing as using them in the first place!

Also visited in my Four New Piano Improvisations Albums are songs by Ruth Lowe, Al Dubin & Harry Warren, Victor Young & Sam M. Lewis, Glenn Miller & Mitchell Parish, and Johnny Green, Edward Heyman, Robert Sour & Frank Eyton.

Most unusually, it sounded like a woodpecker had begun pecking for a few seconds inside the piano during I Am the Walrus beginning about halfway through the lengthy track, and repeating several times thereafter. Finding this unexpected percussion voice rather delightful, we decided to retain the track as opposed to rerecording. What had happened was a first in the history of the studio. After some thunderous chords, the left microphone cord inside the piano had come loose, impersonating a woodpecker from the vibrations.

Subsequently curious to know of any possible connections between the Beatles and woodpeckers, I found something within the larger context of birds. At the time of the recording session for Free As A Bird honoring John Lennon, a white peacock had randomly wandered into a photo of George, Ringo and Paul as shown below.

White peacock, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney

Having spent time with George Harrison added considerable emotional resonance for me entering musically into Beatles songs. There are other songs by them I imagine turning to moving forward, including ones originated by Paul McCartney.

John voiced great enthusiam for the potentialities of music synthesizers performing music as I do for my compositions while discussing the Abbey Road album at the time of its release, mentioning how George was the most skilled practitioner among members of the band. Jetavana is my new release in this medium.

Three New Piano Improvisation Albums focus entirely on jazz standards.

After writing this, I went for a walk among giant palm and fica trees, and was incredulous upon hearing a real life woodpecker, which has only occurred several times in my life, and not in recent memory - quite a coincidence! They sound somewhat like claves, if hollower, a percussion instrument used for And I Love Her by the Beatles. There were many trees around, and I was unable to spot this timely music maker. I just shook my head and smiled, continuing on.

- 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.