Writings About Music

Syntactical Acclimatization

That's a phrase - the above title - that pretty much sums up music. Sometimes we acclimate instantly, and sometimes it may take years to get the hang of it. For example, it was only after I had been playing “How High the Moon” in a high school jazz combo that I was able to appreciate Charlie Parker for the first time, hearing the song’s now familiar melody in my head while simultaneously listening to the melodic arabesques he wove with flabbergasting virtuosity. Similarly, it was only after I had already been indoctrinated into listening to Indian ragas by a range of other great artists that I was able to comprehend Ravi Shankar’s rarified and esoteric approach. In other words, if we lack patience we may well miss out on profound musical experiences because of the erroneous assumption that something of value will always be instantly comprehensible. Sometimes we're right not to bother to try, of course. It’s a matter of instinct what we spend our time exploring and giving time to.

Myself, I feel there are those who may dismiss my music for Meruvina because it doesn't sound the way they expect music to sound, insisting upon the way traditional musicians tend to sound in general, not to mention the actual content of the music being too different from what they’re accustomed to. By doing so, I feel they’re depriving themselves of how I’ve expanded the world of music, giving too much importance to musical forms of the past at the expense of the present time.

Sure, great artists of the past, among the most famous being Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, the Beatles and Bob Dylan (current), all developed compelling musical forms among myriad other artists of their time and genre, but none of these in any way own what music must sound like and be. If we insist upon copying genius artists of the past in the present time we may fool the uninformed and those oblivious to originality, but it’s actually an absolute contradiction of the very genius such artists are about.

What I'm saying here applies to sound, expression and form because I'm widening "syntactical" to include vocabularies and languages of tone quality and musical expression, in addition to flow and form.

- Michael Robinson, February 2019, Los Angeles


© 2019 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


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