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Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, pianist and musicologist.

About Me

Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, pianist and musicologist.

He voices and colors his compositions with instrumental timbres and scale tunings from diverse

world music cultures including India, Africa, the Near East, Japan, China, Korea, Bali, Java, Cuba,

Brazil, Australia, Europe, North America and Southeast Asia.

Robinson composes using traditional Western notation and programs a computer and electronic

sound module to perform his music in real time without overdubbing.

“I'm interested in discovering and liberating the expressive quality - the essence - of computer-

performed music. I want this music to emanate from the computer in the same way other sounds

emanate in nature, like wind and water.” (Michael Robinson quoted in Keyboard)

Statement from Michael Robinson:

Asked about my approach to composition and performance, one thought is the reimagining of

musical syntax from jazz and Indian classical music through prisms of personal temperament and

body chemistry guided by raga elements. Ragas are a wondrous musical form from India

believed to be based in divinity, and used as a basis for improvisation and composition with

unlimited developmental potential. European classical, rock, and myriad American popular and

esoteric forms are part of who I am musically, too.

Meruvina is my orchestra and instrument at once, consisting of a sound module with sampled

and synthesized timbres, a computer, and miraculous software programmed to perform my

compositions in real time working from fully notated scores. Meruvina is a name invented by

combining my initials, MER, together with the Sanskrit word for musical instrument, “vina”. “Mer”

was extended to “Meru” when I recalled the mythological mountain where the Hindu gods

reside, Mount Meru. My reason for devising a new musical moniker came with the realization that

beautiful sounding instruments deserve beautiful sounding names as opposed to technical,

scientific designations. For example, we don’t call the flute the “metal blowhole”, or the piano the

“wooden-boxed, metallic-hammered mechanism”!

I compose for close, even meditational, listening on both intellectual and spiritual planes,

including elements of adbhuta rasa (wonderment, exhilaration), shanta rasa (tranquility, peace),

and veera rasa (majesty, valor). Rasas are nine transcendental emotional states or sentiments

forming the aesthetic basis of Indian music, drama and dance, reflecting the belief that all of

human experience may be described as expressing one or several combined rasas. In confluence

with the concept of rasa, every composition has a unique personality I endeavor to enhance

through vibrant musical color, melody, rhythm, language and architecture.

Azure Miles Records was formed to present the changing seasons of my music. The name of my

label is after William Butler Yeats, “Maybe in some isle of isles, In the South Seas azure miles...”

and I now have a catalog of 198 albums from 1991 to the present. Cover art for each album uses

hand silkscreen and hand woodblock printed papers from Japan, India, and Nepal. I choose these

designs to reflect and enhance the music. Azure Miles and the poetic phrase it originates from

brought to mind new musical vistas of previously unimagined beauty and enchantment.

Quality is my only musical consideration, and the amount of music I've composed and recorded

seems entirely natural. Perhaps part of the reason for my prolificacy is how notation only begins

after a composition is completed internally without any changes made after the score is finished.

Pencil is used because occasionally there is a misstroke that needs to be erased and corrected. I

also much prefer the feeling of pencil on paper.

Contact Me

My Jazz Story

I was first exposed to jazz when Barney Bragin had me purchase one of the greatest albums of all time, Jazz Impressions of Eurasia featuring Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Joe Benjamin and Joe Morello, including presaging my fascination with the music of foreign cultures. It still sounds just as good if not better today! Then, Rollan Masciarelli introduced me to Lester Young and Charlie Parker, the latter becoming an obsession. From there my love for jazz kept growing...and keeps growing. My advice to new listeners is to listen to the finest music whatever genre it may be. Go towards what attracts you, keeping in mind that sometimes the best things are developed tastes.

My House Concert Story

Lee Konitz visited my Manhattan apartment on East 65th Street to play along with my meruvina composition and realization titled Pictures On the Wall. He enthused how the arrangement and rhythm reminded him of Count Basie while attempting to emulate some of the more complex phrases. This was truly a form of reverse osmosis being how Lee is one of my main musical inspirations. Afterwards we walked on a gloriously sunny summer day from East 65th Street and First Avenue, across town and through Central Park, all the way to his place on West 86th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam talking about jazz. I carried his ax.

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