Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson

Musicians | Instrument: Piano | Location: Los Angeles

Very nice - swings good! It's great doing the whole thing yourself. I just go in and play, and the rest is out of my hands.

—Lee Konitz (from handwritten letter)

Updated: May 23, 2024

Born: March 11, 1956

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. He 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.

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All About Jazz Articles

Multiple Reviews

Michael Robinson and Anindo Chatterjee's Reinterpretation of Standards

Read "Michael Robinson and Anindo Chatterjee's Reinterpretation of Standards" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

After releasing several albums with drummer Eliot Zigmund in 2022, pianist and composer Michael Robinson starts off 2023 with a series of collaborations with tabla master Anindo Chatterjee. Similar to his other duo and solo sessions these are long improvisations on popular tunes both from the Great American Songbook as well as some rock and roll standards. Two of these releases are highlighted Below. Michael Robinson Begin Azure Miles 2023 The restless Begin, ...

Multiple Reviews

Three Gems from Michael Robinson and Eliot Zigmund: Earth and Sky, Runs to Sea and What Magic

Read "Three Gems from Michael Robinson and Eliot Zigmund: Earth and Sky, Runs to Sea and What Magic" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Keyboardist and electronics innovator Michael Robinson is a prolific and imaginative musician. In 2018 he started re-exploring the acoustic piano and, during the solitary times of the COVID-19 pandemic, his solo piano recordings increased dramatically. In 2022 he met up with drummer Eliot Zigmund and over three days the duo reinterpreted and deconstructed several standards. Zigmund is known for his collaborations with such legendary pianists as Bill Evans and Michel Petrucciani and has also led a few superb sessions himself. ...

Multiple Reviews

Michael Robinson's Piano Improvisations: Seven Albums of Unique Takes on Standards

Read "Michael Robinson's Piano Improvisations: Seven Albums of Unique Takes on Standards" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Keyboardist Michael Robinson is a prolific and creative artist who is best known for his haunting, Eastern-inspired, musical soundscapes. He usually utilizes his own invention, the digital Meruvina, for these recordings. Robinson, however, is also an accomplished pianist and has self-produced several superb solo albums of piano improvisations. In 2021 and 2022 he released seven of these intriguing recordings, each consisting of two to five long tracks. They cover mostly jazz standards mixed with a few pop songs.

Multiple Reviews

Michael Robinson: Piano Improvisation Series

Read "Michael Robinson: Piano Improvisation Series" reviewed by Karl Ackermann

Depending on the source, New York native, Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist/composer Michael Robinson is associated with the electronic, classical, world, or jazz genre. The ambiguousness is a byproduct of an artist whose more than one-hundred-sixty albums have touched upon all those categories. Robinson's influences include Bartók, Yeats, Chinese poetry, Morton Feldman, Lennie Tristano, John Coltrane and Lee Konitz. He has been particularly immersed in the music of North India producing more than a decade's worth of releases on his Azure Miles ...

Album Review

Michael Robinson: A Parrot Sipping Tea

Read "A Parrot Sipping Tea" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Over the past several years, composer and keyboardist Michael Robinson has delved deep into the South Asian musical traditions. Using his own invention, the Meruvina, he creates, digitally enhanced, soundscapes filled with mysticism and spirituality. On A Parrot Sipping Tea he continues his explorations in the form of a singular interpretation of the traditional Indian raga, with its four segments. “Alap," for instance, is usually improvised and is a melodic intro to the raga. Here Robinson uses it ...

Multiple Reviews

Michael Robinson's Piano Improvisation Series

Read "Michael Robinson's Piano Improvisation Series" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Keyboardist and composer Michael Robinson is well known for performing his genre-defying electronic works on his invention, the Meruvina. He is also an accomplished pianist who has released several solo improvisations, including three in 2021. A mix of originals and radically reimagined standards, each consists of three or four long tracks that fully reflect Robinson's individuality and talent. Micheal Robinson Star Girl Azure Miles 2021 The captivating Star Girl opens with a unique ...

Album Review

Michael Robinson: Taffeta Patterns

Read "Taffeta Patterns" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Composer and keyboardist Michael Robinson is as prolific as he is creative. Using his own invention, the meruvina, he creates unique electro-acoustic pieces that brim with spontaneity. His first release of 2021, the exuberant Taffeta Patterns, differs from his most recent discs in its infectious dance beats. A single track, lasting a little under an hour, “Taffeta Patterns" consists of ethereal, eastern-influenced harmonies layered over a disco-like cadence. Within this contrasting yet complimentary construct, vibrant melodic fragments shimmer ...

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Making use of alternative tunings, and blending tradition and technology, Robinson is able to transcend cultural and spiritual boundaries. (Amanda MacBlane, NewMusicBox)

Robinson's sense of timing, phrasing, form, and flow guide listeners toward his alternative vision. His music has the clarity and ingenuousness of Chinese brush painting, some of the hard geometric edginess of Kandinsky, and a detached, ethereal, and abstract quality that nonetheless seems bound to the tight forms found in some abstract Expressionist paintings. (Titus Levi, Keyboard)

These acoustic recordings showcase another facet of Robinson's musicianship. They are as exciting and sui generis as anything Robinson has produced. They're also a testament to his consummate artistry no matter what "tool" he uses, computer or piano. (Hrayr Attarian, All About Jazz)

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