Cover art for Mian ki Malhar is hand silkscreened paper from Japan
"We are in the middle of the worst drought in the recorded history of California, and the forecast for Los Angeles is only 20% chance of rain ... However futile it may be, I've decided to have a performance of my composition based upon Mian ki Malhar tonight in my studio." — Michael Robinson, January 30, 2014
3-minute excerpt from Mian ki Malhar
"Mian ki Malhar is a raga. It is an Indian musical prayer for the life-giving rains of the monsoon. It is also a complex and potent musical blueprint for improvisation and composition, though given the raga's elusive nature, it is more like an ancient, tattered map alluding to mysterious treasures.
"When it came time in 2002 to conceptualize my composition based upon Mian ki Malhar, I felt inspired to create two percussion "instruments", one with wood and metal sounds (seventeen instruments with twenty-four sounds), and the other with skin sounds (eleven instruments with twenty-seven sounds). Perhaps it was the celebratory nature of the monsoon season that led me to include wood and metal percussion along with the skin percussion sounds I normally use. Looking to branch out even more, I deliberately avoided percussion timbres from India, instead focusing on sounds from the Far East, Indonesia, Latin America and the Near East.
"Since my beginnings in computer-performed music, I have been attracted to the detached, ethereal, and abstract expressive capabilities of the medium. In 2002, I was stunned to realize that the quality which attracts me is none other than the ancient Indian concept of anahata nada (unstruck sound). Ahata nada (struck sound) describes the sounds we experience here on earth, including all the sounds produced by people, animals and nature. Anahata nada is the silent yet pervasive vibration which yogis seek to gain union with in their meditations. It is believed to be the metaphysical principle of all physical manifestations in the universe. Using a computer as the performer, without any interference from live musicians, may be the closest we can get to expressing the state of anahata nada through music.
"During the four months I spent composing and programming Mian ki Malhar, I joked several times to friends that they had better watch out because a rain storm might occur when I finished the composition. You can imagine the disbelief and exhilaration I felt when a heavy rainstorm hit Los Angeles as I was putting the finishing touches on my new composition."
Michael Robinson, Los Angeles based composer, has a profound interest in Indian classical music, including the ragas and the instruments, and a strong attachment to jazz. He studied with Harihar Rao, senior disciple of Ravi Shankar, and with saxophonist Lee Konitz. He's been the recipient of numerous awards, among them the Louis Armstrong Award for jazz improvisation in New York and several grants from Meet the Composer California.