Hummingbird Canyon (2013) was inspired by a congregation of hummingbirds living in my neighborhood and a live recording of Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, scored for gayageum, udu, dhol, dholak, tabla, kawala, shahnai, mizmar, clarinet, trumpet, piri, gender, kemanche, furin bell, kalimba, spokes bell, three cuicas, drums, cymbals, shaker, tamboura
Who can say how much of music composition is conscious, and how much unconscious? At the time I was pondering this new composition, a fresh walking route took me by a cornucopia of dazzling hummingbirds ecstatic from drinking nectar from feeders hung from some generous person’s second-story apartment windows. Kaleidoscopic, frenzied counterpoint is one way to describe their interwoven tapestries of flight. And when sitting on the rim of the feeder to drink or rest they are too adorable.
Witnessing all this inspired me to adopt “hummingbird” for the title of my new work, eventually finding the well-suited companion word, “canyon”. Indeed, its various canyons largely define Los Angeles, ranging from the sublime musical history of Laurel Canyon, to the nightmarish horrors once visited off Benedict Canyon.
Getting back to the question of conscious and unconscious music composition, I suppose that the extreme and relentless freneticism of Hummingbird Canyon was instinctual on my part, reflecting my delight and admiration for the super-speeded existence of hummingbirds, a species that has the highest metabolism of any mammal, animal, or fish, including wings that beat up to two-hundred times a second! Shivkumar Sharma, asked by myself what he is thinking in the middle of a santoor improvisation, describes his state of being as trancelike, without conscious and logical steps, the music flowing from his hand-held wooden mallets. Composition is much the same phenomenon, after varying degrees and parameters of structure and form are ascertained.
- Michael Robinson, June 2014, Los Angeles (excerpted from original liner notes)