Writings About Music

Beginning Composition

After reading this, my mind drifted to the first college composition class of my life in the spring semester of my freshman year at the Crane School of Music, SUNY at Potsdam. Clear as the night sky from Haleakala, I see Elliot del Borgo speaking to an excited class filled with students from different walks of music, including classical, jazz, folk, etc. Del Borgo began his lecture by stating that Mozart was a composer of genius, yet, even so, sometimes one grows bored of that music, and desires something different and new. Then, he proceeded to give an assignment to compose a piece using spoken poetry, percussion, and only one melodic instrument.

Seven years later, John Cage invited me to his loft where we spent three hours on a bitterly cold winter afternoon in Chelsea perusing my scores and discussing composition. When I first arrived, Cage looked concerned because I was carrying a large, red suitcase for my oversized scores, and he may have thought I was intending to move in!

One of the scores was Four Haiku, stemming from Elliot’s class, and while silently watching John examine the score, I realized he was probably the person who made this type of composition famous, if not actually inventing it.

- Michael Robinson, February 2014, Los Angeles


© 2014 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


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