Michael Robinson's Hamoa
Michael Robinson recently released his third CD, Hamoa. Robinson is one of those independent composers who works without any institutional support or any other visible outside support. He has been quite successful attracting the attention of the press and he certainly finds numerous opportunities to present public concerts.
The world theme is even reflected in the colorful text-less cover that is a Japanese hand silk screen on rice paper.
There is a similarity of approaches in all the works.
Next comes the title piece, Hamoa. Here the rhythmic ostinatos are more intense and the drones emanate from gongs. A micro-tonal piano, performs an improvised melodic line throughout. For the last third of the piece, the rhythmic ostinato dissolves into a drone.
Chinese Berries follows. Again, over drones and ostinatos we hear micro-tonal improvised-like melodic material performed this time on bowed and plucked ethnic instruments. These are eventually replaced by more woodwind timbres.
Pink Jade, just under four minutes, presents a much heavier percussive approach then we have heard thus far. The percussion ostinato is present. This time the melody is performed by percussive melodic instruments. The piece contrasts nicely with the next work, Red Painting. Just under ten minutes long, Robinson here introduces micro-tonal horns, again supported by drones and a very quiet underlying percussion ostinato.
The next five-minute piece, Moonlit Palms, deviates from this same three-layered texture. Robinson introduces this piece with wind-like flourishes. Eventually the percussion ostinato enters supporting a plucked improvised melody. The timbre of the melodic instrument changes and the piece ends with a strictly percussive passage, one of the strongest moments of the whole CD.
The last piece, Welsh Witch, is the only work from an earlier period. As mentioned earlier, this work was composed in 1986. I am fairly certain that Robinson created this work before he began his serious investigation of world music. Yet, many of the same qualities are still found here. There is a brief percussion ostinato towards the end of the piece. There is a strong ethnic music influence, but the approach is quite different from the other pieces. There are strong sections using strummed and wind timbres that are distinctly rhythmically unison. Especially effective in this piece is the use of silences.
Robinson has given us a nice miniature musical gift. There are some wonderful moments here combining the world music tradition with high technology. Yet, Robinson always keeps his technology and his music accessible. This new direction for Robinson promises to lead him into even more interesting areas.
- Rodney Oakes, Journal SEAMUS, April 1996