Writings about Music

Two-Part Inventiveness

Brought back with me from a trip to New York, The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg, first reading about Robert Schumann, and then Serge Prokofiev and Dimitri Shostakovich. Pretty evident that the way he ridiculously/naively dismissed Shostakovich from the Fifth Symphony and on - the Russian composer found ingenious ways to overcome threatening censorship - is related to how he hated that composer's champion, Leonard Bernstein, who wrote that the worst aspect of his entire career was Schoenberg's contempt for his conducting style. Leonard Bernstein is one of my absolute favorite conductors so I couldn't disagree more. What Schoenberg missed is that Bernstein's expression was rooted in an even deeper understanding of both the score and the composer he interpreted at any one time.

But I am enjoying the book about composers. Began reading about Johann Sebastian Bach, and enjoyed hearing how the author interprets the rare surviving paintings of Bach as mostly showing determination because that's how a Juilliard professor recently characterized the photo below at the azure miles records site. Made me feel like that's a good quality for a composer to have!

Michael Robinson

Memorizing a number of Bach's Two-Part Inventions for keyboard at 13 guided by Barney Bragin was the beginning of my fascination with composing one's own music, and I've written about how Indian classical music, with its focus on only one melodic voice and only one percussion voice, is truly a form of two-part inventiveness as an entire universe of its own.

Carnelian Compass accentuates my debt to both Johann Sebastian Bach and Indian classical music by making use of a favored Baroque instrument, the harpsichord, together with Indian (and Indonesian) percussion bols and the Indian tamboura. (Amethyst Labyrinth, based on a different raga, is a "companion piece" for Carnelian Compass, coming right before chronologically.) Above is the 'Second Gat' from Carnelian Compass illustrating my point.

And here are the 'Alap' and 'First Gat' that precede the 'Second Gat'.


- Michael Robinson, July 2018, Los Angeles


© 2018 Michael Robinson All rights reserved


Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer, programmer, pianist and musicologist. His 199 albums include 152 albums for meruvina and 47 albums of piano improvisations. Robinson has been a lecturer at UCLA, Bard College and California State University Long Beach and Dominguez Hills.