The themes and concepts Robinson explores in his compositions directly connect to the histories he explores in his written scholarship. “I’ve researched telematic performances"—which make use of telecommunications to connect performers in separate locations—"and use it in the classes I teach and as a creative practitioner,” he says. “I’ve written about Jamaican music, and tour with a reggae group. And I’ve published on the jazz avant-garde, which is a big touchstone in my creative work.”
Resonant Geographies is an example of the latter. It’s a concert-length suite of compositions—“difficult and layered music,” he says—for jazz improvisers. Composed of seven movements inspired by places in California and Massachusetts, Robinson says, “the album serves as an autobiographical sound map of some of my life experiences.”
Though Robinson cites the idea of place as a musical influence, he also notes that the album is not a soundscape project. “I’m not trying to replicate the literal acoustic environment of a place,” he says. “Instead I’m thinking on the level of metaphor and how different ideas of form and structure might be inspired by a place.”
Resonant Geographies also connects to the courses Robinson teaches at Amherst. “My improvisation music seminar course is in there, and the jazz courses I teach are in there as well. Teaching and the two components of my research are totally interrelated. I teach courses that draw from both my written scholarship and creative practice.”
Robinson employs student interns for a variety of research-related projects each semester. For Resonant Geographies, he worked with music major Jamie Sandel ’17, who oversaw some of the organizational aspects of recording the album.
“Sharing this part of my work with students is a real thrill for me,” Robinson says. “And it offers them a glimpse into just one of the many possible ways in which music might be central to their life after Amherst."