Don Robertson’s Seven Musical Journeys
Journey 1 – Classical Music
Don Robertson began listening to and studying classical music beginning at age two.
Composed large-scale four-movement symphonic work Moments avant de partir for Orchestra. Completed in 1963, the first movement was performed for him by the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra in a rehearsal.
Discovered the basis for positive and negative music in 1968.
Researched, transcribed, compiled Gregorian chant and Renaissance sacred music for over 40 years (1971-2014).
Studied, listened to, researched and began writing a books about composers Richard Wagner, Alexander Scriabin, and César Franck (1974-1978).
Composed, created, and recorded his revolutionary electronic classical music compositions Digital Symphonies Nos. 1 through 8 from 1982 to 2009. (here)
Composed Kopavi, a ballet for orchestra and chorus in 1993.
Composed the Southern Wind String Quartet between 1996 and 2001.
Composed the Jubilation Mass for chorus and orchestra in 2007.
Journey 2 – Popular Music
Don Robertson listened to and collected popular music beginning in childhood.
Created a small radio station and broadcasted popular and semi-classical music to neighbors from 1952 to 1955.
Hosted a weekly half-hour Teen Tunes popular music show on Denver station KFSC at 12 years of age.
Front row seat at Elvis Presley’s 1956 performance in Denver with the Faron Young Country Music Tour.
Discovered skiffle music on a 1958 trip to England. Bought a banjo in London.
Discovered gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt in 1959. His music became nearly an obsession.
Taught himself jazz guitar beginning in 1959.
Experienced musicians like Miles Davis, Nina Simone, John Coltrane and Teddy Wilson perform in New York City in 1961.
Founded the Contrasts, a popular, R&B and jazz trio in 1965 and performed nightly in Las Vegas in 1966.
Played lead guitar in the rock band Glass Menagerie in Los Angeles later in 1966. Performed at the famous Gazzarri’s night club on Sunset Strip.
Played in studio gigs in New York City during 1967 and 1968. Major popular music albums and television commercials.
Read Psychedelic Daze – San Francisco Music and Culture 1965-1969
An Article Series by Don Robertson on the San Francisco Historical Society Website
Journey 3 – North Indian Classical and World Music
Don Robertson continues to learn, and practice, North Indian classical music.
Discovered the music of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in 1965.
- Studied world music at the Institute of Ethnomusicology in Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1966.
Learned to play the sitar from Harihar Rao in Los Angeles in 1966.
Studio gigs playing Indian sitar and tamboura on record albums and national TV commercials in New York City during 1967 and 1968.
Wrote the first American tabla book for Peer-Southern Music in 1968.
Student of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in New York City during 1967 and 1968.
Tabla studies with Pandit Shankar Ghosh during 1968 and 1969.
Intermittent private tabla studies with Pandit Swapan Chaudhury from 1985 to 1999.
- Vocal music raga study with David Trasoff during 1988 and 1989.
- Composed and recorded the album Yo Ki in 2001.
- Intermittent private tabla studies with Subhajyoti Guha (2010-2016).
Journey 4 – New Age and Ambient Music
“Misty Interlude” by Don Robertson (2016).
Starmusic by Don Robertson (1983)
Aum by Don Robertson (2003)
- Discovered ideas about new-age music by reading books of Corinne Heline during 1967.
- Recorded his album Dawn for Mercury Records in San Francisco in 1969 – The first new-age-music record album. Re-released in February 2003 on vinyl and CD by Akarma Records, a division of Comet Records in Italy.
- Had a dream in 1971, where he was playing a new kind of music. Then began improvising in that new style on piano. This became the basis for his new style of what he was calling “new age” music.
- Celestial Ascent album (1980). Re-released on vinyl by Black Sweat Records in Italy in 2015.
- Starmusic album (1983) – Frequently broadcast on national radio programs and featured in ballet and planetarium shows.
- Celestial Voyager album (1997)
- Poéme album (2001)
- Aum album (2003) (all Don’s albums are here)
- Wrote the series of articles The Genesis of New Age Music in 2009.
Journey 5 – Gospel Music
At the end of the 1980s, Don saw that the new-age music movement that he had helped found was clearly at its end, having been hijacked by the corpocracy. He transferred his energy to a thorough study of America’s great gospel music traditions instead.
Trip to Tennessee, where he discovered Southern gospel music (1994)
Trip to Richmond, Virginia where he discovered African-American gospel music (1994). Moved there during the following year.
Seriously collecting gospel music recordings (1994-2002).
Learned about bluegrass music from friend and bluegrass pioneer Joe Isaacs. Attendance at festivals. Joe introduced Don to Ralph Stanley.
Regular attendance at gospel concerts and performances throughout the South (1995-2002)
One-year full-time project digitizing and photographing the large gospel-music collection (2007)
The record collection was donated to the Center for Popular Music (MTSU) in 2022. here
Journey 6 – Songwriting
“Take My Hand” by Don Robertson, Mary Ellen Bickford & Ashe Owen (2008)
“Heavy Trip” by Don Robertson (1969)
“Evening Climbing Ladders” by Don Robertson (2016)
Composed 45 songs between 1965 and 2016
Co-wrote Songwriting for Dummies (2002)
Composed Three Sacred Songs for choir and piano (2003)
Songwriting class attendance at Blair School of Music in Nashville (2004-5)
Song co-writing and meeting Nashville’s great songwriters (2004-5)
Compiled Don Robertson’s Song Studies (2003-2005)
Composed, co-wrote, produced, and performed Take My Hand album (2008)
Journey 7 – The Hymn Project
- Don’s current project (2019-)
Study, research and curation of Christian hymns from Gregorian chant to the present time.