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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, it was performed by the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra in rehearsal, that year.

  • 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 book 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.

  • Composed Kopavi, 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. 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 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 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.

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)

Don was a pioneer in the new age music genre as the first recording artist to release an album based on the idea of a new positive music for a coming positive age.
  • 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 where he was playing a new kind of music in 1971, and then began improvising in that style on piano. This became the basis for his new style of what he called “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)
  • 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 clearly 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 the following year.

  • Serious collection of recordings of gospel music (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 fulltime project digitizing and photographing the large gospel-music collection (2007)

  • The collection was donated to the Center for Popular Music (MTSU) in 2022.

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)

Songwriting for Dummies, 1st Edition
  • 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.