Last week A&R Representative Michael Papa was able to have a short conversation with Robert about the project and what it means to him.
RJM: I always want music to be about something and to relevant to our time. I read a lot of science magazines—Natural History, Scientific American, that sort of thing. As I became more concerned about moving toward a sustainable planet, I wanted to do something positive. Fear is never a good motivator, and I want to focus on moving toward a sustainable planet in a way that is positive and life-giving, that enriches our lives, something that we do out from joy instead of fear. Embrace the Wind! became that project.
MP: How did you come to focus on wind turbines as a major inspiration for the cycle?
RJM: I travel a lot, and for the last several decades I have been seeing the growth of wind farms—especially in Iowa, Kansas, Illinois, and, my home state, Missouri. These have made a huge impression on me over the last several decades. Each of these turbines is like the Colossus of Rhodes, the ancient sculpture that was one of The Seven Wonders of the World. You can see these wind turbines from miles away—there are groups of hundreds of them that can stretch for miles as you drive past them on the interstate. Inspired by these images, I began composing a single quartet—Wind Turbines--to capture a sense of the grandeur of the turbines and the powerful winds that surge across the great plains and move the turbines. Sometimes even the best technology fails, and as I became aware of occasional catastrophic failures, I wanted to capture that also—so the idea is that this would be a dramatic work as well as well as an image-centered work.
MP: What about some of the other pieces in the cycle—they’re more about mythology and art and folk art toys like whirligigs and pinwheels?
RJM: Like many of us who want to understand something better, I went on to the internet and began exploring what was available on wind turbines and wind mills and wind energy. I found that wind has been a source of inspiration in art and folk art, a subject of mythology, a part of various religions, and a power source for sails that goes back thousands of years. The tales of brave Odysseus celebrated by Homer, the mythology of the Navajo Snake Winds, the toy sailboats and pinwheels I played with as a child—all of these and more are part of our heritage. Even the pinwheel toys I grew up with go back thousands of years. I was surrounded by a wealth of ideas and images, and I began to realize: this is part of our heritage as human beings! The project expanded from a single piece about wind turbines until there were more than enough for a cycle of sixteen compositions celebrating wind and wind energy as part of culture and technology around the world.
Robert composes image-based music; music where the titles and descriptions open a direction to understanding the music. His latest release, PLAYFUL EDGE OF THE WAVE, presents 100 different views of Mt. Fuji in 100 minutes and pays homage to Katsushika Hokusai's art.