Outline of the
(to July, 2011; Bowdlerized
for your Reading Convenience)
by Bill Robinson
billrobinsonmusic at yahoo.com
1955--Born in Denton, Texas,
the Home of Grace and Culture. Eyes were
closed like a cat's for the first three
days, gradually opened. Fond of felines
since. All fingers were the same length at
first, nurse at birth said "Get this kid to
1958--Family started 3 years of pizza
production in our house, sold 18,000 out the
door. I developed an affection for garlic,
social life deteriorated. Perfected Elvis
Presley imitation, only venture into popular
1961--Our family felt out of place in Texas,
even in a college town, and we moved to the
coast of Massachusetts, where I learned to
love the ocean.
1962--Frustrated with piano and quit, still
can't play worth beans--must be karma.
1965--Started violin lessons, rather behind
1967-9--After miserable years enduring public
school, got scholarship to private elementary
school where I learned that I was not only not
rich, but rather neurotic and ready to leave
1969-73--which I did by boarding at Phillips
Academy, Andover Mass.; gained a goofy snob
accent, intellectual presumptions. Came to
school uptight know-it-all brat, left school
very well suited to function in that
environment, and evidently nowhere else!
Started study of Bhagavad Gita, meditated,
introduced to yoga by my mother, remembered
past lives and helped others do the same,
magnificent first psychedelic experiences.
Switched from plans to be a scientist to music
composition. (Don't worry, I eventually
switched back after thirty years of
1973-4--Turned down Harvard, went to Eastman
School of Music, got a mediocre grade in
English from a teacher whose teeth were
flattened by gnashing. God intervened; I lost
my scholarship and had to leave before losing
mind due to cold, dank weather and neurotic
social conditions. Little maturity in
evidence, failed to switch to some more
rational field of study, such as, say,
1974--Returned to Denton and NTSU. Studied
violin, composition, conducting, no employable
skills. No haircut for four years, except by
1976--Height of Strangeness; during Homecoming
Weekend, ran in election for Homecoming
Phenomenon (not wanting title of "Homecoming
Queen"), got 2000 votes, came in second.
Graduate-level study of conducting, including
"Rite of Spring".
1978--My conducting teacher, head of the
orchestra at NTSU, promised performance of an
orchestral work, starting many years of my
labor on orchestral scores and parts, none of
which have been used.
1978-80--Started having severe pain in hips
and back, natural therapy didn't work. Wrote
series of 64 movements in 21 sonatas for solo
violin, one movement for each hexagram in the
"I Ching". Just before finishing the last
sonata, had to quit playing violin due to
arthritis in neck and shoulders. Sold the
instrument in 1982.
1979--spring 1980--Left Texas for Boston to
study macrobiotics. Exposure to Normal Working
World, temporary office work, impressed me as
Heart of Darkness. As my health worsened,
macrobiotic friends and teachers saw me as
defective and guilty of disease in accordance
with their interpretation of traditional
Japanese morality. I alienated friends and
family with rigid attitude. Started strange
physics experiment in basement, blew fuses,
attracted fire department at 4 am due to dense
smoke, failed to achieve transmutation. The
Spring 1980--Couldn't take the city anymore,
moved to rural inland Maine, two miles from
the road in extreme isolation. Lived in tent
during summer, fixed up a hunting cabin for
the following winter, foraged the woods for
wild food. Finished first mature, big work,
"The Goldbug Variations" for two pianos, later
arranged for various groups including
orchestra. Two years of work, played once
(piano version) for 25 people in 1982. Ego
couldn't take a hint. First major attack of
arthritis. Wore out calculator trying to
figure out Life, the Universe, and Everything,
with wild effort at a theory including
transcendental planes…frustrated with lack of
training and no experimental basis.
1981--Spent winter in extreme conditions;
tracked snow in door, swept out three days
later. Two showers in four months, every week
or so would melt snow for sponge bath.
Developed interesting aroma, kept bears out of
basement. Ran out of money in early spring
(spent $500 total all year!), went to gather
seaweed on the coast of Maine. With condition
worsening, found out diagnosis of ankylosing
spondylitis in back and hips; qualified for
government disability payments (SSI) as 100%
disabled. Back to NTSU to study physics and
math, finally to get good training and skills.
1982--Constant severe pain, went to hospital
and had one hip joint replaced. Six months
later, just coming off crutches, got mugged,
leg broken and head beaten by an angry man out
on bond for a rape charge. Quit school as too
physically difficult after 1 ½ years of
physics and math. Finished Symphony #2, had
first recital in 5 ½ years. Was expecting
confirmation of delusion of grandeur
momentarily. Made break with macrobiotics with
extreme prejudice, at long last, and good
1984--Back to school, got degree in
composition. Wrote a big piano concerto, many
works for live performance by four or five
synthesizers, all subsequently severely
revised or discarded (twenty years later).
First Rainbow Gathering in California, very
amazing. 20,000 hippies in the mountains.
1985--Bought first car, 1962 VW bug, just
about functional, drove alone with no heat in
sub-freezing fog and ice to Denver and back to
visit my sister Akanda; bought local papers en
route to stuff in holes, drove while in
sleeping bag despite interference with pedals.
Engine froze solid in after-dark rush hour
traffic on interstate going into Denver,
wasn't killed due to sharp reflexes. Started
to build a transcommunication device for
experimental basis for transcendental physics.
1986--Health improved quite a bit due to
weightlifting, brief steroid therapy, and
anti-inflammatory medicine, also activity of
physics project. Tired of Texas, moved to
southern New Mexico.
1987--Project stalled in desert; spent summer
on the east coast with my new Klepper sea
kayak, started major affection for kayak
sailing and paddling. Moved to North Carolina
after seeing the state during the Rainbow
1988-9--Moved to countryside north of
Charlotte, good place to do project; built a
mahogany kayak as well. Many hours cutting
metal, plastic, glass, 2x4s, in the name of
Research. Built Most Bizarre Creation in
History of Fringe Science, including a
geodesic dome 24' across, 18' tall with a
steerable 1400 lb. antenna suspended from the
peak, and a trailer full of gizmos.
1990--Spring, turned on project, wouldn't
work. Couldn't figure how to continue project
with bad health and no career. Returned to
writing music although no prospects for
performances or recordings.
1991-First half of year, constructed electric
violins with adaptive gear to hold the
instrument and support my bow arm; but after
six months it hurt too bad to continue. Got
into a difference of opinion with the
government, will relate the story when the
culture has changed.
1995--In February I started designing a small
fusion reactor based on sonoluminescence. I
continued on this until April '96 when I saw
this approach is hopeless… Also taught myself
yacht design, using the physics/math training.
1997-After years of legal difficulties and
severe poverty, got back on SSI and Medicaid,
then had my artificial hip removed and
replaced in September. SSI back pay helped me
get an old car. Continued strong interest in
exotic approaches to fusion.
1998--2001After recovery from the surgery I
sold my car and bought a 25-year-old Winnebago
(in VERY bad shape!) and after minimal fixing
up drove away from North Carolina in mid-June
1998. Two years cruising mostly in the
southwest, then a year parked in Charlotte NC
applying for Vocational Rehabilitation help to
go back to college. Then August 2001 I started
at NCSU as a student in physics. Bought a
mobility scooter and a car, moved to Raleigh
in August to start on the Academic Path to
Enlightenment....a BS in three years, then
(eventually) to the Sacred Doctorate, along
with figuring out Life, the Universe, and
Everything. Having a blast although 26 years
behind my fellow sophomores-getting my aging
brain to weasel through a lot of new tricks,
quite a challenge. Finally am in a harmonious
environment where what I have to offer is
2002-invented and constructed a 6-string
electric violin that I held like a cello, with
adaptive gear, to get around arthritic
limitations. Also bought an old upright piano
and am back to composing music. Arranged Bach
and my own solo violin music for the 6-string;
and had a curved bow that allowed polyphonic
playing. Attended the local Hare Krishna
temple for months but then stepped back from
that. Studied plasma physics and started
getting a good grounding in professional
skills. Now armed with a recumbent
tricycle--so many pedestrians, so little
time…Vocational Rehabilitation bought me
digital hearing aids to address the hearing
loss evident for a couple of years.
2003-My mother generously gave me her upright
piano, so composition is much more fun now.
Spent the summer doing undergrad level nuclear
physics at Ann Arbor and writing, among other
things, a chamber concerto for piano, string
orchestra and timpani; a string quartet/string
orchestra piece, and several vocal/choral
works. Had to quit even the highly customized
electric violin as the arthritis is just too
severe. Converted old ink scores into the new
Finale format that lets people hear a
synthesized version. September: completed my
first CD. November: first performance by an
ensemble when the Raleigh Civic Chamber
Orchestra played Nocturne and Minuet
for string orchestra.
—Spring: Accepted here at NCSU
to continue physics in grad school.
Completed 2nd CD, 11 Sonatas for
Solo Violin/Viola. Summer: wrote music like
mad, all for winds and brass. Fall: started
grad school (very difficult and tiring!) and
put a new web site up, a big step forward.
Proposed a research project—a novel form of
plasma trap that might turn into an
interesting reactor of some sort—fusion?
Made more money grading papers in one
semester than all the wages reported to the
government since 1970--$6400!
—Winter: My mother died
February 6 after a long illness in
Nashville, Tennessee. Released 3rd
and 4th CDs. Spring semester saw
composition of “Gayatri Sonata” for ‘cello
and piano; last movement premiered here at
NCSU in the fall. Then spent all summer
either on the road (trip out west) or
working on “Art of the Synthesizer”, a work
from the mid-eighties originally intended
for live performance by five synths. Now
it’s designed to sequence and is on the 4th
CD. November, premier performance of
“Elements of Wind and Wood” for woodwind
quintet in Nashville by symphony musicians.
— Finished “Der Jammerwock”, a
setting of “Jabberwocky” in German (!) for
either nonet or chamber orchestra and
baritone solo. Started construction of the
fusion project in August in a lab at NCSU,
making great progress. Had a recital at Duke
consisting of several of my solo violin
sonatas played by a Eric Pritchard and some
students. Wrote a sonata for flute and
piano, and a trio for oboe, violin and piano
requested by Joseph and Mary Kay Robinson.
Next completed “Quartet for a New Beginning”
for violin, clarinet, cello and piano, and
at the end of the year started Ananda
Concerto for violin and orchestra for
Eric and released my 5th CD.
2007--Finished the concerto;
wrote a sonata for violin and piano, again
for Eric, and arranged my old Variations
on the Grosse Fuge in its final
incarnation for string quartet and
orchestra, and another version for piano
quintet. Then I wrote Ananda Songs,
three songs for soprano, violin and
orchestra, and put out my 6th CD in
November. The physics continued well with
things up and running, but with a long way
to go. Still chasing them anomalies! Had a
hard time getting my big metal sphere to low
Serenade for clarinet, cello and
piano, then Ananda Dances
for string quartet by the end of March.
Spring semester, battled my way through
Statistical Mechanics; fall, final physics
class (Classical Mechanics), then all the
time for research. Wrote A
Major Piano Sonata* (*not actually in A
Major). Near Thanksgiving, started Mantra Cantata, for SATB
chorus and either full orchestra or piano
quintet, in three movements (33 minutes).
2009—The Ciompi Quartet,
resident at Duke, with Randall Love on
piano, premiered Variations on
the Grosse Fuge at the NC Museum of
Art in January. Moved the reactor to
Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory at
Duke from February to early August to see if
I could get neutrons from fusion (didn’t!).
Finished lab work in early September and
started writing the thesis. On June 3 took a
break from the Mantra Canata
to write Ananda Duet for
violin and cello at the request of Eric
Pritchard; later that day I learned that my
sister Akanda had died the night before of a
heart attack at age 62 in Colorado. The
cantata was complete by Thanksgiving, then
started Clarinet Sextet for
clarinet in A, string quartet and extra
cello. Eric Pritchard premiered an
arrangement of Ananda Dances
for violin and piano with Randall Love at
2010 —had a memorial concert
for Akanda at Duke on Feb. 10 featuring my
music with many fine local musicians. The Quartet for a New Beginning
was premiered in January and performed again
at the memorial concert by Aurora Musicalis.
Ananda Songs and Ananda Duet were premiered at
the memorial concert, and Gayatri
Sonata had its concert hall premier.
Eric Pritchard and Randall Love recorded and
released the first commercial CD of my
music, Ananda Dances, with
five compositions. Also, Eric and Fred Raimi
performed the Ananda Duet
at a fundraising concert for Mallarme
I defended my
thesis on March 23, and after passing was
hired by the NCSU physics department for
next year as a lecturer. I graduated with a
PhD on May 15. With my new job, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment and bought a baby grand piano.
In November and December, I was very sick with bronchitis. This had life-changing effects, although I had no clue at the time.
from January 1--July 22. Big recital at
Duke on February 22 with premieres of Aditya
Hridayam for oboe, violin, and
Major Piano Sonata*(not really in A
Major); Birthday Trio for
violin, viola and cello; and The Three
Kinds of Music for violin, cello
Started teaching a distance-education
version of College Physics (PY 211.601)
and designed the second semester (PY
212.601) to be offered next year.
212.601 for the spring semester. February;
concert (the third annual!) at Duke,
featuring Grand Serenade for
clarinet, cello, and piano; Ananda
Sonata for violin and piano; and Clarinet
Sextet for clarinet and strings.
Then in October came the premiere of Mantra
Cantata with Rodney Wynkoop and the
Chamber Choir of the Choral Society of
Durham, with a string orchestra led by the
Ciompi Quartet plus piano.
2013—January I ended up in the ER with kidney stones; I'd had them before but didn't know what they were. February had
the fourth annual all-Robinson concert,
this time at Meredith College. This
featured Goldbug Variations for
either harpsichord or piano, songs for
baritone and piano(s), and Ananda
for string quartet. In June I visited Phillips Academy in Andover,
Mass. for the 40th reunion of my class of '73. (I have scanned my
yearbook and you can see it linked just above this biographical
sketch.) I was very ill with bronchitis during the trip, and really
should have gone to the hospital. When I got home, my apartment had
been broken into, with TV, laptop, and all cash on hand taken. The two
burglars had been quite active in the area, and after about six more
heists, were collard. One got ten years federal prison time.
the fifth annual all-Robinson concert, again at Meredith College. We had the Chamber Concerto in its chamber version for piano quintet; Robinsongs, written for Rebecca, Joseph, and Mary-Kay Robinson; Art of the Violin, for four violins; and the chamber version of Birthday Symphony, for violin, clarinet, cello, and piano.
In late May, after school let out, I got in
the car and drove to visit my uncle and aunt in Nashville TN. From
there I went to my hometown of Denton, then San Antonio, and on to
Houston. There I had a great reunion with old Denton friends, staying
at the home of Fred Robinson (no relation), composer/arranger/sax
player I met at NTSU in 1974. Good thing I did, as while we kept in
touch over the phone, that was our last meeting. He passed away in
January 2018. From there to an ISKCON farm/ashram in Mississippi, to
friends in Florida, and then home.
2015—In January, Eric Pritchard and Greg McCallum performed Three Pieces for Violin and Piano
at Duke. Greg died in February of 2016, and this recording was
broadcast on WCPE in his memory. I rewrote the last movement of the Birthday Symphony. The Meredith Sinfonietta with soloist Xi Yang performed Diatonic Phrygian Tetrachord
for violin and orchestra at Meredith College. The Triangle Youth
Philharmonic asked me to write a piece for orchestra minus strings for
a festival celebrating Don Quiote; the result was Tilting at Windmills, performed in November.
2016—In January, the Durham Symphony played the new last movement of the Birthday Symphony
at their MLK annual program. This was followed in February by the
Raleigh Symphony performing the whole piece. In March, the Ciompi
Quartet, joined by two NC Symphony hornists and a bassist, performed E Pluribus Unum at the NC Museum of Art.
In April, I learned that the next school
year would likely be my last teaching at NCSU. There followed a mad
scramble to try and find a place to live that I could afford while
retired on SSI. This spring, with all this stress, I found it difficult
to breathe; the bronchitis I'd had off and on since 2010 was all the
time now. Finally I went to a pulmonologist in June, and was diagnosed
with COPD. I will have to struggle with this for the rest of my life.
In August, a generous friend in Cleveland NC, where I had lived in
1988-91, offered a couple of rooms in his home for very modest rent,
but it would take time to fix it up.
Also in August I ended up in the
hospital for four days with two kidney stones and pneumonia. All this
stress and illness, with depression, kept me from any composition for
at least six months. I sold my baby grand piano, and got a roommate
from India for my spare bedroom.
In September, Bonnie Thron with two pianists performed the chamber version of my Cello Concerto that I wrote for her three times, at ECU, UNCG, and Duke.
2017—In March, Bonnie Thron, with pianist Carl Banner, performed Gayatri Sonata in Washington DC., as part of the series of concerts given by Washington Musica Viva.
The school year ended on May 15, and on May 17 I
moved 140 miles west to Cleveland NC, as I needed a nearly free place
to live while waiting for subsidised senior housing in or near Raleigh.
With the new environment, and adjusted
medications, I had better health, both mental and physical, and was
able to start composing again, albeit on my (good quality)
electric piano. I tried valiantly to play a new 6-string electric
violin, much like I did back in 2002-3, but even with cortisone
injections, my shoulder was too painful, and I had to give it up.
Composed From God's Back 40 for clarinet, viola, and piano, and started Violin Concerto No. 2 for Eric Pritchard.
2018—Finished Violin Concerto No. 2. Bonnie Thron performed the Cello Concerto with the East Carolina Symphony in March. After writing a quartet for cellos in the summer, I stopped composing. Getting old.
March, I had three concerts; Eric Pritchard performed the chamber
version of the violin concerto with two pianists at Duke. We did From
God's Back 40 in Washington DC, and then I had a concert of my music at
Meredith College in Raleigh. Moved in April to Chadwick Apartments in
Garner NC, very good senior housing I can afford on SSI. Still haven't
been able to get back into composing.