About Don Robertson

Composer and author Don Robertson was born in Denver, Colorado in 1942. He loved and listened to music throughout his childhood. At age 6, he began collecting records of music that he heard on the radio. Wanting to share this music, he created his own neighborhood radio station when he was 10, enabling him to broadcast records from his bedroom.

Beginning in 1960, while in the U.S. Navy, Don taught himself jazz guitar and studied harmony and orchestration from books that he had checked out from the Long Beach Public Library. In 1963, he composed a four-movement symphonic work called Moments avant de partir. It was performed for him in rehearsal by the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra. 

Don Robertson

After his four-year hitch with the navy, Don played guitar in bands, attended classes at the University of Colorado in Boulder and at UCLA in Los Angeles, while continuing with his self-education. During 1966, he studied counterpoint privately with musicologist and pianist Leonard Stein, the Indian sitar with Ravi Shankar student Harihar Rao, and the Chinese pipa with Chinese composer and music teacher Lui Tsun-Yuen.

In 1966, he moved to New York City. While working as a studio musician, performing on major popular albums and TV commercials, he attended the Juilliard School of Music. He also simultaneously studied discordant modern classical composition privately with composer Morton Feldman and harmonious spiritual North Indian classical music with Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. It was while studying with these two masters that Don Robertson discovered the reality of the two qualitative polarities of positive and negative music. Thus began his life’s work.

Don wrote the first American instruction manual for the Indian drums, called the tabla, in 1968. Published by the Peer-Southern Music Corporation in New York City, it sold all over the world for over for 30 years. In 1969 he moved to San Francisco, where he recorded Dawn, the first new-age music record album, for Mercury Records.

Further Reading

Don’s background in 7 different musical genres.

Don’s story of the role of music in his youth.

Links to Publications, Videos and Recordings

Links to Don Robertson’s books, videos, recordings and scores