EP 31: Michael Harrison on Bridging Indian and Western Classical Music

Episode Summary

In this episode of MFM Speaks Out, Dawoud Kringle interviews Michael Harrison, composer, pianist, music educator, and retailer.

Episode Notes

"I'm happy to continue exploring music for the rest of my life"

Our guest for this episode of MFM Speaks Out is Michael Harrison. Michael is a composer, pianist, vocalist, and music educator. His unique approach to piano includes the use of tunings and structures that extend the ancient concept of just intonation, and the incorporation of elements of Indian classical music. He studied piano from the age of 6, composition from the age of 17,and Indian raga from the age of 18. He attended Phillips Academy Andover, graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.M. in composition, where he later received the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award, then received his M.M. in composition at the Manhattan School of Music. After moving to New York City, he studied with La Monte Young through a Dia Art Foundation Apprenticeship-in-Residency, and also studied with master raga vocalist Pandit Pran Nath and Ustad Mashkoor Ali Khan. He’s a former faculty member of the Rhode Island School of Design, Manhattan School of Music’s Contemporary Performance Program, and the Bang on a Can Summer Institute. He is music director at Arts Letters & Numbers (a non profit arts, education, and publishing organization), and the co-founder and president of the American Academy of Indian Classical Music.  In addition he was also a reputable music instrument retailer having been co-founder and partner of Faust Harrison Pianos and presently the co-founder and partner of Cantabile Harrison Pianos.

Topics discussed:

Michael’s beginnings as a musician and composer, his musical and spiritual inspirations, discussions about his compositions, his bridge building between Western and Indian classical music, his innovative use of tunings and temperaments, his innovative approach to the piano, his work as an educator and as a musical instrument retailer, and the business and economic realities of being a professional composer.

Music on this episode:

“Vision in the Desert”


“Hayy: Revealing the Tones”

(All music written and performed by Michael Harrison)